Recording Sound in Kenya
This one’s from the sound department…
In this article I’m going to talk a little bit about the sound equipment we used, and why we used it, on our latest venture to Vipingo. Vipingo is a small village situated in rural Kenya, on the beautiful Kenyan coast.
Before heading out we were told that Vipingo village and the surrounding areas suffer from a lot of problems; a couple of which being abject poverty and HIV. It was our job to find out a bit more about these and how the people of the area are dealing with it, with the help of one school in particular:
The Future Hope Montessori School (as shown below)
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Sound for this project
When we were given the brief and found out a bit more we realised that there were going to be a few problems we would need to overcome to successfully produce this project. Particularly as we only found out we were definitely going one week prior to our journey.
- Limited electricity.
- No control over surrounding noises.
- Equipment had to be portable, easy and quick to use.
- Small enough to take in hand luggage on the plane.
- Robust enough to cope with heavy wear and tear and all the dust.
(Below) This is a quick picture I took of the most part of our conventional sound set-up, excluding any battery units, stands, flight cases, storage and doubles of anything here. So this is the high-end set-up we usually use for all of our advert, video and film production and just in this photo is between £4500-£5000 total value. As you can see not the most portable gear and certainly not the easiest to take on the plane.
So we had to strip back and find gear suitable to take with us, after a lot of research we came across the Zoom H6n with the mountable shotgun capsule, this was also a very inexpensive alternative. The recorder itself, which comes with an A/B Mic and an MS Mic capsules can be bought for around the £340 mark and the additional shotgun capsule including the dead cat can be bought for £99.
It all conveniently packs away into the hard case included with purchase of the recorder. Certainly small enough to put in a rucksack in hand luggage. Also in the case has room for additional batteries and SD Cards. The interface is really easy to use, not really any need for instructions, it’s all very self explanatory. Certainly a great little device for when you’re travelling and need portability.
So… How did it do?
My initial reaction was, “it’s great!” First of all it’s a well built and very robust little recorder. All of the dialogue was picked up very clearly. After a small amount of work in post-production it should prove to be a good quality, well recorded production.
The microphones work really well, I didn’t make use of the A/B Mic included but I did use the MS (Mid-Side) and again it picked up audio very well. The capsule I used the most on this shoot was the shotgun capsule. (shown to the right). I found it worked really well when picking up dialogue, ideally not more than 1.5 metres away. The dead cat was extremely useful on set, the mic itself seems to be very susceptible to wind noise and the dead cat that they threw in for free with the mic, really worked well and managed to eradicate most of the wind noise.
In terms of the problems we had to overcome, we couldn’t have picked a better recorder. It’s small, easy to use in a “run-and-gun” situation and the power consumption was brilliant. We were filming all day for 9 days and I only changed the batteries once. (it takes 4xAA). I still have loads of juice left in the batteries now.
Would I use the H6n again?
The short answer is yes I would. My primary set-up will still be the crowded picture you saw earlier, that gives me better compressors and limiters and much cleaner pre-amps with a largely reduced noise floor. The H6n, I would still use when travelling or on holiday when I want to capture certain sounds of the environment or country, and I would certainly use it again for “run and gun” documentary production purposes.
When and where can I see this documentary?
At the moment it is being edited and is coming together very nicely. We came away with so much footage and such an insight into the Vipingo area we could easily produce a whole series on just the school.
There will be plenty of updates over the next few weeks, it will be screened at a couple of cinemas in the UK and entered into a couple of festivals but the best ways to find out more would be:
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Please pay a visit to the Vipingo Village Fund Website, and see what this incredible charity is doing for the children of Vipingo: http://www.vipingovillagefund.org/
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