To answer a number of questions out there, I'm posting an overview of the Little DARling Family block diagram. Having a better understanding of the operation and guts will give you a better idea about the potential usage models. Please watch this video for more details:
So, everybody wants to know what happened to the Little DARling Distributed Audio Recorder that I showed at NAB this year. Well, I got more ideas of things I wanted to add to it. Specifically, wireless control. It was clear after many conversations at NAB, that the market adoption of the Little DARling would be limited until a couple of problems were first solved:
- How to sync the audio from the Little DARling with the video, when the Little DARling audio could potentially be very different from the camera audio.
- How to navigate within potentially very long DARling recordings.
My plan became to introduce both versions of the Little DARling of the same time, so they could share the same printed circuit board. So, this meant pushing out the original DARling, to work on the wireless stuff. I also did not want to go public with this plan until I was far enough along with the design, where I knew I could fit the wireless receiver on the board. Check out this brief introduction v-log:
So, that's pretty cool! The MCU for the wireless receiver sends a slate signal to the analog mixer that is part of the analog preamp chain before the codec. So, this gets captured by the codec ADC and recorded onto the DARling audio file. Additionally, the slate signal is split out (before the codec) to the DARling output jack. So, you can use an additional DARling on the camera, where the DARling slate output goes into the camera and is recorded on the camera's audio track. Now, when you hit the wireless transmitter slate button, all of the individual DARlings being worn by your talent as well as your camera get simultaneously slated, so you've got something to align all of your audio with your video. Additionally, you can use the slate (or a sequence of slates) to navigate within long recordings.
Not shown in the video is a new piezo buzzer addition to the DARling, which gives you audible feedback to let you know when the wireless command has been received.
There may be DARlings that you will use, where you may not want a particular one to buzz or slate. On the SD Card, the user will load a text configuration file. Every single parameter that you can think of that can be controlled in the DARling, can be specified in the Config File. This includes turning on/off the slate or buzzer function. From the front panel buttons on the recorder, the user will select which configuration to load.
The old Nagra recorders allowed for remote control to start/stop your recording. The Little DARling is no different, just wireless. So, instead of one long recording for the day, you could do individual recordings for your scenes or interviews.
However, at the end of the day, you're going to have a lot of clips in your computer to manage (many DARs, many clips per DAR, all of them named audio001.wav, and so on). We're also working on a PC/MAC program, that will automatically rename your files in your computer to something logical, so they can be managed. What you'll do is log the scene or interview name for each clip in a text file on your smartphone. Put all of the clips from each DAR into its own folder, and give the folder a logical name (like, the name of the person wearing the DAR, "Sue", or "Dave", or whatever). Place the scene name text file in the same directory as the "Sue" and "Dave" folders. The program will automatically rename each of the "audio001.wav" "audio002.wav" files in each of the folders to "Sue_scene1.wav". This is just an example of what can be done. It is flexible enough for the user to add other information, such as date, etc.
In this paragraph, I'm going to talk about a feature that we are not committing to doing. We are just thinking about this right now. I keep getting asked about timecode. Personally, it doesn't make sense to me. These are not going to be 0.1ppm clocks, so they're going to drift just like your camera. The Little DARling concept no longer makes sense if you're connecting a Lock-it Box to it.
The Little DARling has a clock. But, there is no way to set it (can't set it wirelessly, can't set it by the buttons, can't set it by the config file). When the unit powers up, it powers up at the time and date of "zero". The software works such that when the first recording starts, the clock resets (but not on any of the subsequent recordings), regardless of whether the recording was started wirelessly or from the buttons on the recorder itself. If the first recording was started wirelessly, then all the Little DARlings first recordings are starting at the same time "zero", and all subsequent recording start times reference from that point. After a few hours when the clocks drift (maybe, lunchtime?) power cycle the Little DARlings to reset the next recording with a fresh time "zero". Or, we could have one of the wireless transmitter buttons do either a software reset of the DSP, or have the Supervisor MCU power cycle the entire board, so you wouldn't have to physically gather up all of the DARs to power cycle them. This will have the effect of your first afternoon recording again starting at time "zero". With one of the slates to the camera, you could read off the timecode from the editor you are using in post. Then, offset the time in the DAR header files by that amount. We could add this time header offset function to the PC/MAC program we're developing for batch renaming of files. Although we could add this in firmware after product release, again, these are not committed features.
