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Old June 18th, 2008, 05:50 PM   #1
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Mic Kit for Marching Band, Orchestra, and General Video Work

Hi everybody. First of all, I just want to say what a tremendous resource this website is! I love the community aspect of it, and I really look forward to trying to get more involved (especially now that it's summer!).

Anyway, I'm a high school student that's VERY interested in video/audio production as well as photography. I record a lot of the bands and choirs within my school district, as well as doing other video work on my own with a lot of dialogue. Right now I'm just using a videomic attached to my HDR-HC1, but find setting the levels very difficult.

I would like to upgrade my kit to better record audio for a marching band, string orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz band, and choir. It would also be a great plus if I could use it for general video work (i.e. dialogue), but I think that might be asking too much!

I would like to be able to either have the microphone mounted on the camera or set it up on a stand with a recorder and let it run that way (I was looking at the Zoom H4), since I find myself in both run-and-gun situations (as with the marching band, where I have to set up everything very quickly at competitions, and then be able to pack up in 3-5 minutes and hustle back to the bus) and other times when I can relax more and be able to set up the mic for better recording away off camera.

So ultimately my question is, what kind of mic would you recommend, and what recorder should I hook it up to?

Here's what I was looking at:

Mics:
1. AT825 - Looks like a very promising stereo microphone that's gotten good reviews - http://www.audio-technica.com/cms/wi...e09/index.html
2. Rode NT4 - Also looks like a nice choice, although a little bit more expensive (at least the price I see at B and H, I didn't call them for the cheaper price) - http://rodemic.com/microphone.php?product=NT4
3. Rode M3 (Hypercardioid) - I remember liking this microphone when I was poking around a little while back, but how good would a hypercardioid be for recording music? Would I need two in something like an x-y pattern? - http://rodemic.com/microphone.php?product=M3
4. Rode Stereo Videomic - I don't know how this microphone stacks up to the others, but it seems like it's more aimed towards consumers and I would like to get something a little more professional, but if it sounds good, it's certainly a contender! - http://rodemic.com/microphone.php?pr...StereoVideoMic

Recorders:
1. Zoom H4 - This recorder got some great reviews, but I saw on one blog that somebody heard a good deal of hiss when running of of battery power - http://www.samsontech.com/products/p...fm?prodID=1901
2. Sony PCM-d50 - This one is more expensive than I would like, but possibly doable. I like the fact that it records a buffer that's -20 dB in case of any peaking, which is a HUGE help with the marching band. It doesn't have any XLR inputs though, which would probably be it's second largest downfall. - http://digitalmedia.oreilly.com/2008...er-review.html

I know that's a lot, and I'm really asking a lot out of the equipment, and I'm not sure if I can really only get one mic and a recorder that would do everything I need it to do. I'd just like to find the best possible equipment though for my needs that I can afford. I would preferably aim towards spending around $500-$700, although I can go up to $1000 if I absolutely have to!

Oh and one more thing (I know..am I really going to make this an EVEN LONGER post? Well..yes..but it's quick! I promise!). I do a lot of recording for my school's TV network, so that would make me lean towards the m3 since it's a hyper and would help me to block out a lot of the reflections within concrete-walled classrooms and such.

Thanks SO MUCH for your help!! (And sorry if that was really long!)
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Old June 18th, 2008, 07:33 PM   #2
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Welcome to the next twenty years of working out the answer to your question.. What is the best kit...? How to use it etc..

My advice would be to buy one thing at a time and buy the best. It's better to be good at one thing rather than bad at everything.
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Old June 18th, 2008, 09:39 PM   #3
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Haha...well, it's certainly a fun career!

Heh, I suppose that's true! I'll probably be back here on DV Info asking about equipment for my kit 20 years down the road from now!

Thanks for the advice about buying one piece at a time, I think that's certainly helpful. Especially in the financial department...

