JUICEDLINK LITTLE DARLING
Q We’re looking at wireless microphone alternatives to shoot weddings and live events. Much of the time we don’t have enough budget available to hire a sound mixer and we end up having to handle audio ourselves. In our experience, quality wireless systems are pretty expensive, about $2,000 to $3,500 for something like a single-channel Lectrosonics digital hybrid system. Short of running wired plant mics all over the location, what are some other solutions?
A I agree with you in regard to wireless microphone systems. I’ve tested and rented many wireless systems, and the quality is getting better on the lower-end tech, like the wireless RØDE RØDELink Filmmaker kit. I’ve also seen some price reductions on the higher-end systems as newer technology is introduced, but overall, I agree, pro-level wireless systems are expensive. An alternative to high-end wireless mics is to use isolated audio recorders on each person. The pluses are that you can record pretty decent-quality sound inexpensively with no dropouts or wireless hits. The downsides are that you’re not live-monitoring the sound, so you can’t adjust the sound levels. Even the smallest audio recorders generally are larger and heavier than a typical wireless transmitter pack. As the user, you’ll have no idea if the battery dies, or if the talent accidentally hits the stop or pause button on the transport and the recorder stops recording.
The Little DARling Distributed Audio Recorder from juicedLink is worth your consideration. Recently introduced, these small, high-quality SD card recorders have quite a few features that would be useful to you, like audio bracketing (aka dual-mono), 2-track recording of a single lav mic, as well as a super-long battery life, locking audio connectors, locking battery/card compartment, aluminum enclosure, durable, recessed button—talent can’t accidentally stop recording or alter settings—and wireless control/slate (DARlink-enabled units). There are two models: the DAR123 basic unit ($199 list) and the DAR124RX01 with DARlink ($265 list), which includes the ability to wirelessly start and stop recording and initiate a slate tone that gets recorded and is also sent to the output jack. juicedLink also has created an optional wireless transmitter, compatible with the DAR124RX01, which allows you to use the wireless functions described above; it retails for $28. juicedLink is offering a volume discount program—5% for 2 units, 10% for 3 units, 15% for 4 units, 20% for 6 units and 25% for 8+ units.
The units are brand-new, and while I haven’t yet had a chance to test them, based upon previous experience with juicedLink products I’ve tested and reviewed alongside early user reports, the units are well built and capable of recording very high-quality sound for a fraction of the cost of comparable wireless mic systems. You can check out the details at juicedlink.com/blogs/news.
IZOTOPE RX 5 AUDIO EDITORQ I shot a live event where I was recording a feed from the house PA system. As a backup, I placed two digital recorders at the two front podiums. The locked-off camera that was recording the house mix ended up with corrupted media that couldn’t be recovered, so we have no board feed with all of the talent’s wireless mic feeds. This left me with just the backup audio recordings from the digital recorders. The sound they recorded, for the most part, is decent quality, even though the recorders were placed in a less than optimal location at each podium; 85% of the event had speakers located at the front podiums and the recorders did a nice job as backups. The place where the audio needs help was when one of the speakers at the podium went into the audience with a wireless handheld mic to take audience comments. The resulting sound is awful, obviously, as the recorders were only able to record the sound from the PA speakers, which were located a long way from the digital recorders at the podium. This is the only audio of this audience section that exists, so what’s the best tool to clean up the audio to take it from awful to at least semi-legible?
A Sometimes we end up with bad audio despite our best efforts at trying to record good audio. In your case, without hearing exactly what the problems sound like, it’s difficult to tell if you can salvage at least “semi-legible” audio from it. I suggest that you check out iZotope’s RX 5 Audio Editor. It’s a software-based industry standard for cleaning up badly recorded audio, and RX 5 is the latest version, which features a much improved interface and some new tools for cleaning up bad audio.
There are two versions of RX 5: The Advanced Audio Editor retails for $1,199; RX 5 Audio Editor retails for $349. The only differences between the two are that the Advanced offers De-plosive, which can reduce plosives like a popped “P” in a track; Leveler, which optimizes for dialogue with intelligent De-breath; and De-ess algorithms that automatically detect breaths and esses in a dialogue take before then applying transparent clip gain adjustments while doing the overall dialogue leveling.
I recently purchased the Audio Editor version, and I’ve been very impressed by the tools that came with it, and how simple and effective RX 5 is in reducing ambient noise and improving audio tracks, in general. Either version can be run as a standalone version or hosted in popular audio-editing and video-editing programs like Pro Tools, Nuendo, Media Composer, Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve 12, Logic Pro X, Cubase and Sound Forge. Lack of space precludes me from giving a feature-by-feature description, but suffice it to say, iZotope RX 5 is probably the best overall, most effective noise-reduction/audio-rescue tool on the market at any price, which is why it’s considered an industry standard.
You can download a trial version and try it on your audio to see if it’s the right solution. Chances are, if you bring your audio to a pro sound mixer, RX 5 will be their primary tool, and while a pro sound mixer probably will have more skill at using the program than you would, it’s not a complex or difficult-to-learn program, and it’s well worth owning for most video editors, as well as sound professionals. It will pay for itself many times over, as badly recorded audio seems to be fairly common these days since budgets often aren’t enough to hire a pro sound mixer. You can check out the features and download a trial version of RX 5 Audio Editor at izotope.com/en/products/audio-repair/rx/.
16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: Neither juicedLink nor iZotope compensated me to write this article. juicedLink didn’t send me a review unit to try out the hardware; I purchased my own copy of RX 5 Audio Editor from iZotope at full retail cost. No material connection exists between the manufacturers mentioned in the article and myself.
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