Wildlife & Recording to MiniDV Tape in Canon XLH1A: Which Shotgun Mic? at DVinfo.net

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Old June 23rd, 2009, 01:31 AM   #1
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Wildlife & Recording to MiniDV Tape in Canon XLH1A: Which Shotgun Mic?

Hi everyone,

Iím interested in purchasing a powerful shotgun mic for recording fairly distant wildlife sounds (ducks splashing, bighorns head butting, etc.). I want to go for a mic that does for audio what a telephoto lens does for video. Iím interested in stand-alone recording, but I also want to hook a shotgun mic to my Canon XLH1A camcorder with an XLR cable and record in sync to miniDV tape. I recently did some recording with my Audio-Techinca AT822 stereo cardioid mic hooked up to my XLH1A via a 10-foot cable. The sound was okay, but it wasnít as loud or memorable as the sounds I typically get from my camcorderís mic. I like the idea of having a mic isolated from my camera via a cable. For one thing, it makes it easier to shoot from a blind without a big mic getting in the way and recording my breathing.

What shotgun mic(s) would fit my purposes? Iím not familiar with shotgun mics and actually made a similar post 3 years ago, but Iím assuming plenty has changed since then. Bob Landis (successful wildlife filmmaker based in Yellowstone) uses the Sennheiser MKH70. I read that in an interview here: http://www.studiodaily.com/main/print/8699. The interviewís interesting and gives one a good idea of the equipment a modern-day pro wildlife filmmaker uses.

I was thinking the MKH70 might be a good mic for me because Bob makes the types of films Iíd like to emulate. How does the MKH70 compare to similar mics? Does it have impressive reach? Is the price worth it? Generally, how much distance (feet, yards, etc.) does that mic seem to reach in terms of how clearly it records far away things? Do you think the mic would work well with the XLH1A? I know this is a lot to ask, but I figure itís worth a shot. Input would be appreciated. Thanks.

Presenting North American wildlife videos and Western landscape photos.
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Old June 23rd, 2009, 12:37 PM   #2
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I recall reading about someone using a parabolic microphone for truly distant sounds such as you describe, although it seems expensive and cumbersome. B&H has some in the $4000+ range, this place has a cheaper one: Extensive selection of microphones including shotgun microphones, directional microphones, parabolic microphones, contact microphones, pen microphones, and miniature conference microphones. although I have no idea of its quality or suitability.

I used to see these being worked by network crews covering NFL football games in my mis-spent youth as a newspaper photographer.

My experience with shotguns is limited to the shorter ones -- Sennheiser ME66, AT 897, 815 and 8035, but my feeling with those, at least, is that they would not focus so narrowly on the subtle sounds you mention at such a distance. Typically a shotgun is used within a few feet of the subject.

Now,the Shure SM89 - a llooooong shotgun -- mentions wildlife recording in it's ad blurb, might be worth looking at..http://www.shure.com/ProAudio/Produc...o_SM89_content. hth / Battle Vaughan/miamiherald.com video team
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Old June 24th, 2009, 07:50 AM   #3
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Just my penny's worth - I think the Audio Technica BP 4071 is the standard mic for wildlife, but expensive. I've just purchased the Sennheiser M66/K6 combo for my wildlife. I don't think the cable should be more than a couple of meters and should be balanced. But if you are using long lenses you may have to record ambient sound seperately and Foley sounds - mics will only reach so far. In some instances you might be able to use wireless Lavalier mics.

Last edited by Dave Tyrer; June 25th, 2009 at 05:36 AM.
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Old June 24th, 2009, 11:42 AM   #4
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Engrave this on the back of your glasses: "Shotgun microphones ARE NOT telephoto lenses for sound!" They do NOT magnify, amplify or pull in distant sounds in any way and they are no more sensitive to distant sounds than is any other mic. The only type that does that is the parabolic mic which to a limited extent concentrates and focusses the sound hitting it. What shotguns do is isolate the subject that they are pointed at from the surrounding ambient noise. The subject is no louder than he otherwise would be - what happens instead is the unwanted sound arriving from the sides and rear is rejected to a certain extent. This might let you turn up the recording gain a bit more before the ambient sounds become objectionable but that's all - there really is no such thing as "reach." "Recording far away things..." is a matter of perspective. For a shotgun microphone, "far away" is 6 to 8 feet unless you're recording something super loud like a symphony orchestra, a jet departing an aircraft carrier, or a space shuttle launch. For something that you can aim at the other side of the canyon from half a mile away and record the sounds made by bighorn sheep as if you were ten feet away from them, there isn't a mic made that will do that - it simply isn't within the laws of physics that such a mic can exist. c Sorry :(
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Old June 27th, 2009, 09:23 PM   #5
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Hi everybody,

Thanks so much for the replies. I currently record ambient sounds separately and have done some of my own foley. Still, I was curious about how much production quality material I could get live and on tape. I used my AT822 with a Sony MZNH1 minidisc recorder for 4 years. I recently switched to recording my ambience with the built-in mics on the Sony PCM-D50.

Steve, thanks for the enlightening info. Some of my shotgun mic assumptions were too good to be true. Shotguns isolate but don't magnify: got it. I also now know I shouldn't try reaching for "reach." In some cases, isolating certain sounds would be useful for me. Still, I've been able to harvest some nice individual sounds (woodpeckers pecking, duck calls, etc.) from within my ambience library. For now, my PCM-D50 should work for my immediate needs.

Still, I'll consider the shotgun mics mentioned on this thread if I want more individualized recordings. Some sort of shotgun might also work better than my AT822 when hooked to my camcorder. Still, based on my current knowledge levels, getting a shotgun specifically for my video camera would be a bit of a gamble

Thanks again for the info.

Presenting North American wildlife videos and Western landscape photos.
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