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Foley recordings - how do you get the noise floor down?
Old 26th May 2010
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Foley recordings - how do you get the noise floor down?

I am recording foley in a dead quiet room, with a Neumann TLM 103 and a Daking Mic-Pre One preamp.

When recording footsteps, with the mic at a distance of 2 meters, it's impossible not getting noise from the preamp when turning it up to the right level. At normal television volume (~76 dB) on the monitors, little noise is heard. But turning up to cinema volume (~87 dB) - it's Very noisy with a distinct noise floor.

If I unplug the microphone and leave the preamp at it's gain setting - I will get the noise floor only.

Of course, I can go closer, but then I won't get the right sound. Close micing footsteps sounds horrible. And there are more sounds, which are even more quiet, that I want to record without having a distinct noisefloor.

Noise is the devil.

What are the tricks to get the noise floor down when recording quiet sounding foley?
Old 26th May 2010
  #2
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🎧 10 years
I'd start by switching your mic to a small diaphragm condenser. Do some research on what all the foley guys use...i think thats probably your main problem
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #3
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mikevarela's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
that's a very quiet mic, have you tried using a few mic pre's just to check the floor on each.

you could also try renting some small diaphragms - earthworks are great.

I'd try a few pre's though just to be sure.

Maybe also a high pass raised higher than normal
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #4
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soundboy's Avatar
 
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Remember, it's not high fidelity you are after, but matching the on set sound if you are filling in for ADR. I don't think anyone uses a large diaphragm mic on set. A shotgun mic will go a long way towards helping your problem.
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #5
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Robo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Earthworks are great but they're quite noisy.

If it's not a problem I can fix by changing equipment I usually allow the noise onto the recording and take it off after using iZotope RX, highest quality settings, etc. People who don't know RX might frown at this but there are never significant artifacts, as long as you know what you're doing, take a good sample of the noise on it's own, and experiment to get the perfect settings.

If you want me to show you what I mean, send me a small section of the audio (including a piece with the noise only) and I'll take out the noise. It can sound better/quieter than trying to reduce the noise at source.

Cheers
Robo
Old 26th May 2010
  #6
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Mundox's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderssvensson ➑️
At normal television volume (~76 dB) on the monitors, little noise is heard. But turning up to cinema volume (~87 dB) - it's Very noisy with a distinct noise floor.
Is your room big enough for 87dbSPL?
Maybe it's not that noisy but you're monitoring too loud?
Old 26th May 2010
  #7
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minister's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderssvensson ➑️
I am recording foley in a dead quiet room.
How quiet? It is REALLY hard to get a room dead quiet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderssvensson ➑️
Iwith a Neumann TLM 103 and a Daking Mic-Pre One preamp.
These are both quiet. The Daking is a nice (Trident A-like) pre. Check all your cables again. But, as Songarçon said, match production with a shotgun. Eathworks are noi-zee!

Last question: what levels? If you are peaking above -8dBFS, then you are pushing things too far.

Last comment : yeah, noise is a bee-otch. So is low end energy.
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #8
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eoats's Avatar
 
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🎧 10 years
Your mic I should think is fine.

87db spl?
This seems too loud to listen to Foley; 85 or 83 might be better.
You've played some of this foley against dialog/production?
Can you play back a scene with the setup or dub stage you'll be mixing in?
I know a lot of the tracks I work on seems so noisey but rarely does it get heard on in the mix.

2 meters (6ft) seems a bit far. If the room your recording in is working for you fine, but it's easier to add verb & EQ for presence than get a 'natural' verb that doesn't match or is too much.
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #9
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🎧 15 years
I own several of the current shotgun mics as well as a TLM103. The latter is FAR quieter than any shotgun I have or have used, with the possible exception of the new DPA, which I haven't tried yet. I'm not sure there is a general purpose mic that is quieter than the TLM103. There are quieter mic pres than the Daking, however. Also, when you edit your foley you can certainly "cut around" the sounds--there is no reason to leave the spaces in your cut....a few db of expander might help you too... A shotgun might help you some with noise coming into your studio from outside, but it won't help at all with straight "thermal" noise or hiss from the electronics.

