Tutorials/Audio recording/Fostex FR2-LE with EW112P

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This tutorial will show you how to make a high quality audio recording with the Fostex FR - 2LE (Field Memory recorder) and a Sennheiser EW112P G2 series radio mic. Most comparable audio recording devices have a very similar layout and operate along the same principles as the Fostex used in this tutorial.

PMD660-0.jpeg R09-0.jpeg H2-0.jpeg

There are a few solid state recorders that have similar functionality to the Fostex FR2-LE (basically a CompactFlash based recorder with XLR mic sockets), as well as many solid state recorders that do not have XLR inputs). You should compare usability and sound quality carefully, ideally before committing to a purchase . For a number of recorders, including the Marantz PMD660, the Zoom H2 and the Edirol R09, customised versions of this tutorial are available here http://www.sciencemedianetwork.org/wiki/Tutorials/Audio_recording.

This page uses 'shared sections', i.e. sections that are shared across several tutorials. These are indicated by a box like this. Typically the 'edit' link above such a section will let you edit that shared section. When editing a shared section, you need to bear in mind that the section is used across different tutorials, and e.g. you should not include anything device specific.

1 Your equipment: The Fostex FR-2LE and Sennheiser EW112P

Before You Start: Make sure you have all the correct equipment and that it is all in working order. Typically, an audio recording kit around the Fostex FR2LE might include:

  • Fostex FR - 2LE (Field Memory recorder), including CF memory card (already inserted), along with AC adaptor. (There is also a battery compartment, and you can run the recorder off batteries.)
  • One set of radio mics (Sennheiser EW100 G2 series). You need to have:
    • One transmitter with lapel mic attached (check the wind shield is on the mic and securely attached)
    • One receiver with two cables: one minijack to XLR, one minijack to minijack
  • The recorder comes with a remote control for use with a boom as well as carrying bag and shoulder strap. (You will not need the remote control or boom for this tutorial but you should use the case to transport the recorder safely.)

To power the equipment you can either use the AC adaptor (mains power) for the Fostex FR-2LE or 4 x AA batteries for the battery pack. The radio mics need 2 x AA batteries in the transmitter and 2 x AA in the receiver, i.e. you need 8 AA batteries for a full charge. Ideally you would use rechargables - the EW100 G2 series runs very well off rechargeables. If you are recording away from mains be sure to take spares in case the battery life runs out. All equipment has a battery life gauge to show remaining battery life.

You may want to have the manual to hand: [1] ([from http://www.fostexinternational.com/docs/pro_support/pro_pdf_manual.shtml]). Note that the V1.10 and V1.20 firmware upgrades enable mono recording, see [2] and [3] respectively.

2 Names and Functions:

2.1 Front of the recorder

FR2LE-A-0.jpeg

Here is a quick run through of the FR2-LE - make sure that you can identify the relevant parts of the equipment. All important controls for recording are situated on the front of the recorder.

  1. Memory card slot protection cover
  2. The memory card slot itself, with card eject button.
  3. Mic peak indicators - indicators will light up when the input is 'overloading'
  4. Level Meters - shows the recording or playback levels.
  5. Recording level control - adjusts the input level for recording but does not influence the internal microphones. (These are linked to the level meters (4). If the level shown on the level meters is too low or too high, use the recording level control to adjust this.)
  6. Record (REC) button - slide the button across to begin recording.
  7. Record Standby (REC STBY) button - press this button when ready to record. It allows you to check the input levels and can be used to stop recording.
  8. Monitor control - adjusts the output levels of either headphones or a monitor. It can also adjust the output levels of the internal speakers.
  9. Mic Trim controls - adjusts the input level of external microphones from Analog in connectors L and R. (They are linked to the mic peak indicators (3) - If the mic peak indicators light up, you need to reduce the mic trim.)

2.2 Top of the recorder

FR2LE-A-1.jpeg

On the top of the device you only need the LCD display; you can look at the other controls later when you are copying materials off the recorder or when you are playing back some audio.

