Fred Ginsburg: Q&A with a Hollywood Sound Pro – Part 2

We’re excited to bring you part two of our interview with “Hollywood Sound Specialist,” Fred Ginsburg. If you missed part one of our Q&A interview you can read it here.

Fred Ginsburg Audio-Technica

Fred Ginsburg is offering demos and tutorials at Audio-Technica’s booth (C1745) this week at the NAB show.

A-T: As a teacher and mentor to so many, what are some of the types of questions people come to you the most?

FG: As you might imagine, there is such a wide variety of questions ranging from how to get Fred Ginsburg NABstarted in the industry and what equipment should one purchase, to dealing with cheap production companies, digital workflows, how to rig lavs and wireless, and so much more. We could spend all of NAB week just answering questions (and we have).

But since NAB is about the equipment, I think that a large percentage of the questions have to do with purchases. Too many people, including many workshop instructors, place the wrong emphasis on designer labels and overpriced gimmicks.

When we first switched our condenser shotguns over to Audio-Technica, a lot of my peers thought we were crazy. They believed that if you were going to move away in any other direction that you needed to lean towards something more exotic and insanely expensive (not to mention, delicate).

But Hollywood’s old school veterans trained us. And they learned, early on in their careers, to judge a mic with your ears and not with the label on the box.

Audio-Technica mics performed the way we wanted. Low handling noise, reduced echo, excellent sensitivity and reach. We already owned a large inventory of more expensive stuff, and we were working on big shows that could afford high-ticket stuff. It was not about the money; it was about the results!

For beginning sound mixers, though, it is about the money. For what one exotic microphone might cost, you can own a fleet of A-T mics. That means that you can have a choice of shotguns: one best suited for reducing echo in tight interiors; one for when you need a little more overhead reach; and one for noisy exteriors where you need maximum directivity.

Multi thousand dollar expensive wireless mics are great, if you can afford them. But the new, low cost, System 10 camera-mount wireless systems are great because they are so resistant to radio frequency interference. The trick is to pair them with a great sounding lav, such as the AT899.

MoleSkin and safety pins work better for rigging lavaliers than expensive mounting clips, yet cost pennies compared to twenty bucks or more. Folded over cloth camera/gaffers tape with a safety pin does the same job as costlier double stick solutions. A six-dollar rifle-cleaning rod with a rubber band at the tip works just as well as a $75 lavalier insertion tool.

Audio-Technica cables hold up just as well as cables selling for two to three times as much. Buy extras, in case they do break, and until you exchange them under warranty. I have had most of my cables in use for over two decades, and they rarely come apart.

The trick to building up your sound package is to shop wisely. Do not compromise on quality, but do not feel pressured into spending money on a label rather than the product itself.

Purchase all of the little things first, like cables and adapters. It is impossible to rent a tackle box of adapters, but they can be indispensable on location.

Get good headphones and a good boom pole.

Purchase a good, but affordable mixing board such as a Mackie or Behringer. Get a good, but extremely affordable sound cart such as a Rock N Roller to put it on.

Work on accumulating a decent microphone package.

If you look at rental prices, you will quickly discover that a $400 mixer rents for $35 to $45 per day. You will make back your investment very quickly, and be the proud owner of a board that you will become very proficient with.

Same goes for your shotgun mics. They pay for themselves real quick.

However, do not rush out and purchase a fancy multitrack recorder, or a complex digital mixing panel. Those are high-ticket items, and chances are these days that they will become obsolete faster than you can earn back enough rentals to break even. Just continue to rent them for now, unless you land a long-term show with lots of guaranteed revenue. However, it does pay to purchase a less expensive multi-track such as a TASCAM or Zoom, to use anytime you need it, or as a backup.

High-end radio mics is another area to tread lightly with, unless you are doing a lot of well-paid gigs. Start off with a few less expensive, but reliable, wireless units just so that you have them. The inexpensive units pay themselves off in short term, and there are so many things that you can use them for. If you get hired on a bigger production, just rent what you need for the show.

Remember, though, not to give away the use of your equipment for free. Charge you client a fair rate. I base my figures on what the commercial sound houses charge, and then discount it slightly to make it seem like a really good deal. You require this rental income to reimburse yourself for the investments, as well as to allow you to keep adding to your inventory.

It is okay to charge for your services and your equipment. You are a professional!

A-T: Which do you like better: Pro Tools or Final Cut Pro and why?

FG: Although Final Cut does have some audio capability; it is nowhere near the equal of Pro Tools. Final Cut is primarily a picture editing program, just as Media Composer is focused on picture — even though it does have a lot of audio functions within it.

Pro Tools is the standard of the Hollywood industry for sound editing. Although it is a very complicated program to use, it has more versatility than most of us would ever need in a lifetime. And whatever Pro Tools lacks in terms of signal processing, there are countless plug-ins (apps) that are available from third party software suppliers.

What used to require a half million dollars or more worth of studio audio hardware can now be achieved in your personal editing bay for just a few thousand. And if you are only cutting sound and preparing the stems, as opposed to trying to achieve a final mix, you could get started for well under that. Especially if you qualify for student academic discounts.

To Be Continued!

Interested in learning more from Ginsburg? Check back soon for part three of our Q&A with Fred Ginsburg. Also, stop by the Audio-Technica Booth (C1745) at the 2015 NAB Show to visit with Fred and experience hands on training via his realistically rigged and fully functional soundcart.


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