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Old August 24th, 2009, 01:07 PM   #1
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Should I get a field mixer?

I want to bring my audio to the next level and was thinking of getting a mixer. Maybe a used mixpre or psc promix3. Don't tell me buy a sound devices 302 unless you can personally send me about $600. I can't justify the expense right now.

I hate monitoring levels from the camera, obviously a dedicated mixer will solve that and give more control. But I haven't heard much about how much actual improvement a mixer will provide sonically all else being equal. Will better preamps improve my sound beyond eliminating hiss? Put another way, will the mixer provide better sound or merely better sound because there's better control over the audio?
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Old August 24th, 2009, 03:58 PM   #2
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Brian,
Mostly better sound through better control depending on the mixer you get. Some inexpensive mixers could be worse sounding than the camera inputs. Audio is very expensive to bring to the next level as the manufacturers mostly sell to a small audience in small volumes making the price seem pretty high. Of course if you think that $600 is a lot spend think of the unit lasting five years (as I would expect it to) and your cost is an extra 10 dollars a month. Not a big deal. Search ebay and craigslist for used bargains hth
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Old August 24th, 2009, 10:51 PM   #3
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It depends on what video camera you have. Some cam mic preamps are not that bad you know.

My Canon XH-A1 with a great mic plugged directly in sounds pretty good. Sure my SD 302s mic preamps sounds better, so they should for the price.

But for a solo operator any external mixer still needs the same attention to levels as a camera does, and on a budget soundwise, I think better mics should always come first.

Cheers.
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Old August 25th, 2009, 01:36 PM   #4
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I use a Promix 3, using a mixer will balance out all of the inputs and send a level of audio to your camera that I refer to as the "Sweet Spot", a level not too hot or too low but just right. Yes you can run dual inputs into your camera but with a mixer you can run numerous inputs and mix to a stereo camera input. With a mixer you might need a 2nd person to run and monitor the audio.
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Old August 25th, 2009, 03:57 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Mark Boyer View Post
I use a Promix 3, using a mixer will balance out all of the inputs and send a level of audio to your camera that I refer to as the "Sweet Spot", a level not too hot or too low but just right. Yes you can run dual inputs into your camera but with a mixer you can run numerous inputs and mix to a stereo camera input. With a mixer you might need a 2nd person to run and monitor the audio.
How do you like the promix Mark?
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Old August 26th, 2009, 01:17 PM   #6
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Hi Bruce,

Which camera will you be using?
If it's one we have in the shop I may be able to do a quick test and upload it so you can hear the difference.
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Old August 26th, 2009, 01:20 PM   #7
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Hi Bruce,

Which camera will you be using?
If it's one we have in the shop I may be able to do a quick test and upload it so you can hear the difference.
Really? That'd be awesome, JVC HD100.
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Old August 27th, 2009, 02:11 PM   #8
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Really? That'd be awesome, JVC HD100.
Hi Brian,

I think you'll find this test rather interesting. Have you ever had someone make a video that took 3 hours to create, just for you! It's an HPX170 with the SignVideo ENG44 Field mixer. Hit the "Click to Play Movie" on this page
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Old August 27th, 2009, 03:42 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Guy Cochran View Post
Hi Brian,

I think you'll find this test rather interesting. Have you ever had someone make a video that took 3 hours to create, just for you! It's an HPX170 with the SignVideo ENG44 Field mixer. Hit the "Click to Play Movie" on this page
Thanks a lot for making that. You sure talked me out of buying a mixer. the difference on my sony 7506 wasn't significant. I think mixers are more about improved control than fidelity. I know it would make things easier though, not having to squint at the lousy on board LCD to check levels, nice bright LED's, meaty cans instead of those little plasticky dials that practically take tweezers to spin.
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Old August 27th, 2009, 04:04 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brian Luce View Post
Thanks a lot for making that. You sure talked me out of buying a mixer. the difference on my sony 7506 wasn't significant. I think mixers are more about improved control than fidelity. I know it would make things easier though, not having to squint at the lousy on board LCD to check levels, nice bright LED's, meaty cans instead of those little plasticky dials that practically take tweezers to spin.
No problem. Glad to have helped. I was hoping we'd hear some dramatic difference. At least we know now. I'm still rather impressed with how transparent the mixer sounded, trained ears might find that the mixer was a little more musical, but we're talkin' tiny tiny details.

As you can tell, the quality and the position of the mic have way more to do with great sound.
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Old August 27th, 2009, 04:23 PM   #11
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Hi Bruce

Firstly I'd say you can get by without a mixer... Guy I think showed you get very little benefit in a controlled environment...

