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Old October 28th, 2012, 01:11 PM   #1
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Upgrading Audio Setup

Hello,

I currently run a Rode NTG2 & a Rode Lavalier for my productions, and run them straight into the XLR inputs on my EX1r. After doing a lot of research into different microphone types, for indoor & outdoor use, I've got a few questions.

Is it really worth upgrading my NTG2 to a NTG3? I'm very impressed by the NTG3, but how much of a real world difference is there?

For indoor interviews I currently use the Rode Lav, wired. Would I be better off spending the cash on a better quality wireless lav, or a hyper cardioid like the Audio Technica AT4053?

As mentioned, I currently use the EX1r XLR ports for recording audio, I assume it would be a good idea to use a separate recorder such as an H4N? How good are the built in stereo mics on the H4N for ambient sound? Would I be better off investing in the H4N and a good quality stereo mic, or just use the built in ones?

Thanks in advance,

Ollie
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Old October 28th, 2012, 02:23 PM   #2
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

From what you've written, I'm not sure that you're trying to solve a particular problem? Does the market you're working in expect/demand a greater level of quality than you're currently delivering? Are you confident of your technique with these microphones?

Correctly used, both the NTG2 and the Rode Lav are decent microphones and great values. An upgrade to an NTG3 would result in an audible difference, yes.

However, if you have funding for one mic purchase, and are currently using the NTG2 indoors, a hypercardoid for indoor use would be a better investment.

You'll not see any improvement from going to a wireless lav. I've not used the Rode Lav, but to all reports it is a decent mid+ grade microphone, well in keeping with Rode's design philosophy and market. Any of the mics typically bundled with a wireless set will be of lower quality.

Of course, there are some higher grade lavs, too. Again, I've not compared the Rode to anything directly. However, a wireless link is much more prone to trouble, will have a higher noise floor, and will have a less linear dynamic and frequency response... This is more or less true for any wireless vs. wired system.

There are reasons to go wireless, but improved quality over wired isn't one of them.

Regarding going to an external recorder, again, is there a particular problem you're trying to solve? Like wireless, a second system for sound recording introduces other problems. Yes, they are manageable, but it's only worthwhile to do so if there are some benefits, too.

In short, a hypercardoid, properly used, *will* be better in most interior shoots than a short shotgun, properly used. This will frequently be perceivable by end-viewers of your program.

An NTG3, properly used, *will* be better than an NTG2 in most exterior shoots... but is less likely to be perceived by end-viewers.

A wired lav *will* more often be reliable and produce better recordings than a wireless lav. A good wireless, properly used, with a good lav, can produce very good recordings, with a quality that is equal to the end-viewer, but you'd choose wireless over wired for reasons of mobility and distance from the subject, not because it produced better quality.

Science and engineering may prove on paper that your EX1r doesn't have as good a preamp as an XYZ audio recorder, but to use that separate audio recorder makes your shoot more complex, more likely that something will go wrong, it will take more time, for a difference in quality that may not be perceived by the end-viewer. In many kinds of shoots, to go with a boom, a couple wireless lavs, a mixer, and a separate audio recorder would really best be done with a dedicated audio operator. It's really too much for most shooters to handle, on typical shoots. It depends, though. If you're doing a single setup then shooting for an hour things might be different.

Of course not all end-viewers are equal. If a producer, client, or distributor says "Ollie's audio is a problem", then you really have to take that seriously.

Overall what I'm suggesting here is that each of these approaches comes with a cost. Even if you have money to spend to upgrade audio, there are other costs, too. These costs have to be weighed against the specific benefits you expect.
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Old October 28th, 2012, 02:23 PM   #3
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

Over here in the Colonies, we have an axiom: "If it ain't broke, don't attempt to fix it."

You haven't mentioned what kind of productions you are doing, or what kind of audio you are recording now. Or (most importantly) if there are things about the audio that you don't like or want to improve.

And another axiom: "Never use wireless when you can use a cable."
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Old October 28th, 2012, 02:41 PM   #4
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by Seth Bloombaum View Post
From what you've written, I'm not sure that you're trying to solve a particular problem? Does the market you're working in expect/demand a greater level of quality than you're currently delivering? Are you confident of your technique with these microphones?

Correctly used, both the NTG2 and the Rode Lav are decent microphones and great values. An upgrade to an NTG3 would result in an audible difference, yes.

However, if you have funding for one mic purchase, and are currently using the NTG2 indoors, a hypercardoid for indoor use would be a better investment.

You'll not see any improvement from going to a wireless lav. I've not used the Rode Lav, but to all reports it is a decent mid+ grade microphone, well in keeping with Rode's design philosophy and market. Any of the mics typically bundled with a wireless set will be of lower quality.

Of course, there are some higher grade lavs, too. Again, I've not compared the Rode to anything directly. However, a wireless link is much more prone to trouble, will have a higher noise floor, and will have a less linear dynamic and frequency response... This is more or less true for any wireless vs. wired system.

There are other reasons to go wireless, but improved quality over wired isn't one of them.

Regarding going to an external recorder, again, is there a particular problem you're trying to solve? Like wireless, a second system for sound recording introduces other problems. Yes, they are manageable, but it's only worthwhile to do so if there are some benefits, too.

In short, a hypercardoid, properly used, *will* be better in most interior shoots than a short shotgun, properly used. This will frequently be perceivable by end-viewers of your program.

An NTG3, properly used, *will* be better than an NTG2 in most exterior shoots... but is less likely to be perceived by end-viewers.

