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Old December 18th, 2003, 08:21 PM   #1
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Building an Audio Kit (wisely)

The little Panny (DV852) isn't gonna cut it for audio. I've decided to order a Marantz PMD 670 CF Card recorder. That'll give me dual XLR's, with 48v, amplified headphones, real nice and under $700. I want to order one good mic initially, so I can start gathering SFX and shooting my film.

But which mic?

My film will have 1 or 2 person conversations, indoors and out (overhead boom). I also want to get some car/parking lot sounds, etc. I might lay down a couple of audio tracks using my (limited) guitar playing skills.

I guess ultimately, I'd like to have a quality shotgun for out-of doors conversation. And something good to use indoors (cardioid or hyper-cardioid?), and probably a wireless lav (omni) as a plant. I already have a Shure SM58, which I think will be good for narration and use in noisy environments.

I get a "that's ridiculous" sentiment when I see a mic price over $300, dunno why, but I do.

However, I don't want to buy cheap, only to trade up later.

For the shotgun, I'm thinking the AT835b (or maybe an AT815). The new AT897 looks interesting too.

For the lav, I've pretty well settled on the Senn EW100 wireless with the ME2.

Now, my question...

Is a cardioid or hyper-cardioid a good first mic choice for me? Or should I get the shotgun first?

The cardioids I'm looking at include (and positives):

AT3031 (low-cost, cardioid, low-cut filter, high SPL, very good S/N ratio)

AT873R (low-cost, hyper-cardioid, natural low roll-off, built-in wind-screen)

AT4041 (more$, cardioid, low-cut filter, 4000 series, really flat response)

Of course, I have no experience with the sonic performance of any of these mics.

Please help me make a wise decisions. I'd like to order in the next day or two. All comments are welcome.

Thanks again to everyone.
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Old December 18th, 2003, 09:33 PM   #2
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None of those look like bad choices. Going off of Beasleigh's recent rave review (one among many glowing reviews) and the specs that were posted here a few weeks ago, I would suggest the Oktava 012 with a hypercardioid capsule. A good hypercardioid will be a versatile boom mic, a good voice over mic, and a great acoustic instrument mic. Cardiod microphones can do all these things as well, just expect to need to get them in a little closer.

Other popular, affordable, hyper-cardioids are the rode nt3 and the akg c1000.
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Old December 18th, 2003, 09:46 PM   #3
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That's going to be a whole herd of syncing to do, if you're using the PMD670 for everything. I have a 670 and it is a great recorder , but the $700 price is misleading, the 1 gig card is around 230. B&H has a package price of $900.

The case is plastic and isn't really robust enough to go without some protection. I recomend the Porta Brace case (135 at B&H)

For mic'ing outdoors, you really should get the Shotgun. try running the shotgun on camera first. I've never tried to mic with undeafeatable AGC so I don't know hoe it would turn out.

For effects you may want a dynamic, you could ude that as a voice over as well.

Wired lavs are a fair bit cheaper and more reliable than a wireless.

I personally thing you're buying the PMD670 a little ahead of time. One of the first things to do would be to buy Jay Roses's book that's been listed here countless times.

I think you may want to buy a balanced to unbalanced adapter like a beach tek or maybe even an inexpensive mixer. When DV.COM is up again , go over and read Jay's reviews of low cost mixers. With either of these , youd at least be able to control the input levels of 2 mics and record one mice to each track.
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Old December 18th, 2003, 11:35 PM   #4
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Re: Building an Audio Kit (wisely)

<<<-- Originally posted by Dan Brown : The little Panny (DV852) isn't gonna cut it for audio. I've decided to order a Marantz PMD 670 CF Card recorder. That'll give me dual XLR's, with 48v, amplified headphones, real nice and under $700. I want to order one good mic initially, so I can start gathering SFX and shooting my film.
-->>>

Dan: please keep us posted on your decisions--I'm about to buy a DV852 also, and I'll be interested to see how you build a satisfactory audio kit...

Thanks in advance.
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Old December 18th, 2003, 11:42 PM   #5
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I'm not sure, but I think I disagree, with Bryan. I haven't tried to sync with a flash recorder, so maybe I don't know how much trouble this is. I have synced music with direct to hard disk recordings. And as long as we resynced each song we never had a problem.