If you only need 2 mics max plus on camera.. a Mixpre is brilliant... you get Sound Devices quality at a reduced price. If you just want to add a boom op or monitor a 2 person interview you get better amps, better limiters and better overall audio out of one of these units. As the afore mentioned amps and limiters are better you can ride them a bit closer than on the camera and get more audio out of your subject without clipping...
If I use 2 wireless setups I often feed through the mixer rather than the camera as I can leave the on camera mic plugged for ambient.

If you need more than 2 mics, but can't afford Sound Devices... Sign Video seems to be the unit to go for...
I had a PSC unit and it was hissy and very poor all round....

Regards

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Old August 27th, 2009, 07:16 PM   #12
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Hi Bruce

Firstly I'd say you can get by without a mixer... Guy I think showed you get very little benefit in a controlled environment...

If you only need 2 mics max plus on camera.. a Mixpre is brilliant...


Thanks Garreth and Guy for providing your posts on this issue. I am looking to beef up my audio and would like to hear what opinions people can give.

I recently purchased a Cannon XH-A1 and I was interested in getting better audio which lead me to purchase an AT 4073 and 4053. Now I am still striving for the best audio I can get and after reading Ty Fordís Audio Bootcamp, I realized that I am lacking an appropriate mixer.

My current free options include:
-Plug in directly to the camera - the A1 has XLR Phantom Power.
-Use a Mixer/Digital Recorder (Fostex MR8 MkII) that I already own. I know it is lacking a few of the basic features that I good field mixer includes and I think that this might be reducing my overall audio quality.

Aside from those two options, it looks like I am in the market for a field mixer if I want to achieve the excellent audio I am after. I think that the limiter alone justifies the purchase of a Sound Devices MixPre.

The MixPre seems like the perfect solution for what I am looking for although it slightly higher than my budget will allow right now.

Any thoughts here? My plan of attack is to forget the Foxtex, plug in directly to the camera and set the levels low enough on the camera to avoid peaking the audio, and then buy the MixPre once I have the cash? The MixPre sells for $665 from a number of sources found on Google. Is there a magic cheep source somewhere where I can pick it up? (I am currently monitoring eBay and Craigslist for a used one.)

Is the MixPre my best option? I do not have plans to add a third mic.

Much thanks everyone,
Eric



P.S. And a side question with the MixPre - If I use the MixPre with two mics, is it best to mix both into one channel and record the camera mic with the other channel on the camera? This way the camera mic could be used to add ambient room noise- would this add to the quality of the audio? Any recommendations? My initial thought was to record both mics to two different channels on the camera.
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Old August 28th, 2009, 04:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Eric Vecchi View Post
Thanks Garreth and Guy for providing your posts on this issue. I am looking to beef up my audio and would like to hear what opinions people can give.

I recently purchased a Cannon XH-A1 and I was interested in getting better audio which lead me to purchase an AT 4073 and 4053. Now I am still striving for the best audio I can get and after reading Ty Fordís Audio Bootcamp, I realized that I am lacking an appropriate mixer.

...
Is the MixPre my best option? I do not have plans to add a third mic.

Much thanks everyone,
Eric



P.S. And a side question with the MixPre - If I use the MixPre with two mics, is it best to mix both into one channel and record the camera mic with the other channel on the camera? This way the camera mic could be used to add ambient room noise- would this add to the quality of the audio? Any recommendations? My initial thought was to record both mics to two different channels on the camera.
It would be unusual to use both a hyper (your 4053) and a shotgun (your 4073) at the same time. Both are usually used as boom mics and it would be a matter of choosing either one or the other as is most appropriate for the scene, not both at once, in most situations. Before addressing the question of the on-camera mic and ambience, just what are you shooting and how are you planning on using these mics?
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Old August 28th, 2009, 11:32 AM   #14
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what are you shooting and how are you planning on using these mics?
My immediate project is a "monologue" style interview with a single subject with me (the interviewer, camera operator, and sound guy) off camera. I will be asking questions, but my voice will not be in the edit.

Down the road, I want to do more complex projects. Two people on camera, outdoor shoots, events like a trade show, etc.
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Old August 28th, 2009, 12:20 PM   #15
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Wouldn't a lavalier be more appropriate? - especially once you go outdoors, where people might walk and talk.

If the subject is stationary, you can use a fixed boom (mic stand). When indoors, use the hyper. Outdoors, or in a very large space, use the shotgun. Use a wired lav as the second channel. That would give you a backup source, and give a second choice for sound quality.

Given that this is an interview, the size of the lav might not be important. The AT803 sounds quite good and is cheap, but large. As the element shrinks, you have to spend much more money to keep the audio quality from diminishing. An expensive, tiny lav won't necessarily sound any better than the AT803. When shopping for a LAV, make sure that the additional cost is for sound quality, rather than miniaturization.
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