In some other markets a vintage microphone is the pathway to a warm and dynamic sound. Yet in the audio post market, the key to success is reliability and accuracy. Sure character is important, especially for some voiceover and ADR applications, but when it comes to capturing authentic sounds, a crisp microphone with well-crafted frequency response will get called on more often than not. With that in mind, Post checked in with a handful of companies to see which of their microphones are getting called on and what can be expected in 2004.
According to Neumann USA's product manager, Dawn Birr, the company www.neumann.com/ offers a variety of microphones that are used by audio post professionals. "The Neumann Solution D digital microphone has recently found a home in post production and for some highly publicized films, including The Lord of The Rings trilogy and The Matrix trilogy," she reports. "The well-known Neumann U 87 is a modern classic that has been utilized in post production for over 30 years." Other Neumann microphones used in post situations include the TLM 103 and TLM 127, as well as more specialized offerings like the KU 100 binaural head and RSM 191-S stereo shotgun microphones. These products are called on for Foley work, voiceovers, dialogue, sound effects and film scoring.
The Sennheiser MKH line is used for voiceover, Foley and sound effects applications.
The Solution D microphone, Birr says, has been used in post applications because of its software ability to support sample rates up to 96k. "The software will eventually support rates up to 192k," she adds. "Also, the Solution D offers remote control of multiple parameters and functions, including polarity, attenuation, gain, limiter, soft muting, phase reverse, sampling rate, synchronization mode and test signals." The Solution D features the D-01, a newly designed capsule.
Because it records three dimensionally, the SoundField www.soundfield.com/ enables users to steer the mic in post. Brad Lunde, president of the TransAmerica Audio Group (www. transaudiogroup.com) which imports and distributes a number of microphones including SoundField, Brauner and Soundelux, points out that users "can make a recording and then go back and change the microphone position later. You can change the angle and pattern of the microphone."
Michael Gerzon invented the SoundField in the 1960s, though as Lunde reports, the microphone has taken off recently thanks to the emerging demand for 5.1 audio. "The SoundField has great application for room micing and ambient micing in Foley work," Lunde says. "The microphone can also deliver 6.1, 7.1 or whatever you want it to do, because basically what the microphone does is build a three-dimensional model of the acoustical event and you just have to go back and pull from this three-dimensional model the information you want, the microphone patterns and their placement. You can extract them from this three-dimensional model and you have phase error-free audio."
The SoundField comes in three models: the high-end studio version is the MKV system that includes a multi-capsule microphone and a calibrated 2U processor that can generate mono, stereo, M/S and surround. The second model, the SPS422B, enables users to get B-Formats along with all the benefits of the MKV at a lower price. The ST250 system is portable and can be DC or battery powered. "The ST250 can be used in the field for the same kind of recording as a stand-alone device," Lunde explains. "You can capture it in the B-Format, which takes up four tracks, and then bring it back to the studio and process it either with a SoundField SP451, which will derive 5.1, stereo or mono from a B-Format source or the new plug-ins that are now coming out. There's one out in Europe for Sadie and one out here for Nuendo that will enable you to take a B-Format signal in and once you get it into the computer you can digitally manipulate it and change the angle and pattern."
Currently Warner Bros. is using a MKV on their Foley stage, and other companies are using the products for movie special effects, documentaries and in sports applications. "The beautiful thing is that unlike binaural, which requires a binaural playback system to achieve the results, the SoundField does not," he says. "You can play it back off stereo speakers, 5.1, 6.1, and you have a wide variety of delivery potential. Whatever the client wants, you can do with a single microphone."
Post offerings from Soundelux, AKG, Soundfield, Shure and Blue.
Soundelux www.soundeluxmics.com/ offerings are being used for high-end voiceovers. "The Soundelux E47 has received positive response from the field in terms of being a really big voiceover mic for when somebody wants to sound huge," says Lunde. "The
Elux 251 is also very useful for voiceovers for a wider variety of voices. In the lower price points, the U195 has done very well in voiceover applications."
Brauner www.braunerusa.com/ is also another microphone being called on for clear voiceover work, Lunde reports. "Brauner is an ideal mic to capture voices exactly as they are," he says. "Brauner mics are used in broadcast facilities where they're looking for high quality and high resolution. Brauner mics are not big by nature, they are accurate by nature and they present a very clear picture. They are used in voiceover applications when they're looking for a realistic sort of vocal sounds, something that doesn't sound like a movie trailer but they want it to sound accurate and be very high resolution. The Brauner strengths are as room mics or as a detail distant mic, as well as for detailed vocals."
AKG's www.akg.com/offerings are some of the most ubiquitous in the post production market, according to director of marketing services, market development manager for studio and headphones, Mike Torlone. The C 414 - which comes in either a B-ULS or B-TL II configuration - is probably their most popular product. "The B-ULS is what most people call the standard 414 and it's basically designed to be a good, all-around microphone," Torlone explains. "It's used in a variety of applications from voiceovers to various studio musical applications." The B-TL II came out about 10 years ago and was designed for vocal situations. "It uses the same capsule that we use on our C 12 VR, which is our flagship recording microphone. It has what we call a voice-friendly design that's designed to bring out the best in any spoken or singing voice." The C 4500 B-BC has also been used for voiceover, broadcast and studio work.
Brauner mics are well suited for capturing realistic vocal sounds.
Torlone believes AKG's popularity stems from its flexibility and value. "Certainly there are less expensive microphones, but are also more expensive microphones," he says. "For what it costs it does a pretty good job." As for the future, Torlone reports the company will continue to work on products targeted primarily at the recording and broadcast market.
