Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday: Mic Att!

Hey peoples, time again for another Tech Tip Tuesday!

Last week we talked about what to do if your external microphone is picking up unwanted radio signals (if you didn't catch the post yet, check it out here). After posting the tip, I chatted online with friend of Reel Grrls and awesome video blogger Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:

ANITA: love your short little post about the mic audio problem!
me: Thanks!
ANITA: now if only you'll make one about why my audio is always so low no matter what mic I use
me: Hmm... low audio, I'll have to think on that one...
ANITA: I got it to work with a shotgun put right underneath the person speaking, but any further away is inaudibly low, even with a lavalier.
me: does your camera have auto & manual audio levels? have you tried it on both?
ANITA: no it doesn't have that unfortunately.
It has "turn mic attachment on" and then you can adjust the audio, so I guess it does, but even when it's all the way up it's still low
me: Wait, is the "attachment" setting just called att?
ANITA: ya it says MIC ATT
me: Actually, "att" stands for "attenuate" and it is used to cut off high levels on your mic. So when it's on it just brings your audio levels way down.
all this time!
I thought it was mic attachment so it would pull from the mic and not the built in
me: It's a common misconception, no worries.
Try turning it off and see if it helps. Let me know!

So, the big message is: MIC ATT does NOT stand for "mic attachment," but "mic attenuate"! And what does mic attenuate do? It makes your incoming audio LOWER. What exactly is attenuation? Check the definition from this great audio glossary Anita sent over:

Attenuation: The process of decreasing the amplitude of a signal as it passes from one point to another. Analog attenuation circuits typically use resistors to reduce the voltage of a signal.

So, as Anita next asked, why on earth would anyone want to turn mic att on? Great question! Truthfully, I have never had to turn this setting on, but if you were in a situation where the audio was so loud it sounded distorted or blown out (like yelling & clapping at a game or event), or if you had a mixer or similar line-out attached to your mic input (mics have a much quieter signal than lines), you might want to try turning on your mic att.

To sum all this up and illustrate the point for you, Anita made this fabulous little video about our friend (or enemy, as the case may be) Mic ATT. Enjoy, and thanks Anita!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Save the Date: the Reel Grrls Gala is October 23rd!

We are thrilled to announce this year's special guest: Anne Rossellini, director of 2010 Sundance Jury Prize winner Winter's Bone, and to welcome Boeing, our lead event sponsor for the 4th Annual Reel Grrls Fall Gala and Auction.

Tickets will go on sale soon - for now, save the date and get in touch if you are interested in volunteering or donating to the auction.

We can't wait to see you there!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday: Radio in your Audio?

Today I'm excited to share a Tech Tip with you that I learned from one of our mentors, Claire Beach, last week during a Reel Grrls shoot.

Our summer Apprenticeship Program for advanced students pays Reel Grrls participants a stipend to create promotional videos for local non-profits (who do not have to pay for the video they receive–pretty awesome right?!). This year, one of the videos we are creating is about women's suffrage, and will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in Washington State. 

Last week the Suffrage Team was setting up for an important shoot with author Patsy Clark. They had two lavalier microphones hooked up to their main camera and the audio levels looked like they were coming in fine, but when the camerawoman put on her headphones she noticed a low level of audio coming through that sounded like a BBC radio report. Huh?? That's right. Our mics were picking up a radio station!

Believe it or not, this happens all the time. Why you ask? Well, according to the internet, it can happen for lots of reasons, but this is probably the one we were dealing with: "Sound systems are made up of several pieces of electronic equipment as well as a lot of wiring. Each run of wire is potentially an antenna."

So the wires of our microphones were acting as antennas, picking up a radio station and broadcasting it through our video camera. Yikes! So, how do we get rid of it? Well, Claire had a neat trick to "shield" the connectors on the mic cables:

That's right, regular old aluminum foil! In fact, this particular foil Claire kindly rescued from her lunch. We wrapped the foil around each area where the metal shields surrounded our XLR plugs. Then the camerawoman, RG participant Julia Levy, listened for the radio station again:

It worked! With the mic cables shielded, our valiant RG team went ahead and filmed an excellent interview with Patsy Clark. Foil saved the day!

Don't forget, there are lots of different reasons why your mic might pick up a radio station, so use the bounty of the internet to explore further if this tech tip doesn't solve the problem for you the next time you come across it. Still, it might be a good idea to add a little piece of foil to your filmmaker's emergency kit (I know you have one!) just in case.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Summer Video Camp is Coming!

Take a video production crash course with Reel Grrls! Learn to write, shoot, and edit a short video in only three days. Work in an all-girl, noncompetitive environment, and receive instruction from adult women media professionals. Register online today!

Mon, Wed, Fri, Aug 23, 25, 27
10:00 AM - 4:00pm
Location: Reel Grrls New Media Lab in Seattle's Central District, 1409 21st Ave, Seattle WA 98122
Ages: Open to young women ages 13 - 19. Beginning and advanced media-makers welcome!
Cost: $175, or pay what you can. No participants turned away due to lack of funds.

Register online: http://lucia.reelgrrls.org/webform/2010-summer-video-camp

Contact: Program Manager Maile Martinez at (206) 393-2085 or maile@reelgrrls.org with any questions.

And be sure to check out the Flickr stream from last year's Video Camp: