Tutorials/Audio recording/Marantz PMD660 with EW112P

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1 Audio Recording Tutorial[edit]

Notes developed by Bjoern Hassler and Gail Pearson (University of Cambridge Alumni Office)

2 Before you start[edit]

Make sure you have everything. The box and yellow case should contain

  • headphones,
  • digital recorder (Marantz PMD660, plus memory card, power adaptor, power cable),
  • 1 set of radio mics (receiver and transmitter, with mic/clip/windshield and cable). (Sennheiser EW100 series)

If you are recording two speakers speaking at the same time, or consecutively without a gap, take a 2nd set of radio mics if you have them.Refer to printing on case to make sure everything is complete. Digital recorder is mains-powered, alternatively with battery back-up (4x AA batteries). Radio mikes are battery powered (2 AA batteries each, i.e. 4 in total, you can use rechargeable batteries if you have them, alternatively buy good quality batteries; the battery gauge on the radio mics tells you how much you have left). To buy your own kit, refer to Video FAQ.

You may want to have the manual for the PMD660 to hand: http://www.d-mpro.com/users/getdownload.asp?DownloadID=293 (from http://www.d-mpro.com/users/folder.asp?FolderID=3629)

3 Setting up[edit]

Digital recorder. Put the recorder on a flat surface facing you, near to a mains socket. (You can be at the other end of the room to the lecturer; the radio mics will reach. However, if you have a glass wall or glass window between you, check reception carefully.)The memory card goes in the front of the records - pull down flap to insert it.

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Insert long cable in to socket marked ‘DC in SV’ on RH side of recorder and then plug other end into wall socket

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Plug the XLR cable from the mic receiver (a big chunky silver plug) into back of recorder (RH side). If you are only using one XLR connection make sure it is connected into the L Mic In connection. This cable connects the digital recorder to the Receiver.Note that the XLR connector locks - you need to press the silver level to release the plug, see below. Attach the Headphones to front of recorder on LH side.

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3.1 Transmitter[edit]

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).

3.2 Remember[edit]

Remember:You should never have to force anything in to place! Some connectors are screw in connectors, and XLR connectors (big silver plugs) require a release button to be pressed: To remove XLR cables from digital recorder, press silver button above cable to release it.

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Make sure switch at back of recorder called ‘Phantom Power’ is set to OFF.Do a test run before you begin to check everything is working.Make sure lecturer turns off their mobile phone as this can interfere.

4 Switching it on and testing sound quality[edit]

Do test well in advance of the lecture: You can use the recorder, and a colleague wears the microphone.Switch on Digital recorder – button is on RH side. Check that screen on front of digital recorder reads ‘Stereo 48 K MIC’. If it reads 'INT' you are switched to internal microphone. Press ‘REC Pause’ to put recorder on stand-by. Check that the scales on the front of the recorder don't show activity when you talk.Switch on both radio mikes by little on/off buttons. (These are under the battery-compartment flaps; you have to squeeze side of mike to release them.) Check that there are 2 lights on the receiver and that the upper black bar on the screen is full (for radio reception)

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Now test whether sound is coming through. The scale on the radio mic transmitter screen should be showing some activity. The scale on the radio mic receiver screen should be showing some activity. Press ‘Rec Pause’ to put recorder on stand-by. The scales on the front of the recorder should be showing some activity.The recorder has an internal mic too, and (despite the settings above) you need to double check that you're recording from the radio mic. To do this, tap or scratch the radio mic gently. You should hear this sound in the headphones. Then tap or scratch the internal mic of the recorder gently: You should not hear anything in the headphones.If you can hear things in the audio that shouldn't be there (e.g. somebody else talking) or a lot of interference (crackling on zinging noises), you may need to change the channel on which the audio is transmitted. Do this test: Earlier you checked that there are 2 lights on the receiver and that the upper black bar on the screen is full. Now turn off the transmitter. Is the green light on the receiver still on? The upper black bar should not be full, but it might show some activity. If so, then you have somebody else using a similar frequency, and you call Bjoern to ask how to change the frequency.

5 Giving the speaker the microphone[edit]

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.


6 Checking quality and adjusting audio level[edit]

Listen to speaker’s voice through headphones to assess the quality. Listen attentively, and listen 'around' what is being said. Does the voice sound nice and close to your ear, or is it a big roomy sound? Is there scratching from something? Are there noises from something banging against the mic?You will have to adjust the audio level: Round knob on front of digital recorder adjusts sound-levels twist it until 3 or 4 green lights appear on screen.As the lecturer speaks, lights will appear on the screen. Make sure these lights are never red and only go just into the yellow when the speaker is speaking up.

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7 Trouble shooting[edit]

  • 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.

8 Starting the recording[edit]

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?

9 Recording[edit]

Press ‘Pause’ and ‘Record’ to put machine on stand-by.

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When you are ready to begin, press ‘Record’. (If you look at screen of recorder, the timer will be running.) Make you press record in good time. You have plenty of space on the memory card, and starting 10 minutes early wont hurt!

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Remember: What you hear through the headphones is what you will hear on the tape, so check for buzzing, feedback etc.Is better to have sensitivity of mike set to too low rather than too high. The red light on the level meters should never light up!Volume control for the headphones is on the LH side of the recorder (headphones only, not tape)

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During the recording: Once the rush of getting the recording and the lecture started is out the way, do some simple checks:

  • Is the record light on display of the recorder solid?
  • • Is the time shown on the display ticking forward?
  • • Are the level meters flickering on the front of the recorder?
  • • Does it sound good? (You'll need to listen attentively.)
  • • For long recordings (e.g. when recording all day): Is there enough space on the memory card?

10 Stopping the recording[edit]

Press ‘stop’ when you have finished.

11 Other buttons[edit]

To hear your recording, select track and then press ‘Play pause’. To find out remaining time left on memory card, press ‘display button’

12 When you’ve finished recording…[edit]

Switch off the digital recorder and the 2 radio mikes, and disconnect everything.Check through the equipment sheet included with the kit: Make sure you have everything you started with (including the mic windshield - a little metal cup on the clip-on mike.)

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Putting away the microphone: Wrap up the wires loosely. Even if you received the mic like this: don’t tie up the microphone wire with the mic clip itself, or try to secure the mic with the metal bracket on the back of this mic: This will damage the cable.

13 When you're back home[edit]

As soon as you can, copy memory stick onto computer, and burn to a CD/DVD for safe keeping.To use the recorder as a USB card reader: Hold the 'USB' button (top of the recorder, middle button), and turn on the power. The recorder mounts as USB drive. To turn off: Unmount the drive, then turn recorder off.

14 License[edit]

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/Creative. Please acknowledge Björn Haßler (http://www.sciencemedianetwork.org), Gail Pearson, and Andrew Taylor, as well as any additional authors on the ICT4E wiki. Original document written 29th November 2007.