For audio post production applications, Audio Technica's (www.audiotechnica.com/) large diaphragm studio mics get the call, says product manager Mike Edwards. "The 4047 gets used a lot," Edwards reports. "They get used for on-air as well as for voiceovers. That's a favorite, especially for guys that are just converting over to digital. It's got a nice fat bottom end and it gives them a rich sound. For people who are used to an analog environment, it keeps some of those inherent qualities that might disappear if they went to an all-digital system and ended up with a mic that was too accurate. The mic is not flat at all, it was designed for a specific sound and that's what it gives them."
The 4033 is another voiceover favorite, he says, although it's also fairly colored. "It has a well-known, mid-range presence peak that some people like and some people don't," he says. For a more neutral microphone, Audio Technica offers the 4040.
For Foley work, users tap Audio Technica's 4071 and 4073 shotgun mics. "The difference is that the 4071 is a longer shotgun, so if you need a narrower pick-up pattern you'd go with that one," Edwards says. "The 4073 is a little wider pick-up pattern. They are both studio-quality condenser elements."
At a lower price point, the 3035 is used for voice applications. "It's a large diaphragm, extremely quiet, handles high SPLs, so they can really get on it without hurting it," Edwards explains. "A newcomer that we're starting to hear some feedback about is the 3060. It's a tube microphone that is powered by phantom power, so it doesn't have an external power supply. The sound of it lends itself well to voiceover, because it's sort of silky. It doesn't extend out real wide, it starts to roll off at 10 or 11k gently, but there's a little bump between 4k and 6k - only a couple of dB and that gives it a nice presence and that's why we're starting to hear about it being used for voiceover stuff."
As for the future, Edwards points out that Audio Technica is looking toward the burgeoning independent market where audio pros are working in home studios on computers. "Right now they are relying on some external device, either a [Digidesign] Mbox, some outboard preamp or something to go between the microphone and the computer. Those are things we always look at - what's going to satisfy the needs of whatever new technology is out there."
Dan Smith, product manager, microphone products for Shure www.shure.com/ points out that there are two popular Shure products for audio post applications. "We'd recommend our KSM 44 - it's a multi-pattern large diaphragm microphone. It has a really low noise floor," he says. "What makes it most appropriate for post applications is that it is a dual-diaphragm technology. During the development of this microphone we did a lot of tests on the properties of dual-diaphragm microphones and we found it gives you a very controlled and tight sounding low end, and most post people prefer that."
The SM-7, which is a dynamic microphone, is used in broadcast situations and occasionally gets brought into some recording applications. "Most people like it if they're doing smaller projects and they're not working in the greatest facility, where they have a lot of isolation and they have some background noise that they might be dealing with," Smith says.
For Foley dates, Shure offers the KSM 137. It's a smaller mic that has an end address rather than a side address. "It has a very smooth frequency response where the low end rolls off a little bit to eliminate any boomy effects," Smith explains. The KSM 137 also has a 25dB pad that allows users to slam loud sounds right into the microphone.
According to Anthony L. Buzzeo, Sennheiser's product manager, microphones & specialty products, the company's mics are a natural complement to Neumann's line of microphones for audio post production. (Sennheiser owns Neumann.) The most widely used Sennheiser www.sennheiserusa. com/ is the MKH RF condenser line. "These mics use small diaphragm capsules that are driven by a unique RF condenser operating principal," he explains. "Just about the entire line has been used at one point or another for post applications, including the MKH20, MKH40, MKH50, MKH416, MKH60 and MKH70 shotguns. However, the piece d' resistance has got to be the multi-patterned MKH800, which delivers to the highest of production demands."
The Sennheiser line is used in voiceover, Foley and sound effects applications, he adds. "The MKH416 is extremely popular with voiceover artists. It has a voice enhancing proximity effect despite it being a short shotgun. Location shooting with these mics integrates nicely into post production, as recordists typically want to replicate the same set-up used in both places.
"Our classic dynamics have also been used for on-site sound effects as they provide excellence sound reproduction while withstanding tremendous SPL levels," he continues. "I've talked to soundmen who have subjected our MD 421 II to explosions at very close proximity. They'll say to me, 'Can you fix this, it's in 10 pieces?' Then they'll add, 'But don't change anything sonically, it still works.'" Both the MKH800 and the MD 421 II mics were used while recording the three Matrix films.
Buzzeo reports that Sennheiser is looking toward a digital future. "New Sennheiser digital designs will also set out to exploit new digital production techniques," he says. "One can anticipate enhanced digital versions of a few of our tried and true designs in the future."
The Bottle microphone from Blue Microphones www.bluemic.com/ is being used on a number of scoring stages in Los Angeles and at London's Air Studios. In fact, Air purchased a trio of Bottles to replace their Neumann M50s for their orchestral scoring dates, says sales manager Eric Boyer. "Our Bottle mic with the B4 capsule using the Perspex sphere pressure omni capsule has a very similar sound quality to the M50, yet we feel it has a little more detail," he says. "Plus you have the advantage of the utmost reliability since you're dealing with a modern microphone that was made five years ago and not 45 years ago. It's one that you know is going to work every time you plug it in."
While Blue mics were designed to serve the music market, Boyer reports that the company's Mouse microphone is being used in a number of broadcast facilities. "I would think there are some people using it for dialogue and voiceover," he adds.
Later this year Blue will be launching a set of small diaphragm condenser microphones for more detailed applications. "We've always been about designing microphones that sound musical, which is why the Bottle is the perfect use in orchestral scoring," Boyer says. "We will have small diaphragm condensers out on the market later this year and I would anticipate that you would see some of those ending up in the post rooms at some point. That's not something that we're going to bill as a post production tool, but we'd certainly be pleased if it ended up there."