Philip Perkins
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #10
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dr.sound's Avatar
 
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Who listens to Foley at 87 spl?
Cinema level is 85.
It is supposed to fit into the mix not be the star.heh
I think one needs to check the level it is recorded at
and how all the Foley tracks play against production.
Earthworks are noisy. Not a good choice Mike.
Try recording with both simo, a close up mic and another room mic. Blend them and see if that works.
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #11
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Branko's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
We use a modified U87 (neg feedback removed, some caps changed) and a standard DAV BG1 preamp straight into ProTools. Quiet enough when playing several channels of foley together. TLM 103 should be quieter than U87. I never listen to anything at 87 dBC.
Old 26th May 2010 | Show parent
  #12
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espasonico's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
You can try to place the preamp in the room just to check. It can make a difference.
Old 27th May 2010 | Show parent
  #13
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Robo's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Is it RF noise? If so make sure all cables are balanced / well-shielded, and everything is grounded properly.
Old 27th May 2010 | Show parent
  #14
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danijel's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
There's also the performance factor. It is an art in itself to do footsteps louder than in the real life, but still make them sound detailed and full, and not tick-tock pointy (because the harder you hit, the more transient you get). I could never do any good with my legs, so my workaround is to put on a single shoe on my hand, like a glove, and try to get the body and the grit (and avoid sharp attack) by hitting the ground from ~45 degrees, thereby getting some friction along with the impact.
Old 27th May 2010
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderssvensson ➑️

At normal television volume (~76 dB) on the monitors, little noise is heard. But turning up to cinema volume (~87 dB) - it's Very noisy with a distinct noise floor.
Unless your control room is large, as in dubbing stage large, you will not want to listen at 85dB.

Your microphone and preamp should be fine if they are both to spec.

A lot depends on what you are recording. Footsteps are not really quiet foley sounds, but I would still put the microphone a bit closer. 3 to 5 feet depending on surface, shoes, walking, running etc.

If you have a very good mixer, and a great room, you can use a room mic to mix in some perspective.

Recording cloth rustle, you might want to get the mic 2 to 3 feet.

I've had mics within inches for certain extremely delicate sounds.
Old 27th May 2010 | Show parent
  #16
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loba jet's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
small diaphram instead of large

and record at the highest bit depth you possibly can.
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #17
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Uncle Bob's Avatar
 
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Cool

I'm using the TLM103 and the Focusrite VMP (not a terrible piece) and my rooms are relatively quiet, if rather small. I am fairly satisfied; there's a negligible amount of noise which completely disappears in the mix, even in the quietest scenes. On those very rare occasions where the noise is noticeable in the mix I trim around the Foley and/or use EQ and/or NR.
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #18
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🎧 10 years
Marti is right, you could be obsessing about something that may not really be a problem. The BGs and production sound generally raise the noise floor well above even moderately noisy preamp and room noise. Foley doesn't need to be perfectly quiet as much as it needs to sound natural.

In terms of Foley mics, I always liked small diaphragm hypercardioids, mostly because I liked the way the slightly off-mic sound laid in so well with production. You can get the off mic sound with cardioids as well, but for some reason I liked the off-mic hypercardioid sound better.
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #19
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Foley noise floor issues

I agree with almost all of the above posts. The following is just what I have experienced as a Foley recordist and artist and hope may help -

you are correct, noise is indeed the devil and a foley recordists sworn enemy.

You are recording feet too far away from the mic, try the mic @ 1 metre away, 500 mm off the floor pointing downwards toward feet (with a shotgun). (or even 700mm away with the TLM if you don`t have a shotty) you should get enough room/natural sound with a LDC.
As a result of the distance you are probably driving your mic pre input too hard, and hence the noise floor is way up to achieve a decent level.
For feet, my recording peaks are around -15db on P.T.
Cloth and jewellery can be as low as – 30 db.
The feet levels really don`t need to be bangin away at 0 db on the mic pre or the AD converters for the highest possible bit rate. IMHO by the time the Foley tracks are exported to the Dubbing Stage, high and low pass filters applied (leaving those upper and lower frequencies for dialogue music and effects as well as dumbing down the Foley quality to match ****ty production sound), it becomes more background and supporting of the main “audio stars”(Dialogue, music and SFX),while still breathing life to the other audio elements. Our re-recording mixer uses light compression and a pre-set low/high pass filters on every Foley track to do this.
It is however important we have excellent signal to noise, as in some of our sessions we have had in excess of 100 Foley tracks (although some BG`s do get bounced to pairs to take the load off the sound stage track count) and the accumulative noise floor can add up. Noise IS the devil.

