$6000.00 budget. Need input on recording counseling sessions

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by jpine, May 24, 2014.

  1. jpine macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Here'a the problem, guys. My university has awarded my department a budget of $6000.00 USD. I have to use the whole amount or lose it. The funds are earmarked for upgrading the recording equipment in the room where graduate level counseling students see real clients and the sessions are recorded for evaluation by faculty supervisors. As you can imagine, security is a big issue too. Nothing can be networked for remote access. So here is what I have in mind. At first glance, it will seem that the equipment I have chosen is seriously more robust than is needed for the task at hand. But you have to bear in mind that this equipment must last for many, many, many years to come. Finally, everything must be easy to operate since no support staff are available after hours when most of the sessions take place.

    1. Overkill part 1: A Panasonic Camcorder AG-AC90.

    2. Rode shotgun mic with balanced XLR output

    3. A decent Slik tripod, though in reality, the camcorder will probably be lock-mounted to the wall.

    4. Elgato game capture HD. I picked on up at Best Buy for testing and it does not lose lip sync even after one hour with acceptable picture quality.

    5. HDMI cable for connecting the Panasonic to the Elgato

    6. Here's overkill part 2: An entry-level nMP for recording the video from the Elgato. Once the video session is recorded, it will be transferred fro the nMP to the student's flash drive. The student is then responsible for deleting the video from the nMP and emptying it securly from the trash.

    7. The video will then be played on the instructors WD Live media player for review purposes as well as in class from the same device. I bought one and it plays the Elgato video just fine from a cheap flash drive.

    Any feedback is appreciated. Again, I know that some items above is like using a Bentley to deliver pizza. But we're looking at the better part of a decade before similar funds will be made available again. I can't trust a cheap camcorder, Mac Mini, or iMac to last that long.

  2. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    I may have more to add later, but my first thought was "Security (or confidentiality) is an issue, yet you're allowing students to copy these files to a flash drive and remove them?"

    (I work in a health care environment and security of digital files is difficult to say the least)

    Quick ideas
    - wall mounted dome security camera
    - ceiling-mounted mic (or a boundary mic) but beware of aircon noise
    - record to a DVD recorder
    - have the same DVD recorder for the lecturer so you don't even have to finalise the disc
    - clean audio is more important than pristine video in this case

    Talk to an AV installation company, perhaps someone who has done something similar for the police (e.g. interview rooms).
  3. Richardthe4th macrumors regular

    Jan 4, 2008
    Below Sealevel

    Think of a table top omni directional mic. Or two table top mics pointed to interviewer and interviewee. Make sure to have balanced/xlr outputs on the mics (clean audio).

    A mixing panel with balanced mic inputs to amplify, set up the levels and route to the recorder. And because you are only interested in the two human voices, you can (aggressively) do a high and low cut; so a good equalizer on the mixer.

    (Don't use a complicated recording program on a laptop. You need skills to operate that and will probably confuse a lot of your students. You don't want to make them nervous because of the technology, they have to focus on the real clients. Keep it simple to operate, with a simple one page manual.)
  4. jpine thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Great idea about the remote mic and mixing board. Though the room is quite small, a shotgun will probably work well, but an omni right ned to the two people will be even better.

    You are quite correct about the flash drive and security. I forgot to mention that the flash drives the students would be issued are to be encrypted and, literally, attached to a short piece of broom handle. I suggested attaching the drives to a Chevy hubcap during staff meeting, but the department chair was not agreeable. :rolleyes:


    DVD was mentioned and I totally "get it" with not finalizing the disk and getting a second identical recorder for faculty viewing purposes. However, I don't think the awarders (private donation) would see DVD as viable 8 years from now. I have a lot of people to keep happy: the awarders of the "technology" grant, older faculty and even younger students with limited tech ability, security issues, and longevity of equipment concerns.

  5. -DH macrumors 65816

    Nov 28, 2006
    Nashville Tennessee
    For what it's worth, I don't think any of the technology available today would be considered as viable 8 years from now.

  6. jpine thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Agreed, but a nMP might be a good engine to build upon for the future. I still do a lot of great things with my 2008 8-core MP. True, I've added RAM and a video card from MacVidCards, but a DVD recorder is pretty much EOL now.
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    No, don't do that. Get the microphone CLOSE. A shotgun is for when nothing else can work. They make microphones designed to lat flat on table. Those would be the best. The XLR part is good and is required.

