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Old May 12th, 2009, 08:02 AM   #1
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New microphone

Hi,

I just bought a Canon XH A1s. I've been doing some shots and a friend of mine invited me to make a kind of documentary for our group of volunteers. I thought it was a great idea, and the only things that I'm trying to gather is a tripod and a decent mic. For the moment I don't want to buy the best mic out there. I hope that in a year I have all the stuff I need to start making independent feature films, but right now I just wanted a mic for this documentary. I'm not doing a lot of interviews, it's more like filming them doing field work, in a hospital or in an institution, or wherever. I didn't want to capture it with the camera's internal mic, cause I wanted to avoid a bit of that metalic sound and give it a little more warmth, without spending a lot of money. Any good suggestions? I'll be filming mainly indoors.

Thanks

David
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Old May 12th, 2009, 09:44 AM   #2
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David, the key to getting good audio isn't necessarily getting the best mic, but rather the best mic placement.
The closer the mic is to your audio source, the better it will be.

An on camera mic, weather built in or shotgun, are only pretty good for ambient audio capture.
I can take a Schoeps mic (excellent high end mic), and mount it on my camera, then take an Azden shotgun mic (average mic to below average) and place it near my sound source. The Azden mic will sound MUCH better than the Schoeps mic.

If you are doing documentary field work and simply want ambient audio then a shotgun mic, might be a better choice than your onboard.
Keep in mind that most shotgun mics are mono, so once you plug into your cameras XLR port you won't be able to sue the onboard camera mic and only be getting a mono signal from your shotgun mic.
So you can either split the signal to be dual mono, or input another source, like a wireless into your camera.
A mic on a boom with a wireless transmitter (and someone holding the boom), used in conjunction with a shotgun mic on your camera might be a better option for in the field doc usage.

Or else you could use onboard ambient audio for most of your piece and record voice over audio separately to mix into your edit. It all depends on the type of doc you are doing.

Then there is the use of audio recorders and mixers, which can give you even greater fidelity, but that's for another post.

The point is, there isn't necessarily a cheap quick way to get great audio, and there are lot's of ways to obtain your audio, as it's another trade that takes time to master. Just like video requires proper exposure, focus, white balance; audio requires proper mics, recording hardware, proper micing techniques and more.

This is one of the main reasons why video people love video and photographers do photography. As they know what goes into a successful video production is more intensive than photography. As there's video, audio, and then much more post production involved.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 11:42 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
David, the key to getting good audio isn't necessarily getting the best mic, but rather the best mic placement.
The closer the mic is to your audio source, the better it will be.
Very well said.

Consider a wireless lavalier if you will not have a boom operator. If your subject is going to be more than 3-5 feet away from the camera, the on-camera mic is going to pickup sub par audio. As Michael said, mic placement is the key.

Now, there are a few things that a lav has going against it, RF interference is always a possibility with the budget line of wireless. Lavs can also sound "thinner" than a shotgun mic and lack perspective. You may also have to contend with clothing rustle and sometimes you just won't have the opportunity or time to wire someone up. So, ideally you would have both a wireless lav and a shotgun mic in you kit.

Consider that most of us that care about sound will spend more that cost of the camera. Our gear also lasts for many more years than the camera, research and buy quality the first time. Sound is 50% of your project.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 12:05 PM   #4
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David,
You've been given good advice here. I suggest doing some more searching and reading here.

I shot documentary footage in a hospital. There's lots of things to interfere with wireless systems. The Rode NTG-1 is a popular shotgun for your camera. If you are asking the questions, for the documentary, you can put a lav on you and use a handheld dynamic mic on your subject. If you have to run the camera, you need a boom operator or setup a boom stand or get your subject to hold a dynamic mic. A last resort for the run and gun situations with inferior results would be the camera mounted shotgun. Doctors won't wait more than a minute for you to setup and many times you may need to be on the run.

Lighting can also be a problem.....
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Old May 12th, 2009, 12:30 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Guy Cochran View Post
Very well said.

Consider a wireless lavalier if you will not have a boom operator. If your subject is going to be more than 3-5 feet away from the camera, the on-camera mic is going to pickup sub par audio. As Michael said, mic placement is the key.

Now, there are a few things that a lav has going against it, RF interference is always a possibility with the budget line of wireless. Lavs can also sound "thinner" than a shotgun mic and lack perspective. You may also have to contend with clothing rustle and sometimes you just won't have the opportunity or time to wire someone up. So, ideally you would have both a wireless lav and a shotgun mic in you kit.