I found it useful to find a general input gain setting on our mic pre, where, any level higher than that, I know will be un-useable (on our sound stage/mix room).(I suspect you have found yours now). So for example if I had to turn up some bare feet I am recording ,past that identified input gain setting/noise threshold on the mic pre, I know the Foley artist needs to beat the feet harder, or the mic needs to come closer. I don`t boost the mic pre output gain stage and the input is dancing around -5 db on the preamp input meter.
Also with the feet performance, character is always preferred, including scrapes and different notes/tones as opposed to clop clop clop (all uniform).: These are the feet the mixers like the most.
A good Foley artist is worth their weight in gold ..(and should be paid as such

We use a SDC Schoeps Colette with an mk41s super cardoid capsule for feet and we have also used other standard shotguns in the past. We also use the same Schoeps for ADR and Loop group as it is the best match for the mic on set.
I also found a shotgun gets a more focused sound for feet and rejects a little more of the room sound while still sounding natural. Other Foley rooms I have been involved with often use a shotgun for feet as well as props etc, although I found the old Seinheiser 416 very noisy for anything quiet like cloth.
The TLM 103 is an excellent Foley mic for props, cloth (and jewellery) as it is so quiet.
You can still record great feet with the TLM you just need to be closer to your source and turn your mic pre down IMHO.

We use a focusrite ISA 220 session pack as a preamp. It is a quiet, open and natural sounding mic pre. We also use the A to D converter card straight out to the 220 to spdif in on P.T.le (003)

You may be monitoring the Foley too loud in relation to your dialogue/music and f.x. (and even overall monitoring level) I would suggest getting your dialogue and any production sound/ music, atmos and F.X where you want them, then mute and check noise floor on Foley. Apply low and high pass filters. Once you identify your nominal mic pre-setting, mic position and performance level you’ll be sweet.

When I 1st started recording Foley I battled with noise floor trying to capture large levels which I found were not necessary with good mic placement, the correct mic,and most importantly nominal preamp levels.
I have not personally used your mic-pre, but it seems to get good reviews. If you try all the above steps and its still too noisy try a new mic cable and demo another mic pre, but I would try a shotgun 1st as others have suggested.
As the book “The Foley Grail” suggests, one can technically turn out good Foley with just a 003 (lets face it the mic pres are average) and a shotgun.

I suspect you’ll be fine.

Hope this helps in some small way.

Ghosty

Last edited by ghostyhead; 28th May 2010 at 06:43 AM.. Reason: additonal info
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #20
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Iron Man's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks

Great post Ghosty. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #21
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Just a few more comments about Foley from a rerecording mixer's perspective. In most cases foot steps get played in the final mix at a level that is very low. Unless they are a plot point or played hyper-real like in the beginning of "All The President's Men", I find that if I play them loud enough for the director's attention to be drawn to them, he/she will often tell me to take them out completely. Of course, during music sequences you may have to play the Foley up, but then there is a lot of sound that masks noise problems.

Props may be played louder at times, but the bigger sounds are generally performed at a loud enough level to enable you to keep the noise level down.

The worst Foley recording sins IMO are poor performance and micing too close, not background noise. I really don't want pristine recorded tracks in most cases. The Foley has to fit in naturally with the production dialogue, which is often not spectacular quality. Close micing and lack of texture in the performance make the Foley stick out in the mix like a sore thumb, which means it will probably get dumped in the domestic final mix. I have almost never had anyone comment negatively on the Foley or tell me to dump it because it was noisy, regardless of how bad the noise was. Of course I want the background noise to be as low as possible, but not at the expense of the sounds being recorded.

By texture I mean a "messy" enough performance so that when the Foley is played in context at it's proper level, you still hear the subtleties and are not just left with the transients. The nuances shouldn't get overwhelmed by the transients, so they need to be overplayed so that when they are naked and played up in volume they almost sound sloppy. When you lower the level and play it in context, it sounds great. Yes, a compressor really helps, but it is best to record it so that the compressor doesn't need to be working too hard. I'd rather have a noisy background than poor performance and too close micing, which generally emphasizes the transients. Check the Foley at a realistic level against the guide track when you record it, that will help you determine what reality is.

The last thing I have time for in the mix is having to massage the Foley, so it needs to be presented pre-degraded and pre mixed to match the production sound. Even on decent mid-budget features, I often am unable to allot no more than 1/2 to one full day to predubbing 5 or 6 reels of Foley (if I'm lucky). During the final mix no director is going to sit around while I mess around with Foley, there are always bigger fish to fry. In fact, I know many directors who categorically state, "I hate all Foley, take it all out." Of course you need it and it can really improve the film, but if they recognize it as Foley or see me taking any time with it at all they will flip out.

BTW, you can always record low level sounds using a Cat 43 or equivalent if you absolutely had to, just figure out how to use it correctly first.
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #22
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bizzle's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Gary - well put.

