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Old July 17th, 2004, 09:53 AM   #1
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Controlled Interview Mics

I'm wondering if I'm all wet in my thinking so fire away and I'd like recommendations.

I want to do some talking head interviews in controlled situations (no wind, I control lighting, one-on-one). This is for home-town history and not a major production, but I want to get it right.

We use two XL-1 and a single XL-1s bi-weekly for church broadcast, but the sound is mixed through a huge Mackie before being matched back to the video to go out live. So while I'm comfortable being able to establish and control the image produced by a DV camcorder, I'm a neophyte with sound (and 'sound is 70% of what you see', right?).

I can easily afford a GL2 with some leftover for mics and an XLR adapter. Though the GL2 image quality would provide a satisfactory take, I'm concerned about the durability of the audio plug on the GL2 since I've read many posts here concerning it. Alternatively, I can really stretch the budget and get a PD170, but that won't leave much for mics. Anybody else have to make this similar decision?

Could I get by with a single XLR wired lav on the PD-170 and use the shotgun on the camera to record me as the off-camera interviewer (maybe mounted toward the rear)? My voice asking questions probably won't make the cut anyway as I'll try and get the subjects to rephrase my question so their answer stands alone.
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Old July 17th, 2004, 10:54 AM   #2
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The Sony PD-x10 and the Panasonic DVC-80 both have good image quality AND very good audio inputs AND would allow you to spread your budget.
The PD-x10 doesn't have great low-light performance, but for what you've described it would be good. It can also record the DVCAM format which is less prone to dropouts than mini-dv. I have one and am very satisfied with it as a backup to my larger pro cameras. In fact its mic inputs are better than my much more expensive Sony DSR-390.
The DVC-80 is similar to the very good DVX-100 but without the progressive scan features and 24 frames per second and costs less.
I don't know much about the new DVC-30 and its audio capabilities.

For the interview setup when going to a two-channel camera, I'll have a lav on the subject almost 100% of the time. The second channel opens up the options that you've mentioned. For very important interviews I'll use a hypercardioid or shotgun on a static boom over the subject as a backup to their lav.
For rare times when I will be using the interviewer's questions, I'll lav the interviewer.
Having the shotgun on the camera, even reversed to pick up your questions for occasional use, usually makes a very poor match to the good sounding lav on the subject. At the minimum I'd put it on a separate stand to allow better positioning and reduce camera handling noises and motor hum. If you do need to use that track it will be higher quality. If you're only interested in hearing the question for a guide, usually the other mics pick it up well enough for documentation. You can always re-record the question later if you need to.
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Old July 17th, 2004, 11:20 AM   #3
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I didn't really cover the mic question.
My new favorite low-cost omni lav is the AT899. Got another one this week and I'm continued to be impressed with its sound quality, small size, range of mounts that come standard and it's low cost relative to higher end brands.
The new AT898 cardioid is out but I haven't listened to one yet.
For mics to use as a backup to a lav, there's quite a few that are affordable:
Oktava MK-012 with hypercardioid capsule from the SoundRoom.
Rode NT-3 hypercardioid.
AT873r hypercardioid.
AT897 short shotgun.

Higher up the cost ladder:
AT4053a hyper
AT4073a short shotgun
Sanken CS-1 very short shotgun
Sennheiser MKH-50 hyper and MKH-416 shotgun

For situations when the more open pattern of a cardioid is appropriate for multiple subjects:
Rode NT-5
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Old July 17th, 2004, 12:56 PM   #4
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Thanks for the comprehensive input. Based on what you wrote, I went back and reviewed the PDX10 and DVC30 again. Both appear to be fine cams, but both have the separate XLR box, which is one of my only fears about the GL2 (otherwise I'd just get the less expensive GL2 and enjoy the 'warm colors' it produces).

I think built-in XLR might be a requirement for me and I didn't realize it until now. Or is rationalize it more accurate?

The mic guidance was very helpful and you brought out a point that will probably save me a few hundred dollars. If I decide to include my question as the interviewer, I can mic up in post production with the same lav I used on the person being interviewed in order to get matching audio quality. Great tip! In fact, I think you should get a free one-year subscription to this forum for passing it on to me. ; )

Now I'll ask another trade-off question. You recommended the Oktava shotgun and I've read other glowing reports about its characteristics in other threads here. Could I conduct the interview, again in controlled conditions, with the Oktava with satisfactory results? If so, a sensitive shotgun would provide more utility than a lav. Thoughts anyone? Thanx in advance.
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Old July 17th, 2004, 02:10 PM   #5
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The hotshoe connector for the PD-x10 seems very robust to me. Unless you're constantly removing and replacing it, I don't think it would give any problems. I haven't heard any reports of it on the forums. The normal complaint comes from not seating it firmly enough to make contact so the camera doesn't recognize it's in place. You have to be carefully persistent and use a fair amount of force. I've never heard of anyone breaking it yet.
Is the DVC-80 still available? It has built-in XLR, but it may be pushing the price level up too much to allow for more mics.

The Oktava isn't a shotgun. It's a very small "pencil" mic with interchangeable heads for omni, cardioid and hypercardioid pickup. Cost for the mic and one head from the SoundRoom is $193 and the cardioid head is on sale for $50. The SoundRoom tests the mics they sell to weed out any that aren't up to standard. It seems that Russian QC isn't as consistent as Japanese, German, US or Australian. You can also get a 5% discount from your first order using the coupon code AUDIO. This will at least wipe out the shipping and handling. This mic does have very good sound quality for low cost. Do a search here for discussions on this mic's strengths AND weaknesses (wind noise and handling noise).

Using a lav guarantees you can better isolate the subject from the room they are in. A mic on a boomstand can be successful, but you are at the mercy of the space where the interview takes place. Often that's a losing proposition. Lavs can be prone to clothing noise, hand touches and breath pops, but it's often easier to correct or change that than having to select an entirely new location. Really a lav is an indispensible tool for sit down interviews. I don't think you can avoid it. The AT899 runs from about $210 to $250 for the wired XLR kit depending on your vendor.

Thanks for the thanks. Now that we're in the age of anyone being able to have an NLE, it's important to always keep the mind open about a better way to accomplish something. People often want to use these tools to try to fix problem audio. This is often time consuming and unsatisfactory. The real power is to get good raw sound materials any way possible and then use the power of the computer to put it all together with lots of creativity and ease. The fundamentals in the field are as important as ever to take advantage of this editing power.
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