  1. LCD Display Screen
  2. Internal Microphones - situated both sides of the panel as Internal L and R inputs.
  3. Light / Contrast - allows you to light the screen. Hold the button down for a few seconds for the light to stay on, press again to turn off. This allows you to adjust the screen contrast.
  4. Shift - press and hold this button whilst using other buttons to enable the secondary operation.
  5. Menu / Enter - pressing this allows you to enter the menu option and is used to select each setting. Using shift with the menu button enters you into a quick setup mode.
  6. Prev File - when more than one file is stored using this button will skip to the previous file. Pressing this button with shift allows you to go to the previous cue point if any are set.
  7. Next File - when more than one file is stored using this button will skip to the next file. Pressing this button with shift allows you to go to the next cue point if any are set.
  8. + / Up key - while in menu mode this button allows you to scroll up. Used with shift it will lock the panel.
  9. Rewind - allows you to rewind through files.
  10. Fast Forward - allows you to fast forward through files.
  11. - / Mark key - by pressing this key whilst recording or playback marks a cue point, in the menu setup it scrolls down and with shift will delete the previous cue point.
  12. Stop key - stops the files and exits the menu screen from any mode.
  13. Play key - starts playback of files.

2.3 Left side: Audio inputs, Back: battery compartments, Right side: Power and headphones

Left side: Audio inputs Battery compartment Right side: Power and headphones

Left:
  1. DC in Jack - used to connect the AC Adaptor.
  2. Remote Input - used to connect the remote control.
  3. ANALOG IN - used to connect an external microphone.

Back:

  1. Battery Compartment - This compartment houses 4x AA batteries.

Right:

  1. Power Switch - turns recorder on and off. To turn off hold the power switch up for two seconds.
  2. USB Port - used to transfer audio files to and from a computer.
  3. Monitor Output - these connectors output -10dBV analog audio signals.
  4. Headphones Jack - allows you to connect headphones to the recorder to monitor audio.

3 Setting Up:

3.1 Setting up the memory card

We have had a problem where even though you have manually deleted all files from the Fostex so that the memory card is empty, the recordings are not actually deleted from the memory card and the card may unexpectedly run out of space. For example, the recording stops half-way through the talk displaying a screen which reads 'Disk Full. Press Enter to return to the main menu'.

To ensure this does not happen, when you turn on the Fostex for a new recording, reformat the memory card. You can do this by pressing 'Menu', then selecting 'Disk', and then 'Reformat'. This will clear all files from the memory card. It will also, however, reset the Fostex settings so you will have to enter them again. (You want the settings to be BFW44-16.)

If for some reason the card has not been cleared and you suddenly get the "disk full" warning in the middle of a talk just exchange the memory card and keep recording. It does not matter too much if there is a small break in the talk. This is why it is important to LISTEN TO THE RECORDING AS IT IS HAPPENING wherever possible.

3.2 Setting up the digital recorder with the wireless mics

Have the recorder on a flat surface in front of you and either connect the AC adaptor into the power input and a nearby power socket. If you use a power socket, make sure that nobdoy will trip over the cable - use gaffer tape to tape down the cable if necessary. The power input for the recorder displays a "-" and "+" symbol and is located next to the remote socket.

Using the radio mics, the recorder does not have to be close to the transmitter - it will pick up from a distance as long as there is nothing substantial between them such as a solid wall. To connect the radio mics to the recorder insert the large silver plug (XLR cable) into the ANALOG IN connectors and the smaller end connects to the reciever. Use just the L input for one mic; use and L and R if you have two mics.

The picture shows (left to right): power connection, the remote control plugged in (not needed), and a single mic connected to the left input of the recorder (left image):

FR2LE-A-5.jpeg FR2LE-A-7.jpeg

The right image shows a picture of the receiver, with XLR cable connected. Also connect your headphones to the phones connection on the right hand side of the recorder.

3.3 Radio Mic transmitter

Attaching the mic

If the mic is not already attached, attach the clip microphone to the transmitter: The mic plugs in at the top, and there is a screw to secure it. Turn both the transmitter and receiver on by pressing the on/off button, which is situated underneath the flap for the battery compartment. The flap lifts by squeezing either side to release it.

EW100 controls

Have a look at the picture above, and do this check:

  • On both transmitter and receiver: Has the display lit up, and are both powerlights showing?
  • On the receiver the RF light (green) should be on and and the upper black bar on the screen should be on full (indicating full radio reception).
  • When you talk into the mic do the level indicators (on both the transmitter and receiver) flicker?
  • Now mute the transmitter and look at the receiver: Has the "radio reception bar" fallen to zero? If not, change frequency (see the trouble shooting below).

There are usually several stages that control audio levels and two of those stages are on the radio mic set.

