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Old August 4th, 2008, 03:25 AM   #1
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What Should I Buy?

Im interested in getting some equiptment to get my sound situation sounding a bit better.

Im working within a budget around $1,250.

Heres what i already have:
-Canon xha1 (two xlr imputs w/ phantom and manual controls)
-Senn. me66
-Boom pole

Heres are some prducts im interested in (maybe a bit too hopefull :):
-Sound Devices Mixpre / Sound Devices 302
-senn. g2 100
-sanken cos-11
-Schoeps CMC6 and MK41 (ok, way out of price range, but wondering if worth investing only in this)
-Sennheiser MKH-416 (and sell me66 for some money)
-Tascam HD-P2

So.. what should i do to get better audio? should i get a mixer? A recorder? recorder and new mikes w/ no mixer? get mixer and record using camera? wireless/ wired lav? or skip lavs? etc... what would be your opinion for the best combo, for around $1,250? (price a bit fexible)

Also-- any quicker/cheaper tips for better audio?

Thanks-- Corwin
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Old August 4th, 2008, 04:28 AM   #2
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Hire a production sound guy and work as a team?
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Old August 4th, 2008, 05:21 AM   #3
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Gear to buy

Good wish list. The Sound Devices MixPre has served me well for years as a lightweight option, but beware. The very first models of this mixer had a bad fault. They were not compatible with Sony PD 150 or PD 170 camcorders. Some sort of impedance mis-match? Dunno. They quickly rectified the fault and now all is well, but if you are buying second hand do not buy one which has all green LEDs as the level meter. The mixers with red LEDs are ok.

The Sennheiser MKH416 has been around for decades and has stood the test of time. A new one will more than blow your budget, though! Mine have survived much hard treatment, and suck in the dialogue from astonishing distances - sometimes.

Cos 11s sound good, to my ears at least. They are also so easy to hide, especially under a tie-knot - just the tip protruding. If you can bully the cameraman and director to show them in shot, they do need more than their little windshield for protection from gusts of wind: the Rycote Furries work a treat, but you have to be at your most persuasive to get THEM in shot!

Consider best quality earphones as a sine qua non. How else are you going to make judgements? Old Codgers (Trademark applied for) like me, especially ex-film people, love Beyer DT48s but they are very expensive. Try out as many as you can, it really is so important.

Last edited by Nick Flowers; August 4th, 2008 at 05:23 AM. Reason: Grammar correction
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Old August 4th, 2008, 10:10 AM   #4
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It would help a lot to know what type of stuff you normally shoot--live event sound is going to be a lot different from documentary sound which in turn will be a lot different from narrative/feature sound.

I would say that you've got a good start with what you have. Depending on what you're shooting, a wireless lav system would be helpful. A mixer is very nice because it opens lots of options and will usually give you better preamps than your camera will give you. An external recorder is also very nice and would be a big step up for you in terms of your flexibility with your sound.

$1250 really isn't that much to work with, so I would recommend focusing on your specific needs for what you shoot.
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Old August 4th, 2008, 01:51 PM   #5
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Good point-- I have shot documentaries, and so far what i have has worked well. But i also shoot narritives, and and working twards a feature. And lets say $2000. Im just interested in what you might put together from thoes products, or ones like them to produce some higher quality audio. Thanks!!

-Corwin
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Old August 4th, 2008, 02:41 PM   #6
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Well, if you're looking for higher quality, then you've got several things to consider--let's break it down by workflow:

capture (microphone): more expensive doesn't always mean better quality, but there is usually a direct relationship between price and quality. Choeps and Neumann will have an amazing sound, but is it too good for what you need? Probably. Look at the higher end offerings from Sennheiser, Audio Technica and Rode. Wireless or wired? Wireless is convenient, but it's also more expensive and in our world of wireless internet, PDA's, cell phones, two-way radios, and so much more, it can often be frustrating to find a frequency range where you won't get any interference. You'll also have problems with distortion and "fuzz" as your batteries begin to wear down. If you're doing documentary and narrative, you can usually get away with doing wired mics (not just shotguns, but wired lavs as well). They're not quite as convenient, but you can usually find a way to hide wires in your set and you'll get a better, more reliable audio sound that way. They're also a lot cheaper.