A wired lav *will* more often be reliable and produce better recordings than a wireless lav. A good wireless, properly used, with a good lav, can produce very good recordings, with a quality that is equal to the end-viewer, but you'd choose wireless over wired for reasons of mobility and distance from the subject, not because it produced better quality.

Science and engineering may prove on paper that your EX1r doesn't have as good a preamp as an XYZ audio recorder, but to use that separate audio recorder makes your shoot more complex, more likely that something will go wrong, it will take more time, for a difference in quality that may not be perceived by the end-viewer. In many kinds of shoots, to go with a boom, a couple wireless lavs, a mixer, and a separate audio recorder would really best be done with a dedicated audio operator. It's really too much for most shooters to handle, on typical shoots. It depends, though. If you're doing a single setup then shooting for an hour things might be different.

Of course not all end-viewers are equal. If a producer, client, or distributor says "Ollie's audio is a problem", then you really have to take that seriously.

Overall what I'm suggesting here is that each of these approaches comes with a cost. Even if you have money to spend to upgrade audio, there are other costs, too. These costs have to be weighed against the specific benefits you expect.
Hi Seth,

Thanks for your reply - very interesting and thought provoking. I currently do a lot of corporate productions with a lot of interviews, which as far as audio quality currently goes, is good. I'm now working on an automotive series which is broadcast on MotorsTV as a freelance camera operator, and I also work on the editing side too. The technical guidelines for MotorsTV aren't particularly high, but with the same crew, there is the potential to expand onto broadcasters with considerably higher technical requirements, resulting in upgrading a number of areas of equipment to meet their requirements.

I see exactly what you're saying about the wireless lav 'issues' with increased noise floor and interference issues, and on my own work, a wireless solution isn't necessary, as all the interviews are sit down, so a wired solution is fine. A wireless solution would be brilliant for the TV series, as a number of shots are too wide to warrant a shotgun and boom solution.

Also understand the EX1/H4n preamp comparison.

I think I may be reading in to it a little too much!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Crowley View Post
Over here in the Colonies, we have an axiom: "If it ain't broke, don't attempt to fix it."

You haven't mentioned what kind of productions you are doing, or what kind of audio you are recording now. Or (most importantly) if there are things about the audio that you don't like or want to improve.

And another axiom: "Never use wireless when you can use a cable."
Hi Richard,

Thanks for your reply.

As mentioned above, I personally produce a lot of corporate content, but I'm also freelance camera operating and editing on an automotive show on MotorsTV. As far as quality for my web/DVD based corporate work goes, there are no issues. I'd be looking to improve the quality for broadcast, however as I've gained to understand from Seth's post, although the difference between microphones/equipment to me may be substantial enough to make me purchase/upgrade them, it may not actually make that much of a difference to the end viewer.
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Old October 28th, 2012, 03:01 PM   #5
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

+1 for the hyper, for indoors use.

I have a Oktava MK-012 (with hyper capsule) for that and it makes a huge difference from my Rode NTG1/2 when doing indoor dialogue

fRANK.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 11:49 AM   #6
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

Quote:
Originally Posted by Frank Glencairn View Post
+1 for the hyper, for indoors use.

I have a Oktava MK-012 (with hyper capsule) for that and it makes a huge difference from my Rode NTG1/2 when doing indoor dialogue

fRANK.
Hi Frank,

Thanks for your reply - definitely looks like a Hyper Cardioid would be a wise next purchase.

Having done some more thought, I'm seriously tempted to purchase the H4N at the same time. The thought of having audio kit physically seperate to the camera and the ability to use it with a DSLR without the need to carry around the EX1 just for audio.

Cheers
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Old October 29th, 2012, 12:15 PM   #7
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

Ollie...the best piece of advice I ever received from a working professional Audio Engineer, is; "Your audio is only as good as the microphone you start with." Simply stated, the first piece in the audio chain is the microphone. The Mic should be the best you can afford. I took the advice to heart. My audio kit isn't the best you can buy, but it does the job.

My Sony HXR-NX5U has a surprisingly good audio-block on the camera, so my initial purchases were a RODE NTG-3 shotgun and an Audio-Technica AT-4053 (b) Hyper-cardioid, I supplemented those microphones with a Sennheiser EW 100 ENG G3 kit. All served me well on my first project. Since then, I've added a Sound-Devices SD-302 Mixer and a couple of impedance matched large diaphragm condenser microphones and small diameter condenser mics. I recently added a "wired" Audio-Technic AT-899 Lavaliere, and excellent little Mic.

Best regards,

J.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 12:19 PM   #8
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

As you're probably aware, a high-quality front-end (preamp or mixer) could yield better quality as well, for the EX-1 and/or budget recorder like the Zoom... which.. by itself is not worth the bother when using the EX-1.. both have 'less than stellar' preamps.
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Old October 29th, 2012, 11:00 PM   #9
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Re: Upgrading Audio Setup

I went through a similar thing a year ago. I do a lot of interior interviews and got the 4053b. I just like the richer, fuller sound it gives as compared to a lav. I have the Canon XF100 and just recorded directly into the XLRs. The sound was fine. I think a lot of people use both a hyper and a wired lav to have a backup. I do that some, but find that I always prefer the hyper.

Then I got a used SD MixPre (not the current MixPre D) in hopes of even better sound by sending line level to the XLRs. It seems my camera already had pretty decent preamps after all, as the improvement in sound was minimal. I kept the MixPre, and use it when I can because it does *slightly* richen the sound as well as provide limiters, an extra input, etc. There are several reasons to use a good preamp, but don't automatically assume doing so will make a huge audio difference - it depends on your recorder.
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