  • The mic/transmitter has a sensitivity setting. Locate the sensitiy setting in the menu, and explore different settings. With the sensitivity set to say -6dB, you will find it quite easy to distort mic signal (the yellow led on the front will flash). A good, conservative setting is -20dB.
  • The receiver has the 'AF out' setting, which determines the power delivered to the recorder. This can range from -12dB (mic level) to +12dB (line level). Again you should explore this and see how it affects the input stage of the recorder (see below). Many recording devices expect a mic level, so it is safer to set the 'AF out' level to -12dB (mic level).

3.4 Switching on and testing sound quality

Testing soudn quality

Switch on the power switch on the right hand side of the recorder. The screen will turn on and make sure that in the bottom right of the screen it says BWF 44-16. This is the correct format for recording.

Make sure the bottom option on the right of the screen that says "SRC" (which means source) is set to INPUT according to the ANALOG IN position you have plugged the mics into. Otherwise it could be set to record from the internal microphones.

You must do this test: Switch off or unplug the external microphones. Does the sound in the headphones disappear? If not, you are recording from the internal mics. Also, you can gently scratch the external mics, e.g. on the handle, or gently tap the mic itself: Do you hear this in the headphones? If yes, then you are recording from the external mics as you should be.

To test whether there is sound being picked up look at both the transmitter and receiver. If they are on the same wave length both screens should be showing the activity coming through the clip mic. Now turn on the REC STBY switch on the front of the field audio recorder and the same activity should be shown on the recorder screen.

Try tapping, scratching or speaking into the microphone while watching the levels. They should coincide with the activity coming through the microphone. You should also hear the activity coming through the headphones. Try testing that the internal microphone is not picking up any sound by tapping on those. They should not register anything.

3.5 Trouble shooting

  • No sound. Make sure both the transmitter and the receiver are on the same wave length in order for them to be able to pick each other up. Check the 'sound chain':
    • Is the level meter on the transmitter flickering when you speak into the mic? If not, check that it is turned on and not on mute and that the mic is properly connected.
    • Is the level meter on the receiver flickering? If not, check radio reception.
    • Is the level meter on the recorder flickering? If not, check the cables are connected properly.
    • All of these are working, but you do not hear anything? Check the volume control for the headphones.
  • Strange sounds / other people speaking.
    • Do this test: try turning the transmitter off, if the green light on the receiver stays on and the black bar showing the radio reception is still full, someone nearby may be using the same frequency.
    • If the wave length is already used (e.g. if you can hear other sounds, or the "radio reception bar" does not fall to zero when you turn of the transmitter), you need to change the frequency (on both transmitter and receiver). You must never have two microphones transmitting on the same frequency. (Two receivers receiving signals from the same microphone is, however, fine.)

Mobile phones on the person connected to the mic must be turned off otherwise they will interfere.

3.6 Attaching microphone to the speaker

Attaching the mic

Ideally you want to do this at least 15 minutes before the lecture starts. Connect the clip microphone to the speaker in a way so that the mic "comes cleanly off the clothes", i.e. such that the mic does not rub against the clothing. Make sure that there is not a name tag, long hair, or jewelry that "clunks" against the mic.

When putting the mic on the speaker the best place is on the tie. Otherwise on the lapel of a jacket, or onto the shirt. A third of the way down the shirt is a good position. Make sure that the mic clip is firmly attached but that the mic itself comes away from the clothing: sometimes (with movement) it can fall back against the clothing.

The transmitter that should be placed safely out of the way. Either the trouser pocket or belt are both good positions. If your speaker is well animated make sure the transmitter will not come loose. Make sure the antenna can hang freely, and is not about to be snapped off.

Ask your speaker to carry on talking, bearing in mind that they may speak more loudly during the talk. This allows you to listen through the headphones and watch the levels on both the receiver and recorder. Monitor the audio carefully and pay attention to any peaks in the sound. Be aware that if the speaker is going to be giving a lecture but they are speaking at a normal level before, they will adjust their own personal voice levels when it comes to the lecture.


3.7 Checking Quality and adjusting audio levels

Quality and adjusting audio levels

Before the lecture is under way you have a good opportunity to check quality. If anything is wrong you can still go back to the speaker and adjust things.

Make sure the REC STBY switch is on: you can tell as a green light should be on above the switch. You will not be able to see levels of audio on the recorder as well if the switch is not on.

You need to set up the levels using a two pairs of indicators and controls:

  • Pair 1: Input level controls (Mic trim, 9) and Mic peak indicators (3).
  • Pair 2: Recording level controls (5) and recording level display (4).