When will all this be available? How much will it cost? Well, we're done adding new stuff. So, the path to product release is much more deterministic than when I put the release on hold after NAB until I got the wireless stuff added. Still, we're doing a cleanup pass on the board, so there is some work that is ongoing. The pricing spreadsheet is the last thing that I look at, so there is no definitive answer there either. Subscribe to the blog. That is were you will get notified. Sorry, but an email to me will not get a response of better date or pricing granularity. Thank you for your understanding ...
- Robert from juicedLink, 11/20/2014
At NAB, I'm going to share some information on a new product we're developing. It's a miniature audio recorder called the "Little DARling" - Distributed Audio Recorder. The Zoom H1 is a great recorder. But, there are times when I really don't want the internal mic because I'm just going to use a lavaliere, and I just want something really small ... like, belt-pack sized ... but those voice recorders just don't have the quality I'm looking for.
Imagine, making these filmmaker-friendly alterations to the Zoom H1 for use with a lav:
- Chop the top internal mic off, to make it belt-pack sized (a little smaller than the Sennheiser G3 belt-pack transmitter)
- Make the connectors locking, so the lav can't pop out
- Add "Audio Bracketing", so you have a backup recording in post if you blow out the main track
- Make key buttons recessed, so a user can not accidentally stop the recording or change settings as they are active and moving around ... no "butt dialing"
- In addition to headphones, provide a "thru" connection, so the Little DARling can be a front end recorder, then drive a wireless transmitter like the Sennheiser G3 system
I see lots of applications for this, like:
- ALTERNATIVE TO WIRELESS: Say, you have more than a couple of things you would like to lav-up. Here, having 4+ receivers at your camera would be a big pain for a one man band. Where do you mount all of the receivers? How do you manage the mix into the camera? With the Little DARling, you will have to manage sync in post, but there is software to help you with that. But then, you'll be able to roam with your camera freely, without a bunch of wireless receivers bolted to it. And, the mix is easier, since you have an "Iso" track from each of the DARs.
- POV/ACTION: GoPro videos and the like, are full of wind noise. The DAR can't fix wind noise. But, remember the lessons from the FREE eBook on Audio Production, that the GETTING THE MIC CLOSE increases the desired signal relative to the background noise (wind noise, in this case). This is optimizing the SA/NA (Signal-Acoustic / Noise-Acoustic) in the SANASENECYA methodology. So, if you want to add drama to your action videos, then mic up the talent directly to feel how hard they are working. Use a DAR and mic up a skiers boots to hear the "swish" of the turns, the derailleur on a bicycle while downshifting into a big climb, the halter on a horse to feel the grunts as it lands a big jump. All of these things on an "Iso" track you can control how much and when to include in your mix in post, and it will help communicate the feeling of your story much better than something that is mostly awash with wind noise.
- TRUE DUAL SYSTEM FOR PRO SOUND: People doing mission critical work looking to eliminate single points of failure in their work flow, can add a Little DARling to their talent, to compliment their normal flow. If you have dual recordings of your boom op, and he bumps the pole or doesn't track the scene fast enough, you basically have redundant recordings of the mistake. Lav-up with a little DARling using an independent mic and recorder for true dual-system redundancy.
- TRAVEL LIGHT: An iPhone for video and a couple of DARs provide a great backpack video production kit for travelling to distant lands ...
- DISCREET PRODUCTIONS: Cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket Camera are great for going on location to things like bars and restaurants and doing discreet live scenes. Bringing along a sound guy with a boom kind of draws a lot of attention. Lav-up four actors with their own DAR for shoots on the down-low.
- COMPLIMENT TO WIRELESS KITS: The output is a dual headphone and mic-thru. So, it can be used as a front end to a wireless transmitter, as a backup when interference invades the wireless RF channel.
As usual, I will only be at the NAB floor for a couple of hours a day. Send an email to nab@juicedLink.com, and the auto responded will forward my daily schedule so we can meet up. For now, check out this video overview of the Little DARling:
- Robert from juicedLink
The new Zoom H6 is another new full featured audio recorder hitting the market. It's got a lot of features. But, some things lacking that would be valuable for video production, like locking connectors, a more viewable screen, and phantom power as an option for audio bracketing. In this video listen to clips of the H6, and compare to the old H4n, Tascam DR-60D, and juicedLink Riggy-Micro. Watch the video below to learn more.