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Old November 23rd, 2007, 12:50 PM   #1
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Audio quality for HD

I'm planning to switch from SD to HD, and I've read that the audio quality provided by HDV is noticably less than what you get with SD miniDV. I've also read that the HVX200 and the EX1 record better audio than HDV.

So my question is:
For ambitious amateur movies submitted to festivals, is the audio quality difference enough to justify the extra expense of an HVX or EX1?
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 03:07 PM   #2
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Shoot double-system and let your sound recordist worry about getting the best audio recording with his kit. But then, I would say that.

If you're worrying about your picture device recording sound, then there's really nothing to worry about. Microphone selection and placement and gain structure is more the question.
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Old November 24th, 2007, 01:58 PM   #3
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Many, many work arounds (if needed) for HDV audio

This was one of my primary concerns also when I went with HDV about 1.5 years ago, it proved to be a non issue. I think it shouldn't be an issue under any normal use aside from just good recording techniques but I do have a few suggestions..

(1) Mics are everything.. I use Sennheiser shotguns.. low end (K6/ME66/ME70) and lavs (one in each channel) for doing interviews I use Sennheiser 500 series wireless (you could use the 100 series and save a bunch, they work as well with out phantom power if you don't need it), and Tram Lavs for general talking stuff.. its real low noise and gives great results. I found borrowing some of the better Sennheiser mics (MKS60(70)) etc.. unless you are in a near soundless environment trying to record something like a cricket or something.. you can't really hear a difference.

(2) For live recording of public events, I have a Crown SASS (most amazing thing in the world - and largely unknown by many, less than $1000) I hoist up about 20 feet above the crowd on a tripod and run it down to a pair of mic splitters.. one goes to my main camera, the second goes to an external recorder (below)

(3) If you really, really want hi fidelity stuff (which I do in some cases), then run a dual system I run the mics into a Sound Designs two channel preamp (get an external supply.. this thing eats batteries fast) to raise the signal level without adding much distortion.. then into a mic splitter with one going to the camera (the lower the level you input is set too.. the less distortion the camera circuitry puts to the signal).. For an external recorder I use a (less than $1000) HD-P2 a digital flashcard recorder which is also amazing where I can record up to 24 bits at 196KHZ (most I use is 96K)..

I found in most cases a camera, a shotgun, and a lav are just fine.. I only use the other stuff for music.. HDV itself is near CD quality (16bits at 44.1 KHZ).. where a DVD you can put 24 bit material at 192KHZ.. I originally bought an XL-H1 for the jackpack to syncronize the camera and the Tascam HD-P2, but after I figured out how to do it.. I have never done it this way.. I just turn it on and then sync the video and audio manually.. its really easy, usually only takes a minute or two.. and I have NEVER had it go out 20 minutes or so as some people reported.. even if I did.. just cut the music source and resync. I have done entire HDV tapes of 64 minutes with perfect syncronization a number of times... so a much lower line camera (XH-A1 which I also use).. will do just fine and you can save yourself 5K in the process.

If I do go back and forth from the 24 bit source to the 16 bit source, yes the 24 bit source definately sounds better.. however, I would be hard pressed if I heard just one alone, to say if it was 24 or 16 bit.. its only in a back to back comparison that I can easily hear the difference.

You can dump a ton of money into getting good sound, or invest modestly, really learning how to record properly, and working from there.. if I was going to go rock bottom in price.. I would buy the Sennheiser K6/ME66, a Sennheiser lav (about $150), and (and if you are recording live music and want real fidelity.. the Crown SASS).. and do not run wireless and save a few grand.. DO buy the dead bunny (wind screens) for all mics, they are the best investment even indoors as they suppress a lot unwanted noise. I'm sure there are other good shotguns and lavs, but these are the inexpensive ones I know about.. total investment under $1000 (without the SASS).

My two cents..
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Old November 24th, 2007, 03:39 PM   #4
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I would say that if the audio quality of DV recordings was sufficient for your purposes, than HDV will likely be OK for you, too. Yes, they use compression, but it's not worlds apart.

If you do decide to go double system and record at, say, 48kHz and 24 bits, the difference between that and DV is much larger than the difference you'll observe (if any) between DV and HDV.

- Martin
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Old November 24th, 2007, 07:35 PM   #5
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Thanks guys, I appreciate the feedback.

For the time being, I'll be sticking with single system audio. (I did a couple double-system projects with 16mm equipment, back when I was a film student. For now I want to simplify things.)

I've been using a Rode Videomic with my SD camcorder, but I will probably be getting an HD camcorder that has XLR balanced inputs. I've read several praises of the Sennheiser K6/ME66, so I'll keep that in mind.
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Old November 25th, 2007, 02:54 AM   #6
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If you don't need the flexibility of the K6 powering module then you might want to check out a second-hand 416 or 416T. Being an ex-K6/ME66 owner I far prefer the sound of the 416T and even older 415T that I own over the ME66.

However, be aware that Sennheiser mics can be too hot for camera and some lower-end recorder pre-amps - you should compare mV/Pa figures. I learnt the hard way that the ME66 was too hot for the PMD660 :-)

If the Sennheisers are too hot, the AT897 is a pretty good sounding colder mic.

EDIT: I should also mention that you should read up on T-power (AB) since it is not compatible with modern phantom P48. External T-powering (usually based on 9v battery) is pretty easy to come by though.
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Old November 25th, 2007, 07:19 PM   #7
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T Power can also be derived from Phantom and PSC makes a handy little Phantom to T power barrel adapter
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Old November 26th, 2007, 07:27 AM   #8
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A couple of comments:
1-Senn K6 mic modules come in two flavors. It's possible to get one version that is not as hot as the other. I own both, and the lower level works very well.

2-It's arguable whether HDv compressed audio is suitable. In music video, I've found it to not be very forgiving of dynamic audio, ie distorting/clipping. I would NEVER trust my audio to this method of recording music. It works fine for vocals, tho'.
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