processing (preamp): the preamp in your camera isn't going to be terribly great. The preamp on a small field mixer will be better. You can purchase in-line preamps that will sound really good. In my opinion however, the preamp can be the weakest link in your signal flow and you can still get good sound.

routing (mixer): your routing capabilities will make or break an operation--at least on the ease of use. A good field mixer (like the Sound Devices 302) will allow you to route your audio from the mics to the camera with seperate monitoring for the cameraman, soundman, and a director. Really nice to have. Plus, they'll usually have pretty good preamps integrated into them.

storing (recorder): About the weakest point in your signal chain/workflow right now would be your storage media: MiniDV tape in the HDV format. The HDV format requires the audio to be compressed at 384 kbit/s in a 16 bit MPEG-1 structure. While it's not too bad, it's also not great. Certainly not the best you can do. An in field flash recorder (solid state media is great!) will get you the potential for much higher quality audio.

finishing (post): Then you've gotta think about what you do to your audio in post. You can either use the sound editing stuff that came with your video editing platform or you can go buy an entirely separate sound editing platform that will open up a vast world of plugins for you. Or, you can go the old fasioned (and, in my opinion, the best) route and use analog rack gear to process your audio. I'm a young guy in a fast-changing field, but I still think that the analog outboard gear gets the best sound out of my audio--whether its a compressor, an SFX module, an equalizer, or a sound processor/aural exciter/enhancer, I've used both plugins and outboard gear and I like the sound of my outboard gear the best. Only downfall is that you have to go back in and resync your audio to your video when you're done, and that can be time-consuming sometimes 'cause every A/D/D/A conversion can and will knock your audio off sync by a couple frames.

So, that's a rather long-winded answer, but I hope it helps you to get a bit of an idea for where you could spend money within the workflow/signal chain of audio. I'm coming into video from an audio background (owned a recording studio for almost ten years) so my methods may be a little unorthodox in the video world, but I've been able to get some fantastic results.

Just a recap: think about mics, preamps, mixers, recorders, and post.
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Old August 4th, 2008, 02:47 PM   #7
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Corwin,
I have found that the books by Jay Rose (http://www.dplay.com/book/index.html) have been one of the best low-cost investments I have made for my own audio for video productions; well worth a read.
Equipment wise: I have the SD302 and use it on every shoot. It's flexible, has low noise, it's small & battery-powered and has limiters on each channel which allows recording hotter signals. I wouldn't be without it..
But, as has been said so many times before, reasonable equipment in the hands of someone who knows what he's doing will invariably produce better results than expensive state-of-the-art equipment in the hands of a novice.
However, we're all learning, and like most of us, I'd rather use better equipment to learn on when I have the opportunity; nothing wrong with that..
Regards, Ross.
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Old August 4th, 2008, 02:54 PM   #8
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Cool! thanks so much for all the detail guys!

--Corwin
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Old August 4th, 2008, 02:59 PM   #9
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$2000 is probably a better answer! Sadly it seems that investing more is almost always the answer. For that I think you could do pretty well with

SD Mixpre
Used 416
1 Sennheiser G2
Tram lav
Sony 7506 headphones (if you don't have them already)

I'd advise selling the ME-66 - I've never liked them, especially indoors. (Not that a shotgun is a great choice indoors, but the 416 often does well.)
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Old August 4th, 2008, 03:15 PM   #10
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Cool, that sounds pretty good. Annother quick question-- If im gonna be working with only 2 microphones at a givin time, is there any reason why i should go Sound devices 302 over the mixpre? what are the differences? Thanks,

--corwin
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Old August 4th, 2008, 03:28 PM   #11
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Last edited by Corwin Garber; August 4th, 2008 at 06:23 PM.
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Old August 4th, 2008, 04:07 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corwin Garber View Post
Cool, that sounds pretty good. Annother quick question-- If im gonna be working with only 2 microphones at a givin time, is there any reason why i should go Sound devices 302 over the mixpre? what are the differences? Thanks,

--corwin
Mixpre has only line level signal output, can't use it on consumer cams, plus all the other sound-ergonomics issues (or non-issues for beginner).