Consider that most of us that care about sound will spend more that cost of the camera. Our gear also lasts for many more years than the camera, research and buy quality the first time. Sound is 50% of your project.
I agree with both of you. And believe me, nobody is more peeky with sound than me. I'm a guitarrist in a band and they know how long I take sometimes just to do sound before a show (I suppose my shure sm57 and shure sm58 wouldn't be of any use for shooting the doc, maybe just for voice over and dubbing). The thing is, at this moment I don't really have a big budget to invest on audio, and since the documentary needs to be made right away, I wanted to know a good mic to get me a warmer and cleaner sound than most built-in camera mics do.

From what I've read, probably a shotgun is the way to go. The boom would be just to better place the mic next to people talking, right? Will the shotgun be good for interiors? And wich shotgun mic would you advize?

As for long-term investments, I intend to invest seriously in sound, as I believe that sound can either make people believe the images or walk away from them. But that's really another post :)

David
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Old May 12th, 2009, 01:45 PM   #6
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David,

Congratulations on buying your A-1, and good luck in your project. You've received great advice from the other posters here. This comment is not aimed specifically at you, since I have no idea of your capabilities. So please don't be offended. But let me just say that over time on this board there have been lots of people ask the same question as you ("what's a better mike to mount on the camera?"), who then ignored the advice to get the mic closer, use a lav, or hire a sound person. They then come back after they've shot the project and ask the question "How can I improve my audio from this project in post production? It sounds thin and weak and has a distant sound with echo on it." So we'll save time and answer that now. You can't really fix it in post. The way to get good sound is to use the right tools with the right people when you record it.
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Old May 12th, 2009, 02:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Rob Neidig View Post
David,

Congratulations on buying your A-1, and good luck in your project. You've received great advice from the other posters here. This comment is not aimed specifically at you, since I have no idea of your capabilities. So please don't be offended. But let me just say that over time on this board there have been lots of people ask the same question as you ("what's a better mike to mount on the camera?"), who then ignored the advice to get the mic closer, use a lav, or hire a sound person. They then come back after they've shot the project and ask the question "How can I improve my audio from this project in post production? It sounds thin and weak and has a distant sound with echo on it." So we'll save time and answer that now. You can't really fix it in post. The way to get good sound is to use the right tools with the right people when you record it.
Wise words could never offend me :) I just have to thank everybody for being so generous with their knowledge. In music, when we're doing a live show, placing the mic on my amp in a different position will sound different, that's for sure, so I know what you're talking about.

But about the shotgun mic, if I buy a NTG-1, how close can I get it from a person talking? Shouldn't get too close right?

Thanks

David
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Old May 12th, 2009, 02:55 PM   #8
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David,

a lot of great advice, here.
But it looks like we're both in the same boat:
solo mode and little $$$.
If that's really the case, get yourself a Rode NTG-2,
and try to be as close as possible to your talent (3 - 4 feet max).
And check your levels. And ALWAYS keep your headset on.

If you have a few spare $$$, add a good lavalier
(I got a PSC and a Countryman for about $100-120 each, on ebay)
and use it whenever you have time to set it up.
So, with $350-400 you're good to go.

If you think that light might be a major problem,
you'll have to shell out some $300-450 extra
for (I humbly suggest) a LED on-camera light, such
as the new MicroPro or the new Microbeam.

I have great respect for real professionals who tell you to hire
a sound man: they're right, no doubt about that.
But sometimes (always, in my case) you just have to
do without.

Good luck - and don't get discouraged!

Best

Vasco
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Old May 12th, 2009, 04:56 PM   #9
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A shotgun is not your best bet on interiors - depending.

While a shotgun is good at having a narrow angle of acceptance out front, most folks do not know it has a similar area or lobe out the back. If you have a place with high vaulted and angled ceilings, echo may not be a huge problem. If you are in a boxy 9x12 room with a 8 foot ceiling, it most likely will be.

So, in general you will hear that shotguns are not a prime choice for interiors. What I use on a boom for interior work where I am passing on a Lav, is a pencil type mic, a hypercardiod design (Oktava MK-012). It is not as directional as a shotgun, but does not have a rear lobe pickup. There are a good selection of ics in this area, with prices from decent to wild.

Actually, Guy's suggestion for a wireless lav as a starter for your interiors is a pretty good one if you ask me.

Chris
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