    The camera and interface hardly matter if you have enough light. If the lights are dim then the camera states to matter. But you limey don't care so much about video quality.

    The more important place to spend your budget and the one that is the must expensive is STORAGE. You are going. to want a large RAID array that is fast enough to handle how ever many cameras you are using.

    The idea of using a Mac Pro is not reasonable. You can use an entry level computer. But storage is expensive and will eat up 1/2 or more of the budget.
  8. 960design macrumors 68030

    Apr 17, 2012
    Destin, FL
    DO NOT use an iPod to do the recordings. We hit a 45 minute file size limit per recording. The device had plenty of free space, but would hit a file size limit right at the 45 minute mark. This would halt the recording, not start a new file like we would have liked. Although a broken file has it's own problems.
  9. jpine thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Believe me, I would love to record to a RAID and access the video for class over a network as well as setting up the professor's laptop to access the video for grading purposes from her home. But because of HIPAA regulations, I can't store videos of actual counseling clients on a relatively unsecured RAID. In fact, my original config was a MacMini and a lot of HD space on a TB RAID. HIPAA says no and the university is not will to set up a HIPAA compliant network for a class that is taught once per year. So the security procedure will be 1. record to computer's desktop, 2. copy the video onto an encrypted flash drive, 3. delete the video, 4. then "Secure Empty Trash" on the mac.

    As to lights, I agree, but I am limited to the ambient light of the room. No studio lights allowed. Remember, this is not a studio shoot, with actors, for a training film on how to do counseling. These are real-life clients with one camera shot wide enough to see the student counselor and the client at the same time. The more that cameras and mics are out of sight-out of mind the better.

    Oh guys, I forgot to mention that the counseling room is only 12x8 feet. We may be moving to a different, much larger, room with great windows so your comments on a close-in tabletop mic and standalone mixer are well taken.
  10. Unami macrumors 6502a

    Jul 27, 2010
    i'd go with more/better external equipment over the nMP - the computer will have to be replaced someday, but good mics, mixing board, camera, tripod, mic-stand, etc. will last much longer. more or less any computer will be up to the task for years to come (provided the hardware does not crap out) - you gain nothing by buying a macpro but sacrifice being able to afford better/more robust recording equipment.

    a big shotgun mic will always be quite noticeable. also, you won't get good sound from it, if it's too far away (and the room is not "dry") - the sound from the camera mics won't be much worse at adistance, probably. you could hide a lavalier-mic somewhere on the table (or get those table top mics, the other posters mentioned).
    you could also hang a mic from the ceiling - so it probably won't get noticed when sitting at a table.

    don't forget to buy some decent headphones for checking audio.
  11. rei101 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 24, 2011
  12. Jeffrosproto macrumors 6502

    Jun 10, 2008
    I do live video for a living, so this may be a bit overkill, but you could go with a sony PTZ (remote control) camera - they're controllable via RS-422 from a computer, I believe, along with a dedicated control panel, if you wish to go that direction. They sell mounting decks that allow them to be mounted on pretty much any surface. I personally use the BRC-Z330 in my live production environments, but something like the EVI-HD3V (shoots 720p and can output a DVI signal, which can be easily changed to HDMI) is quite a bit cheaper.

    Also, I personally hate recording direct to a computer, so I'd get something like the blackmagic HyperDeck Studio Pro to do dedicated recording - it has two SSD decks, and can switch between them during recording, allowing for almost "infinite" space. (The only downside to this is that it records in pro formats, requiring you to probably do some quick H.264 encoding before transferring to a flash drive). You could then get a small mixer and your desired microphones, and have a perfectly synced audio and video recording on the deck recorder (it has XLR ins), along with perhaps a backup audio recording on a small flash recorder.

    This would be close to your budget, but I believe it's the best option, at least for video recording.
  13. juanm, Jun 30, 2014
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014

    juanm macrumors 65832


    May 1, 2006
    Fury 161
    Look into Blackmagic solutions.

    A Blackmagic Studio Camera in MFT mount paired with an iMac and a good Omni mic are what you want, I think:
    Easy to use
    Amazing screen (like an iPad)
    External power
    XLR inputs

    Put that on a tripod, with a good lens, and you'll be around your budget, with gear specifically designed for this kind of live production. You'll be recording directly to the iMac, so no hassle.
    You'll need some kind of capture hardware, but Blackmagic offers lots of very affordable solutions in that area too.
  14. RecordingGod09 macrumors newbie


    Oct 26, 2015
    Roland CD-2i | SD/CD Recorder.
    $6000 is waaaaaay too much to spend on a system to do what you are asking.
    The sound qulity on a CD-2i is solid and you can record either directly to a CD or save multiple sessions on an SD card.
  15. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    A different take: I think there are too many moving parts in the proposed suggestion. If I understand correctly what you want (good audio, good video, no trace left behind) then how about a just a camera with XLR inputs, and a good omni pick up mic that sits on a table top. Maybe stereo, maybe dual channel (offset them by 6-8 db, or different locations). Students are issued a 32/64GB SDXC card for the recording. That way: no need to worry about nMP/ElGato/mix board. Simpler still, a camcorder with stereo input and miss. In my experience, most people are intimidated by all the hardware (most computer users won't even *touch* a mixing board, much less adjust it properly. Most users in this case care only about getting intelligible audio and acceptable video - and if they can't use it they won't get either. Other things to consider - lighting, room acoustics.
  16. jpine thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Wow. I just realized that, as the OP, I had not thanked you all for your input and followed up on what I ended up doing. I sincerely apologize for my oversight. :-(

    First of all, a couple of you rightly mentioned that $6000 USD was too much money for the purpose stated. You would be correct. However, I was essentially told by my Chair, "A donor gave us $6000.00 for the express purpose of upgrading our counseling room recording capability. Spend it wisely because we'll both be retired before we see that kind of money for a video upgrade again.". So, I spent the 6K and here is what I ended up doing:

    1. AG-AC90 Camcorder.

    2. An 8 inch Rode shotgun with XLR output

    3. Two Shure tabletop omni directional miss with XLR output

    4. A BlackMagic Design H.264 recorder.

    5. Entry level i7 27" iMac

    6. 2GB USB3 G Drive for encrypted backup

    7. 2 WD Live media players

    8. A Slik fluid head tripod for using the camcorder outside the counseling room if needed (Cam is usually wall mounted).

    9. A Behringer mixer with USB connectivity.

    10. Misc. XLR, USB, and HDMI cables.

    11. Sales tax and extended warranties. The latter was required by the university, and I mistakenly believed that we were exempt from the former because of our non-profit status.

    Everything worked for the class with just a couple of problems. Apparently some students didn't get the message that they needed to buy NEW USB flash drives and used crappy ones they picked up at a discount store years ago. Those drives would play the h.264 back in the Live Media Player, but it made functions such as fast forward (even just 2X) impossible.

    Surprisingly, the Rode shotgun worked better in the small counseling room that did the tabletop omni mic. The omni picked up too much noise such as the AC system when it kicked on. So, we save the omni mics and mixer for the occasional recording of panel discussions or a large class that is recorded and later placed on the web. It's amazing the practical uses we are finding for the new gear that go well beyond its original intended use.

    The Panasonic Camcorder AG-AC90 is a joy to use with great image quality, even in auto setting with poor lighting. When it is use in the counseling room, the picture control is set to Automatic and the audio to manual with the shotgun mic. The Blackmagic records images that are more than good for the intended purpose and the recording software is nearly idiot proof. My only regret is the Slik tripod. I bought the one with thumbscrews to tighten the legs rather than quick release like on my Slik I have at home.

    Again, a belated thanks to all.

  17. Fabian90 macrumors regular

    Feb 19, 2013
    Bonn, Germany
    By the way... I think the option for 'securely emptying trash' is gone from Macs with a SSD. So a nMP would have been a disaster ;)

    Has to do with the TRIM function.
  18. jpine thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Really? The option is gone even if the file in the trash is from an external drive? If so, users can hopefully use the shred function on a program like Drive Genius.
  19. Fabian90 macrumors regular

    Feb 19, 2013
    Bonn, Germany
    I think so, yes. It's just completely missing in El Capitan as far as I know.
  20. josiah52990 macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2016

    Hi JP, I am in a very similar situation. We received a grant of 5000 for a counseling laboratory. I was wondering what advice you would give me. If you had to do it all over again, would you buy something different. Also, we don't have any tech guy here, would you be able to explain what each piece would be used for and how it would hook up?

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