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Old November 29th, 2009, 09:42 PM   #1
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Stereo or Mono Mic

Sorry for this newbie question.

Should I use a stereo or mono mic on top of my camera.

I know most people use a hyper cardioid mic which is mono, but why not use a stereo mic as most people will listen on stereo TV’s or home theater setups.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 01:36 AM   #2
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Well, I guess the more or less standard answer would be that using any mic on top of the camera is unlikely to give you really good sound. The camera will be just too far away from what you probably want to record.

I think mono vs stereo would be a secondary consideration

But it all depends on what you're trying to record/video so if you could give us an idea of what exactly it is that you want the mic to help you achieve we'd be better able to provide meaningful advice. For example, what will you be recording, what kind of space will you be recording in, etc.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 05:17 AM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Jim.

I'm shooting a documentary with the view to getting some of it aired one day (hopefully).

I will be presenting in some of the shots, so I was thinking about getting a UHF transmitter and receiver pack and use it with a Sony ECM 150 lapel mic I already have. Most of the time there will only be 2 people for the shoot and sometimes just me, but if there are 2 people the other person will be doing camera op so there will be no one to hold a directional shotgun mic on a fishpole. I could mount a directional shotgun mic on a small tripod close to me, but don’t know if this would work. So I have 2 options for recording me. 1st is a UHF system with lapel mic and the 2nd is a directional shotgun mic pointing at me from a small tripod. I’m not sure I will be moving around a lot, so which do you think is the better way.

I will also be doing some interviews, but these will need a translator, so there will be at least 3 people that need recording. I don’t have the time to set up multiple mics and a mixer, so I was thinking about a handheld reporter mic that I could point at people when they talk. I know the mic would be in shot, but that doesn’t worry me, I just don’t know if it would sound good.

The last thing I will be shooting is general street scenes and people going about there daily lives. Most of this will be outside and this is where I was thinking about using a stereo mic above the camera. I think it would be good if cars and people walking by panned in the sound field.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 08:38 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Rog Mogale View Post
Most of this will be outside and this is where I was thinking about using a stereo mic above the camera. I think it would be good if cars and people walking by panned in the sound field.
If you've got the equipment budget and the time for post, sure go ahead. But, generally speaking, I think documentary viewers are probably not going to be as concerned with stereo sound as those viewing an action adventure movie.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 09:07 AM   #5
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Most broadcast documentaries in the UK are shot mono at present, the smaller programme budgets have tended to be a squeeze on the full blown stereo. However, if you want location stereo this is usually done as a separate wild track afterwards.

There was a period when the BBC was stereo crazy and all the programmes bar news & current affairs had stereo, but this was usually just separate atmosphere or buzz tracks recorded after the shots, plus any music being laid in post.

Any dialogue is always recorded mono.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 09:51 AM   #6
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I am not sure how stereo should be used with on-screen action. For instance, if you have two talking heads, presumably you bias each left and right. Then you zoom in on the interviewee - do you pan his audio to the centre? Do you put the now off-screen interviewer hard left or right? As you cut between the interviewee and the noddies, do you keep moving the interviewee track between centre and hard left/right?

If you have a sound source moving through the frame, you would expect it to pan between channels. But if you pan the camera, do you pan the sound of any static sources in shot? That is the effect you will get with an on camera stereo mic.

With most TVs and viewing positions, the speakers are so close that the stereo effect is negligible and none of this really matters. But if you listen to some documentaries on headphones, you will find a pretty confused soundscape.

I shoot just about all synced sound mono and leave it centred. Backing music is stereo and if it fits, I will pan off screen sfx to indicate where the action is happening.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 11:24 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rog Mogale View Post
Should I use a stereo or mono mic on top of my camera.
Mono - you should *never* put a stereo mic. on a camera.

If you use a stereo mic. it should always be stationary and off the camera.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 11:53 AM   #8
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Mono - you should *never* put a stereo mic. on a camera.

If you use a stereo mic. it should always be stationary and off the camera.
Err, umm, why?

For the videos I create, I want the ambient audio at the position of the observer. So, I put the stereo mic on the camera. Why is this wrong?
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Old November 30th, 2009, 11:55 AM   #9
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Dialog is invariably recorded in mono. Even in a production where the final mix is stereo, the stereo is pretty well restricted to the music and maybe ambience and some effects. Dialog is mono, then panned to the centre in the final mix. If you want it somewhere else on the screen, pan it into position in the final mix.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 11:55 AM   #10
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My philosophy has been to capture dialog in mono. All else (for narrative) is added in post.

Stereo recording is good for music and capturing sounds in the field. And, yes, keep the mic(s) stationary for this use.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 03:01 PM   #11
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Err, umm, why?

For the videos I create, I want the ambient audio at the position of the observer. So, I put the stereo mic on the camera. Why is this wrong?
Because the stereo image moves as you move the camera and sounds horrible.

It's best to have a stationary stereo mic. and then move the camera around within the stereo image - when you change the shot, then move the mic., but don't leave it on the camera - it sounds nasty.

If you watch any good TV programme you will hear that the stereo image is rock solid and does not move with the camera.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 03:57 PM   #12
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Sound in the film production recorded generally in Mono. I have always recorded in Mono. No complaints/issues. I can always make it stereo in post upon final mix down if need be.


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Old November 30th, 2009, 07:11 PM   #13
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Thanks for the advice, it’s cleared a lot of confusion up for me.

When it comes to recording me presenting should I use a lavalier mic, a shotgun placed near to me on a small tripod pointed at me or a handheld reported style mic.

I would love to use a shotgun on a fishpole, but there are not going to be enough people when filming to make this possible, so I have to come up with an alternative way.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 07:23 PM   #14
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All of those methods can work well. Unless you want the man-on-the-street interview look, I'd skip the handheld, unless there is a lot of noise, like at a concert or in a high-school gym. In those cases, a handheld in your face - or Countryman E6 - can't be beat.

A LAV is nice in that you are free to move around. If it's windy, a shotgun with good wind protection is probably better. Also, when outside, you'll get better off-axis rejection with a shotgun. Point the butt-end skyward, so you don't pick up reflections with the rear-lobe. That requires a tall stand with a big pole.

I recorded my wife recently with a long shotgun on a stand, and it worked great, even with her moving around a bit. The recording with nice and clean, and didn't require any post mixing at all. One nice thing is not having to worry about clothing noise.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 09:33 PM   #15
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Well, everybody beat me to it - I was going to make a comment about how the stereo image moving with the camera when it pans is not what you likely want, but everybody else seems to have said it already.

So I'll just make one or two comments.

The way a microphone and camera capture images and sounds is very unlike the way human perception works. The eye/ear/brain interaction is pretty complex and what people hear and see is not necessarily anything like what really exists in the scene. For example, a white handkerchief in sunlight still seems to be the same color when it's moved into the shade, even though it really looks different.

Also, people normally follow things by moving their eyes before moving their heads, so this effectively keeps the sound image more stable than the visual image. Mounting a stereo mic on the camera and panning would be like keeping our eyes fixed straight ahead and turning our heads to follow any motion, and even if we did it this way, once we have a mental map of our surroundings, we tend to hear sounds coming from where we know they must be originating rather than coming fom where they really originate.
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