It seems like, if the audio on your camera is terrible then the trouble of double recording is more worth while. And if you can't turn off agc on the camera, then having a mixer isn't going to begin to solve your audio problems.

As far as the first mic, this could vary greatly by what you plan to do.

But I think the most versatile is a condenser hypercardioid.

A dynamic is only good for loud sounds or vocalist who are practically eating a microphone. Dynamics do make good "reporter" style omnis. But generally they don't have enough sensitivity for dialogue, acoustic instruments, sound effects (other than gun shots, or explsions: they're great for these), or ambiance. Besides, SM58 is about as good a dynamic as you can get until you drop $400 for an re20.

Shotgun microphones are great outside. But unless you can afford a $1000+ shotgun, or will be shooting in large sound stages they aren't very good inside. I personally like Schoeps' argument that a good hypercardioid can have as much 90 degree rejection across the frequency spectrum as a shotgun. The shotgun's advantage is in rejecting frequencies 2khz and above, but this dramatic difference in off axis rejection from 1000Hz to 2000Hz will be very obvious in many shooting situations.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 01:45 AM   #6
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I don't know if Dan wants to mortgage his house for an all star mic lineup. Martin, he's talking about recording the whole track on the flash recorder. I just want to make sure he knows what he's getting into.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 02:10 AM   #7
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I understand. In fact, I would appreciate it if you could elaborate on the difficulties of using the pmd670 as a double record unit.

My suggestions on mics is really just start out with one decent hypercardioid or cardioid, a boom pole, cable, and wind protection. Don't blow the bank on tons of mics, unless you have specific situations where you need specific mics and renting isn't logical.


The oktava 012 or rode nt3 seem like great lower budget choices, both available around $200. I like my akg 391, I picked it up on ebay for $160(U.S.).


-I can see how it might sound like I was suggesting a schoeps microphone. That wasn't my intent. They just have a great little memo on their website about why they don't offer a shotgun microphone.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 02:18 AM   #8
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Follow up

I think this is a very interesting read.

http://www.schoeps.de/E/overview-mic-types.html#shotgun
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Old December 19th, 2003, 03:43 AM   #9
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If anything the timing on the flash recorder should be right on. I guess building a decent stable for audio isn't such a bad idea. the better audio gear can operate independant of the consumer camera setup.

I picked up my pair of MK012 Oktavas today and was a tad skeptical. I did the old A/B before i left the shop, with the original demo Oktava kit and everything was identical. The new mic kits are black with silver lettering and not the gun metal finish. They were $270 Canadian ($203 US) a piece for the power element, cardoid, hypercard , omni and 10 db pad..

If you do buy the Oktava, buy it from some place that will correct any problems. The mics are amazing for the money. They are prone to handling noise.

A mic like the NT3 can be battery operated so it is possible to run it into the camera as well.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 04:43 AM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Bryan Beasleigh :
If you do buy the Oktava, buy it from some place that will correct any problems. The mics are amazing for the money. They are prone to handling noise. -->>>

I have owned a pair of Oktavas for a long time, and they were used on few occasions.

They are not as reliable as other mics, in my opinion, as now I seem to have a problem with one preamp.

I have tried to get some info from manufacturer in Russia, but they do not seem to acknowledge my mail. I wonder if there's an US rep, where I bought it.

The mic audio quality is very good, but you should get them paired.

Do get a bar to do X/Y stereo assembly.

About the question on how to build your sound kit, I may come with a different alternative.

First of all I would ditch the card recorder. Get a minidisk, if possible some Sharp portable, which is reasonably cheap. And get a proper mixer. The mic preamps coming on the Marantz or HHB portable MDs are not that good and you are paying for them.

Of course you get just one package for MD and mic preamps, but if you want that I'd go for a Tascam DA-P1 DAT recorder, which has better mic preamps and is DAT based. DAT may be out of fashion, but it doesn't compress like MD or cards.

But I think you can build up from a mixer, that has mic and line levels, and still use the DV852 in spite of having AGC. Proper AGCs can be "fooled" by using a higher level signal. If they get that you will not have any pumping.

Do this: go to some shop where they have a quality mixer, portable if possible, like a Shure FP33 or even a Mackie. Pick a good mic and connect it all: mic to mixer, mixer to camera. Get some quality headphones and plug them into your DV852.

