Case Study: Remote Round Table
Sound For A Remote Round Table w/ 3 Talent On Site, 6 Cameras, 7 Independant Mixes, & Zoom Feed & Return of Remote Talent & Direction
While round table discussions are a fairly common type of video production, doing a remote version during a pandemic with each talent in a separate room introduces numerous technical challenges. Having three on-site interviewees across multiple rooms requires real-time communication between each set as well as patching them into a zoom conference for additional fourth remote talent & direction.
Technical Challenges & Solutions
Because each interviewee needed to be able to communicate in real time with one another as part of the round table discussion, each person needed a mix-minus feed containing everyone (as well as the zoom call) but not themselves. On each set there was a hardwired IFB with a discreet reporter style earpiece allowing for easy communication.
With the three on site interviewees spread out across multiple rooms in a hotel conference space, maintaining reliable RF range required antenna distribution and remote high gain LPDA antennas. Having them wearing wireless lavs meant immediately after the interview we could break off the external antennas and cabling for a quick verite portion.
Many Long Cable Runs
This shoot required moving a lot of analog audio around the set for three boom mics, three hardwired IFBs, mixes to cameras, and mix to & return from zoom. To achieve this with fast deployment I carried all the analog audio over shielded cat6 cabling. This meant for a quicker deployment & four channels in a single run with higher performance than traditional audio cabling.
Zoom Mix & Return
Because of the 4th talent and directorial team were coming in remote via Zoom as well as 3 cameras returning via zoom, the mix coming from and returning to zoom became a critical component in making this shoot’s workflow. To get audio into zoom the traditional capture card approach didn’t make sense with 3 separate cameras feeding capture cards, instead for the zoom call’s audio I used an 2×2 USB Audio Interface allowing me to feed a dedicated audio mix of all three sets into the zoom call. Since the audio and video were coming into zoom independently and had different amounts of latency, I used my Scorpio’s output delay’s to compensate.
Mix & Sync To 6 Cameras
Having six cameras and separate sound coupled with long takes (2 hours continuous roll), meant synchronization was incredibly important. The masterclock lived in my audio bag providing timecode & wordlock to my recorder, while each camera had a RF sync box on it slaved to the masterclock and providing timecode & genlock to cameras. Because timecode is just metadata for how the first frame gets labeled but cameras rely on their internal clock from the moment you hit record, genlock is how you ensure they stay in sync over the course of a long take. You can read more about synchronization here.
While proving a stereo mix to 6 cameras spread out across multiple rooms isn’t practical I opted to feed the boom as a prefader iso to the respective. A camera on each set as well as made sure each set’s B camera had internal mics as reference.
As with every production the costs can be broken down into two categories, Equipment and Labor. While the rates for labor remain relatively consistent across production styles, the equipment can vary greatly as to what’s needed on a shoot to shoot basis.
So for this specific shoot, there were 3 talent (that each needed a boom & lav) spread out across 3 sets, 6 cameras (that all need sync), 7 independent mixes (Zoom Mix, 3 Mix Minus IFBs, & ISOs to A Cameras), That ends up needing a pretty substantial gear package:
1 Recorder @ $150/day
3 Booms @ $50/each/day
3 Talent Wireless $75/each/day
6 Sync Boxes @ $50/each/day
3 Talent IFBs @ $50/each/day
1 USB Interface @ $25/day
RF Dirstro & Misc Support Gear @ $100/day
Equipment Rental Total: $1100
While there was only 2 hours of actual filming with talent for the round table discussion, it required a lot of setup; This barely fit inside a 10 hour day without pushing into overtime. While a tech prep day would be highly recommended with such a complex production (in case something wasn’t working as intended); Unfortunately due to budgetary constraints it wasn’t possible. The first 5 hours were dedicated to set up, from there we broke for lunch, then talent arrived staggered 10 minutes apart over the course of 30 minutes. We then went immediately into 2 hours of continuous filming. Following wrapping talent there was another 2 hours of breakdown & loadout.
Labor Day Rate: $700/10