On that note, how do you guys think the Sony PCM-d50 would stack up on it's own? I think that that's a very prospective piece of gear that could last for a long time (it better for $500) although I'm still iffy about it not having any XLR inputs. That makes me wonder about it's capability with more mics in the future, especially when the accessory to add XLR inputs is almost as much as the recorder itself! Anyway, does anybody have experience with it? Would the built in mics be good enough to record a marching band if I set it up on a separate tripod mount next to my camera? Or should I really lean more towards something like two M3's in an x-y pattern attached to a Zoom H4? (Which I could get for about $150 more than the Sony..although that's getting a little bit more expensive than I would have originally liked)

The more that I start to think about it, the more I lean towards the M3's since their hypercardioid pickup pattern would really be good for the ENG stuff I do at the school. Concrete can be an audio killer!!
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Old June 18th, 2008, 09:50 PM   #4
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M3 not a Hyper

Oh, whoops, I think I made a mistake. I had thought that the Rode M3 was a hypercardioid, but when I looked it up again at B&H, it turns out to just be a cardioid pickup pattern. My bad!
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Old June 19th, 2008, 03:11 AM   #5
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Check out the sony ecm-957 M/S stereo mic it is very good quality and value and would hook up to a D-50 perfectly. The mics on the D-50 are good and would be fine for recording the marching band on its own but you will need the wind shield.

I use this combination in addition to my Z7 set-up and it doesnt bother me that it doesnt have XLR inputs the mic amps are way better than the zoom or edirols and I also have a small eng-44 mixer if I need xlr inputs.
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Old June 19th, 2008, 03:38 PM   #6
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PCM D50 is a great piece of kit. The mic's are great but the windshield is not as good as a full Rycote set up. I would personally be wary of using it out doors for critical recordings as the gerbal on the end, although better than foam is still not suficient for windy conditions. Nothing more than a lite breeze will be safe.

I would forgot the XLR adapter. Get a mixer and use the mini jack in which is excellent.

I've recorded some Bras bands with a Schoeps/Neumann unmatched pair via an SQN mixer into the mini jack line in and the results are exceptional.

This device fulfills it's role well. That is the trick. Buy one thing to do one thing well. If something does two things half well then it will not be any good for you.

This machine is great as a recorder without timecode and in my opinion makes the FR2 le and any other non time code recorder redundant. (Assuming you have a mixer.) Although not as small as some it still fits nice in the small second pocket on my Porter brace and wires up via a 6pin hirose to mini jack which is very neat.

If you wrap the whole thing in that 'gorrilla suit fur', the stuff from those textile stalls at the market, you may get away in more breezy conditions. I have a stereo CCM rycote which I have put the Sony in and stood on a tripod for doing outdoor recordings in high wind.
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Old June 19th, 2008, 05:01 PM   #7
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Thanks for the great advice guys!

This is going a bit above my intended budget, but I would really like to get a good system going, and I don't have to put it into use until the end of the summer, so I can try and save some more money between now and then.

It sounds like I should be going for the Sony PCM-d50, but I'm not sure if I have the money to buy that, a mixer, and a mic or two right now. I'm trying to get into the business, so once I start generating some revenue, then I would certainly love to go down that path, but I just don't have that kind of money right now (that's always the problem, now, isn't it?)

Before I read your great comments, I was thinking about possibly getting two hypercardioids (like the Rode NT3) and setting those up in either an X/Y or ORTF pattern for stereo with a Beachtek so that I might be able to more accurately control the levels. What do you guys think about such a set-up?

After reading your glowing reviews of the d50 though, it sounds very promising, and would give me a lot of room to grow as well. It's fairly expensive though, so to save a little money I'm leaning towards mics that have a 1/8" output so I can plug it directly into the d50, then outfit myself with the mixer and XLR mics later on. Does anyone know how the Sony ECM-957 that Gary suggested stacks up to the AT822? Would one of those and a d50 be a good solution? (Of course, I would need to get some Rycote wind gear too!)
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Old June 19th, 2008, 06:12 PM   #8
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The recommendation of the Sony PCM-D50 is a solid one. I'm amazed at how quiet the recording are with the built-in mics. Not so much impressed with the inputs, so if you know that you will be using an external mic, I'd look for other solutions. One that would break the bank, but worth mentioning is the Edirol R-44.
If you get the PCM-D50, take a look at the K-TEK topper for wind protection. It was made for the D50's big brother, the D1, but it fits like a glove on the D50 (as seen below). We have 'em on our site and with the dvinfo 5% discount, should come in at a better price than anywhere else. http://www.dvcreators.net/the-sony-pcm-d50/
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Old June 19th, 2008, 08:52 PM   #9
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Guy, how well do you think that k-tech topper protects against the wind? Would it only be suitable for a normal day or can it withstand heavier breezes?

Thanks for your help, by the way! And I just want to say that I've enjoyed your site for a long time now! You were one of my earliest resources when I first started getting into video production, and it was a great experience to see everything that you reviewed there! It was because of the videos that you had done that I decided to go for the videomic awhile ago! (I'm pretty sure I bought it from you too)
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