Listen to what you get. You should be paying attention to "pumping", which is ambience level going down when a stronger sound comes along.

You are getting this advice from a person that strongly recommends double-system sound on his site. But I think you will be surprised at the results you get. Later on you can make up your mind on which separate recorder to buy.

Try to keep an open mind and listen very carefully to what you get. Get back here with your findings. Do not rush. Audio equipment should be carefully picked.

I make my living off renting location audio equipment, so I've probably listened a lot.


Carlos
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Old December 19th, 2003, 08:57 AM   #11
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Thank you all. Very much to think about. I will look into the Rode, Octava, AKG's and the MD alternatives. As well, I'll check out Jay's mixer review and see if I can find the book too.

My only NLE experience is playing around with iMovie. It's seems pretty straight-forward to align a clapper visual with the sound track. I assume the video and audio playback speeds would be virtualy drift free for shots that run less than a minute or two. Should be easy to do, maybe I will feel different after doing this for 20-30 shot sequences, I dunno.

Today, I am going to wire up an XLR to stereo mini cable and run the SM58 and this old RadioShack condenser mic I have to check out the DV852 AGC characteristics. I'm not sure the headphone output of the camera even operates during record. I might also swing by Guitar Center and take a look at the 'affordable' Behinger mixers. However, I'm still very much leaning toward the separate audio track approach, because I won't out-grow that, whereas I would out-grow a cheap mixer.

Please continue to offer any thoughts, it is a huge help to me.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 10:05 AM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Dan Brown :
Today, I am going to wire up an XLR to stereo mini cable and run the SM58 and this old RadioShack condenser mic I have to check out the DV852 AGC characteristics. I'm not sure the headphone output of the camera even operates during record. I might also swing by Guitar Center and take a look at the 'affordable' Behinger mixers. However, I'm still very much leaning toward the separate audio track approach, because I won't out-grow that, whereas I would out-grow a cheap mixer. -->>>

Don't worry about the camera's headphone output: it should drive a sensitive headphone to good listening levels.

In fact that's an area you should famliarize with: being able to listen to audio quality and even judging levels and distortion just by listening to them. In fact you should increase levels so you can hear what distortion sounds like.

A dynamic microphone, like the SM58, might have a rather low output so as not to activate the AGC. A condenser might be better, and a mixer (like the Behringer) should do fine.

And don't worry about sync if you use crystal controlled equipment, like a DAT, MD or card. Things should be just fine.

But recording double system should be done following a routine which is not easy to learn in a hurry if you never did it. If you are planning on a soon to begin video shoot using the 852, you should concentrate on it for now. That's my opinion.


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Old December 19th, 2003, 01:16 PM   #13
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Here's a real HOOT! I dropped by Guitar Center today to see what they had. Well, they had a radio-ad special, 2-for-1 Octava's $99. Got two and also a $49 Behringer mixer, with cables, tax etc., under $200. Not bad!
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Old December 19th, 2003, 02:15 PM   #14
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Check out the Oktava's very carefully. Check out their operation ASAP. Is there an Oktava Quality Control stamp in the booklet that came with the mic? The distributor that mine came from tests his mics he also sells matched stereo pairs. That said i still have doubts.

If they both work fine you've won big time, if one works well you've still won.

There is a glut of oktava's that did not meet QC. It's basically hit and miss with the 2 for specials. There are people that buy several and weed out the good ones. There is also an article that details how to replace the components with a higher grade.
It's a great mic but i don't trust the QC and supply setup, you never seem to know whether the stuff is legit or not.

What is the return policy?

What color were they (Silver or black) and date of manufacture or serial number.
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Old December 19th, 2003, 02:43 PM   #15
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Carlos
Ditch the marantz, I doubt it. First , the cards don't compress anything, they store what's loaded onto them. That could be PCM mono or stereo. It may be a compressed format like MP2 or 3. The Flash recorder can be connected to the USB port and files dragged onto my hard drive. Mini disk and DAT is real time.

While the Marantz mic pre's aren't up to the standard of my sound devices, they aren't bad and the recorder is a whole lot better than a consumer grade setup. I guess if I wanted to I could run the audio through my 302 into the line in on the recorder.
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