Note that pair 1 (mic trim) affects the level recorded with pair 2 but the reverse is not true: the recording level control has no affect on the mic peak indicators.

  • Step 1. You should start with the mic trim buttons pointing straight up. Talk loudly into the microphone. Do the mic peak indicators light up (for the relevant channel)? If so, reduce the mic trim (turn counter-clockwise). If not, you are fine.
  • Step 2. Move on to pair 2 (recording level controls). Talk into the microphone as if you were giving a lecture and turn up the recording level control until the recording level display shows goods activity, with green leds lighting up reasonably often at -12dB, very occasionally at -6dB, but never higher.
  • Step 3. If you have turned the recording level controls (5) all the way clockwise and you are still not getting good sound levels go back to the mic trim (9) and turn the mic trim clockwise to increase the input level, and then go back to step 1, checking that the mic trim has not been increased too much.

Note that with some mics (e.g. the Behringer M58) it is not possible to overload the inputs and you might have to have the mic trims up fairly high. This is not a problem as long as the mic peak indicators (9) do not light up when you speak into the mic loudly!

Finally, listen to the speakers voice and check the quality of the sound. Does it come through the headphones clearly? Or is it muffled or can you hear extraneous sounds? If so, see the trouble shooting section.

If the levels on the recorder LCD and microphone LCDs seem good but still you are not hearing the sound either at all or not clearly then either the headphones are turned down or the headphones are faulty. You can adjust the volume by altering the monitor control next to the input controls on the front of the recorder (button 8).

4 Recording the lecture

You should now be ready to record the event. You have plenty of space on the memory card, so there is no harm in starting the recording 10 minutes early. From experience: It is a common problem to miss the start of the event and people may suddenly start to talk while you were not watching. So just start recording in good time.

If there is somebody introducing the speaker, record this as well (even if you you do not have a mic on them). You can always cut it later. (Imagine the disappointment: Did you catch the introduction by [famous person]? - Ah sorry, the recorder was not running.) Of course without a second mic the sound may not be usable but at least you have it.

As mentioned above: Give enough pre-record time before the activity happens as you want enough pre-roll for the edit and if you do a test recording previously you will also be confident that either the recorder is working fine or you have enough time to sort the problem out!

Remember: What you hear in the headphones is what you hear on the recording so continously check the audio for any outside sound, buzzing or feedback. If you are recording on location and have the ability to start recording again listen out for unwanted sounds that are out of your control, such as trains going past, dogs barking etc.

During the Recording: Whilst recording it is advisable to do some checks to make sure the recording is working properly:

  • Is the record light on display of the recorder solid?
  • Is the time display ticking forward?
  • Are the level meters still running and showing activity?
  • Does it sound good? Is it clean sound?
  • Is there enough space on the memory card?

When you are ready to record press the "record" button on the front of the recorder. You should see the light come on within the button and the time on the screen should start running. You will also notice a record symbol in the top right of the screen.

5 Stopping Recording

Press "Stop" when you have finished recording. The REC STBY switch will also stop recording. Do not press stop right at the end of the lecture but rather leave the recording running through the Q&A session. The speaker might say a nice short clip that you can use as a sound bite.

Make sure you get the radio mic transmitter back from the speaker! Speakers can easily wonder off with your mic. Also make sure that you have got an appropriate release form signed by the speaker. Just after the talk may be a good occasion to get this done.

Once you have finished recording make sure everything is turned off and packed away safely, making sure you have the whole kit - check against the kit list if necessary.

6 Transferring your recording to a computer

When you are ready to import your recording connect the USB cable to both your computer and the recorder. Once they are connected and your computer is on press the "menu" button. Scroll down using the "-" button until you get to USB Mode. Press "enter" then scroll down to USB DEVICE MODE. Press "enter" again and this will start importing. You will see the new USB connection on your computer either in the "finder" or for a PC in "My Computer". You can then drag your recordings into a suitable file or your desktop from there.

It is best to copy the recording from the memory card to the computer rather than moving it. Computers can crash, and you do not want to loose your recording. Generally speaking, you would only delete the raw recording from the memory card when you have got a backup on CD or DVD.

7 License

This document is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/. Please acknowledge Björn Haßler (http://www.sciencemedianetwork.org), and Andrew Taylor. Original document written 29th November 2007.

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