I will add that a good movement track really sells the foley and is essential for helping dialog and ADR issues. Plus it'll cover up a good amount of noise.

&e
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #23
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🎧 10 years
All good stuff, from the pros who knows. Yes, always always keep in mind your tracks are not going to ever be played in isolation in the mix for any other reason except to search for a sound/noise/hear this or that. It is part of the whole picture, right? It should match location sound, yes. Sometimes a bit of 'life' is your friend (hiss).

Shotgun mic has been mentioned for good reason.

Has anyone mentioned using two mics, one direct, one 'room'? (scanning the thread quickly)

Warning: you need to know what you are doing / have your mixer on board if you are blending/marrying those tracks. I've heard some really stuff and some really badly-done stuff. And, as a mixer, you're tied.

Worst case scenario I had on a picture last year was I had to send a good chunk of the props events back / have the editor go back in and edit very very tight. Exactly that--we had way too much noise floor. The empty track would be bopping along and then PSSSSSS, prop event, PSSSSS, out. Oooch. Lovely coming straight up that centre channel.

Yes, a good, well-recorded (ie: noise floor down, chuckle) movement/cloth track adds much much much to the tracks. Essential for ADR spots/scenes.

And I have to concur with Gary about things being played 'so the client doesn't necessarily notice them unless asked for'. I once had someone criticize the 'Frankenstein feet' from the first scene on (he was in early in the mix) and would not let go the pit bull grip for the entire picture.

Overall, don't sweat it, get good performance and realistic / perspective sound, and remember there's always the other elements to hide your sins.

Again, Gary's very correct: sometimes ya gotta make the foley sound as *(%-y as the location track. Gotta sound natural, right?

Jeff
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #24
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🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by ghostyhead ➑️
A good Foley artist is worth their weight in gold ..(and should be paid as such
I'll pass that on to the 360lb foley artist I used to work with years back for ya! Student tours would get a kick out of seeing him in heels.

Jeff
Old 28th May 2010 | Show parent
  #25
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
heh heh....heh. where does a 360lb dude find heels? I have always worked with a female who takes care of the heels, lucky I guess,but have wondered where I`d score a pair if it ever came to that.

QUOTE=Jfriah;5444455]I'll pass that on to the 360lb foley artist I used to work with years back for ya! Student tours would get a kick out of seeing him in heels.

Jeff[/QUOTE]
Old 23rd June 2010 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
This is very interesting reading! If I would make a summary of what you all say, it seems like the noise floor from the microphone preamp is normal.

So I followed the advise to buy a shotgun mic. I bought the Sennheiser MKH 416 - and I like the character! It really "sounds like film"! The bad part is that I bought a 70's MKH 416.. now it's just MORE noise. Noise.. noise.. noise... crap! That's not what i wanted (but the character is Really nice..)

Does the MKH 416 U3 have a much better noise floor than the MKH 416 from the 70's? The answer is given: yes. But how much better is it?
Old 23rd June 2010 | Show parent
  #27
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ggegan's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anderssvensson ➑️
This is very interesting reading! If I would make a summary of what you all say, it seems like the noise floor from the microphone preamp is normal.

So I followed the advise to buy a shotgun mic. I bought the Sennheiser MKH 416 - and I like the character! It really "sounds like film"! The bad part is that I bought a 70's MKH 416.. now it's just MORE noise. Noise.. noise.. noise... crap! That's not what i wanted (but the character is Really nice..)

Does the MKH 416 U3 have a much better noise floor than the MKH 416 from the 70's? The answer is given: yes. But how much better is it?
I started using 416s in the very early 80's and they were very quiet. They have always been very low noise mics and as far as I know they didn't get significantly quieter with later versions. Maybe there is something wrong with your mic or the power supply or perhaps your preamp is bad.
Old 23rd June 2010 | Show parent
  #28
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Maybe the OP can post an example recording? Would be a lot easier to help. Also when you say you are playing the sound at 87dB does that mean the footsteps are generatig 87dBs or is your system calibrated to [email protected]? Make quite a difference. Since "cinema volume" is not 87dB so I thought you might be simply turning up the volume "al gusto" instead of using a propper calibration?
Old 23rd June 2010 | Show parent
  #29
pan
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pan's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Thanks alot, Gary and Ghosty for the wealth of info.

Here's an example, how the Pros do it:



at 18 secs you can see THE mic-position for professional foot-foley.

ENJOY!
Old 25th June 2010 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I didn't know there was that kind of action happening in the foley room.
πŸ“ Reply

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