T
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Old August 4th, 2008, 04:50 PM   #13
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Im pretty sure you can choose between a mic and a line signal on the a1, But not positive--

Corwin
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Old August 4th, 2008, 08:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Corwin Garber View Post
Im interested in getting some equiptment to get my sound situation sounding a bit better.

Im working within a budget around $1,250.

Heres what i already have:
-Canon xha1 (two xlr imputs w/ phantom and manual controls)
-Senn. me66
-Boom pole

Heres are some prducts im interested in (maybe a bit too hopefull :):
-Sound Devices Mixpre / Sound Devices 302
-senn. g2 100
-sanken cos-11
-Schoeps CMC6 and MK41 (ok, way out of price range, but wondering if worth investing only in this)
-Sennheiser MKH-416 (and sell me66 for some money)
-Tascam HD-P2

So.. what should i do to get better audio? should i get a mixer? A recorder? recorder and new mikes w/ no mixer? get mixer and record using camera? wireless/ wired lav? or skip lavs? etc... what would be your opinion for the best combo, for around $1,250? (price a bit fexible)

Also-- any quicker/cheaper tips for better audio?

Thanks-- Corwin
Hi Corwin,

For your application and limited budget, I'd recommend:

1. Continue to record on your Canon A1. Pass on the field mixer and recorder - you'll definitely blow your budget and you must focus on priority items to improve your audio quality.

2. Buy and always wear cans like the Sony 7506. For extreme comfort, I'd also recommend you get Headphone Softies (love 'em): http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ie_Earpad.html

But don't watch what I do - if it's a quiet set, I'll be using my Sennheiser CX300 earbuds which I literally wear hours every day with my iPod (beyond comfortable and I can still hear ambient voices and noises I'd miss with headphones): http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000E6G9RI

3. Spend maybe $50-100 on sound books and DVDs. In addition to the posters above, consider "Sound for Film and Television", by Barry Green and Matt Gettemeier. http://dvxuser.com/articles/dvxshop/SoundDVD/

4. Keep your ME66 for now, pass on costly mics as the Schoeps CMC6 and Sennheiser 416. But for most indoor work, use a good hyper-cardioid mic like the Oktava MK012A. http://www.sound-room.com/inc/sdetail/3030

5. Yes, by all means when the need arises, buy and use a good wireless transeiver like the Sennheiser G2 Evolution. I'd recommend band A or band C, since the FCC has clouded what's going to happen with the B band after the recent auction. Actually, you probably should have TWO sets of Senn G2's but I realize that's stretching your budget. Still, for your apps, it's a far better investment than the high-end toys.

6. Yes, get a good mic for the Senn G2. The Tram is good, as is the Sanken COS-11b (be sure to get the correct connector to the Senn). Many of us use the Countryman B6. But here's a secret to save your hard-earned money - buy a Provider Series PSL6 that's an equal for half the price. http://www.jirehsupplies.com/cgi-bin...&key=PSL6-SENN

7. For outdoor work in the wind, another must is a Windjammer and zeppelin for your shotgun.

8. Then there's the incidental gear - things like a boompole holder (connect to your C-Stand), lots of connectors to interface into and across 1/8", 1/4" TR and TRS, XLR male/female gear, attenuators, matching transformers, etc.

9. And of course, you should have good sound editing software, plug-ins, etc.

10. And what about Royalty-Free music? There goes a few thousand more... (someday)

11. Oh, will you ever do any phone interviews? Sometimes VOIP companies like Skype have flakey connections, requiring a Telos One Digital Telephone Hybrid, etc.

Anyway, you get the idea - if you have a limited budget, study-Study-STUDY, and don't be too quick to spend big bucks on high-end, flashy toys. (yes, we've all been there, own that tee shirt!)

Happy Hunting, Michael

PS - You won't want to overdrive your A1 with a line level/impedence input problem. Use something like a Rolls Matchbox DB25 (unless you're fond of distortion and power hum). http://www.zzounds.com/item--RLLDB25
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Old August 4th, 2008, 08:17 PM   #15
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Good points! Im in no hurry! Thanks a ton for all the Detail
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