jkuehlin

Thoughts on the Neumann U87 on voice talent riders?

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When producing VO for video games, or engineering for a dialogue supervisor, how common is it for guys to 'expect' a U87? Not Neumann in general, how many times have you guys been asked to specifically provide a U87?

If this is common for anyone out there, is there a certain preamp that pro voice actors or dialogue supervisors tend to be really particular about? 

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It never would have occurred to me that VO talent would have 'riders' in that sense, based on my very limited experience with recording for bands.  Unless the voice talent is also an audio engineer, or has a lot of demonstrable experience with different mics, I wouldn't put much weight into their mic preferences.  In the same sense that I would rarely let a singer from any band I've worked with choose their mic to record with (I think most of them would tell me to use an SM58 cause it's the only mic they know by name).  Heavy bands like to default to SM7B- I get told to "just use it, it'll be great", but it doesn't suit every voice or mix either.

Strikes me as a "trust the engineer" kind of situation.  I'd image they'd be familiar enough with their own collection of mics, pres, the context of what they're recording, etc., to be able to pick the most appropriate mic for the session.

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Experienced vocalists/voice artists often know exactly what recording chain they want for their voice, it's the same as a guitar player having a preferred guitar/pedals/amp. I know what microphones I like on my voice, and what ones I don't.

Edited by Ripley
a word

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^ Yeah, if they have the appropriate experience, certainly don't discount that.  I just mean I wouldn't run out and get a new mic or pre because a VO artist demanded it (especially given the price of those things, and the value of pairing a good engineer with the equipment they're familiar with).  VO might be very different, but in the world of bands, lots of guitarists and vocalists THINK they know what they want, but realistically don't know what's appropriate for the project, or don't have the experience with the available library of equipment, etc.

To be fair, most of my experience is with low-to-no-budget audio though, so I dunno how helpful that perspective is, hah.

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A U87 can be had for under $75 a day. I've personally never had an inexperienced artist insist on the "wrong" mic choice, and in cases where they request a specific one, I'd rather not have the talent show up and go "where's the mic I asked for." I've also seen plenty of artists bring their own mic.

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58 minutes ago, Ripley said:

Experienced vocalists/voice artists often know exactly what recording chain they want for their voice, it's the same as a guitar player having a preferred guitar/pedals/amp. I know what microphones I like on my voice, and what ones I don't.

Er. It's extremely common to reamp guitars through signal chains other than the player's preferred amp/pedals/amp. More importantly, if a guitarist tried to demand that the sound engineer use an sm57 to mic the cab, the engineer would laugh in their face. Sure it's a common choice but there's a million other mics out there. Same goes for the example above of a vocalist demanding an sm58 or sm7b. 

Given that, I'm puzzled that people would let the actor dictate sound engineering choices. The mic is bad enough, but you're going to let your actors get involved in preamp selection? Most professional musicians aren't afforded that level of interference. Suggest ones that have or have not worked well for them in the past, sure.  But if you're doing this for real, surely the sound engineer owns the chain, not the actor. Do what any real studio does - take some time to run tests with half a dozen different mics and however many preamps, bring the talent in to listen to the recording coming through the monitors*, and figure out what fits with what the actor and dialogue supervisor are trying to accomplish.

* Ideally, don't let people know what mic or preamp they're listening to when comparing. If you can double blind it, even better. You are listening to recordings and tonality, not brand names and model numbers.

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Yes, it's common to reamp guitars, but that is beside my point. My point is that experienced artists know what tools they like to use to get the results they prefer. An engineer laughing in someone's face over a mic suggestion, let alone the most common mic ever used to mic a guitar cab, is awfully dramatic, and I wouldn't want to work with any engineer that did that. That's beyond unprofessional.

I've never seen a session where anyone's equipment selection/suggestion wasn't taken seriously, and often, yes, they defer to the engineer, but only after agreeing that it's the choice they want to make. The bottom line at the studio is- You paid for the session you get to do what you want. We'll offer our opinion, and explain why we think it might be a bad choice, but they're the customer.

In my limited experience with VO sessions, no, I've never actually seen the talent have a microphone request. If I didn't have that mic, and couldn't rent it, I'd ask them if it's absolutely necessary, but again, I wouldn't want them to show up and immediately have an issue because we didn't have what they asked for.

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36 minutes ago, Ripley said:

An engineer laughing in someone's face over a mic suggestion, let alone the most common mic ever used to mic a guitar cab, is awfully dramatic

Not a suggestion - the thread is about riders, which are (potentially contractual) demands. That's pretty dramatic, if you ask me. It's one thing to say "hey, this worked really well with an sm57 in the past, let's do that again" versus "I require you to use an sm57 as that's the only way I sound like me". The former is sensible, the latter is not.

36 minutes ago, Ripley said:

The bottom line at the studio is- You paid for the session you get to do what you want. We'll offer our opinion, and explain why we think it might be a bad choice, but they're the customer.

I get that coming from the dialogue supervisor, who is presumably the representative of whoever is paying the engineer. (Although it's the type of micro-managing that destroys projects, frankly.) But the actor? They're not the customer, they're not the engineer, they're not there to make demands of the recording chain. I'm sorry but I just don't see why talent would have any standing to request a specific microphone. And if we're talking about somebody having an issue because there's not a U87 on site? Now that is unprofessional.

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I dunno about laughing in people's faces, but I've met tons of musicians (who lack any audio engineering knowledge) who are convinced that their way of doing things is the only way to accomplish something (like a 57 right up on the grill of a guitar cab), when there's clearly a ton of different ways to approach recording.  I'm not at a level where I deal with anyone who would have enough clout to come with riders, but I do think that specific mic choices are mostly inappropriate to take out of the hands of the engineer.  Just my two cents.

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On 10/4/2017 at 4:49 PM, Promit said:

Given that, I'm puzzled that people would let the actor dictate sound engineering choices.

But if you're doing this for real, surely the sound engineer owns the chain, not the actor. Do what any real studio does - take some time to run tests with half a dozen different mics and however many preamps, bring the talent in to listen to the recording coming through the monitors*, and figure out what fits with what the actor and dialogue supervisor are trying to accomplish.

* Ideally, don't let people know what mic or preamp they're listening to when comparing. If you can double blind it, even better. You are listening to recordings and tonality, not brand names and model numbers.

That was coming from upstairs in the dialogue department. Not the VO artist. I told them I'd have one for them if they felt it was necessary. If they're really that nit picky about it, I figured worst case scenario, I'd order one from guitar center then return it.

They had said they'd fly the actors out to my location then the director would possibly remote in over Source Connect. I'm not sure how much point there is in dicking around with 5 mics unless the U87 for some reason sounds bad off the cuff. I dunno. 

...by the way, I haven't heard back from this group. I didn't chase this contract aggressively...rule of thumb: if you smell B.S., proceed with caution lol...right? :D 

 

 

 

 

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Well, if the dialogue people are demanding stuff... they're the ones paying the bills, I suppose. Wrong approach to things IMO, but whatcha gonna do.

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