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Old November 29th, 2012, 08:51 PM   #1
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Which would you buy?

I'm trying to choose a mixer and wondering if 3 or 4 channels will serve in the long run. Slowly getting into wildlife video making. Most often I'm solo so it is challenging but really fun.

I can't decide if the 4 channel is worth the extra money and weight. For a 3 channel the Azden FMX 32a is appealing. Using a Canon XA10. The things to mix are

1. ambient sound, being captured with a sony stereo ECM-MS2
2. my voice live, via an unchosen wireless lav
3. (sometimes) distant sound using some mono device

If a mono shotgun is used, I wonder if the stereo mic would best be disconnected since the focus would be on sound originating farther away. However the resulting mix (with my voice) would be mono.

When needing the shotgun, would it make sense to have a mono mix of my voice and the shotgun? 3 channel mixer would do.

On occasions when distant audio is needed, would the result be better with a mix of my voice, the shotgun and the stereo mic (4 channels)?
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Old November 29th, 2012, 10:42 PM   #2
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Re: Which would you buy?

You didn't mention any sort of budget. If you are looking at Azden, then it appears that you are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

It isn't clear to me what benefit something like that Azden mixer would provide for the $$$? I would not expect that the mic preamps in the Azden are of any significant better performance than what is in your camcorder.

If you are recording ambient/nature sounds you want to be going for equipment (specifically microphones and preamps) that have better than average noise performance. Azden would be my last choice for that requirement.

ECM-MS2 is not noted for being a low self-noise microphone, either. But I guess you have to start somewhere. Note that there are online forums specifically for nature recording where they discuss the kinds of mics and other equipment users have found to give the best performance for the $$$/
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Old November 29th, 2012, 11:36 PM   #3
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Re: Which would you buy?

Would you say which forums? My impression of dvinfo is that there are tons of expertise and activity.

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it appears that you are scraping the bottom of the barrel
That's not nice. Feels like a kick-down. What else is there in that price range that would provide more value?

The XA10 only has 2 xlr inputs, so the mixer is intended to add another channel or two, not somehow improve the audio beyond what the camcorder can record. If they are roughly equivalent in quality as you suggest, then they would be a decent low end (as they now feel) match, no?

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ECM-MS2 is not noted for being a low self-noise microphone, either. But I guess you have to start somewhere.
Are you trying to inflict pain here? : - )
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Old November 30th, 2012, 12:14 AM   #4
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Re: Which would you buy?

Didn't we go through most of this in a thread you started a little while ago? Or is a case of you just didn't like the answers to your questions so you thought you would have another try?
New to external mics
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Old November 30th, 2012, 06:35 AM   #5
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Re: Which would you buy?

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Originally Posted by Nick Mirro View Post
That's not nice. Feels like a kick-down. (RE: the Azden FMX-32 being the bottom of the barrel.) What else is there in that price range that would provide more value?

The XA10 only has 2 xlr inputs, so the mixer is intended to add another channel or two, not somehow improve the audio beyond what the camcorder can record. If they are roughly equivalent in quality as you suggest, then they would be a decent low end (as they now feel) match, no?..
Azden products in general don't have the best of reputations and are rarely found in professional kit. Buying cheap is money thrown away, IMHO, and is something someone on a budget can't afford to do. The most economical approach is to buy the RIGHT product rignt from the beginning while finding it at the best possible price.

A 3-channel mixer is not going to do what you described... Sony stereo mic, that's two channels. Mono lav, that makes 3 channels. "Distant sound using some mono device" makes 4. IF you want to mix all those sources together to a stereo output, 3 channels won't cut it. Not saying that it makes sense to do that mix in the field, especially if you're trying to operate the camera as well, just that assuming you were going to try, a 3-channel mixer won't suffice.

Why a wireless lav on yourself? Lav yes, but there's no need for the expense and potential reliability issues of wireless. Unless there's the true need for mobility on the part of the subject without the encumbrance of a cable, hard-wired is the way to go. Static setups don't need wireless.

Be aware that mixing of various sources in the manner you seem to want to do is usually done in post, NOT while recording in the field. This is why they make multichannel recorders. Once mixed, you can't un-mix 'em, so if you mix during recording there's no going back if it turns out it doesn't sound right when you review it back in the editing bay. If the mix doesn't work, your only option is to go back out and reshoot.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 08:49 AM   #6
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Re: Which would you buy?

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Originally Posted by Nick Mirro View Post
Would you say which forums? My impression of dvinfo is that there are tons of expertise and activity.
There are several similar forums with significantly more traffic and content. This DVinfo Audio forum is one of the slower forums for production sound. Furthermore, recording nature sounds is a specialty that is beyond the scope of any of the production sound forums including this one.

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That's not nice. Feels like a kick-down. What else is there in that price range that would provide more value?
If you came here to have everyone agree with you then you are wasting your time (and ours). The fact is that Azden has the reputation of making low cost but also low-quality products. If we DIDN'T warn you about this then you would complain that we didn't warn you. There isn't much else in the price range because it is the bottom of the barrel.

Quote:
The XA10 only has 2 xlr inputs, so the mixer is intended to add another channel or two, not somehow improve the audio beyond what the camcorder can record. If they are roughly equivalent in quality as you suggest, then they would be a decent low end (as they now feel) match, no?
As others have pointed out by now, trying to produce a decent audio mix of the kinds of things you mention is very difficult to do IN REAL TIME while shooting. When it is done properly, it requires a sound crew with an experienced mixer and good advanced planning. The much easier way is to record all the "wild" (non-sync) sounds separately and mix them at your leisure during post-production editing.

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Are you trying to inflict pain here? : - )
No, we are trying to be honest and steer you right. If you don't want to learn from OUR mistakes, then spend/waste your own money and time and learn from your own mistakes.

You keep coming back here asking questions about how to implement a production process that none of us think will work (based on first-hand experience). I don't know what kind of answers you want from us.

Last edited by Richard Crowley; November 30th, 2012 at 11:45 AM.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 12:26 PM   #7
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Re: Which would you buy?

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Why a wireless lav on yourself? Lav yes, but there's no need for the expense and potential reliability issues of wireless. Unless there's the true need for mobility on the part of the subject without the encumbrance of a cable, hard-wired is the way to go. Static setups don't need wireless.
Was wondering the same thing myself. Since I spend time in front of the camera, I was considering avoiding the dangling wire and tangle with tripod legs and other things. Still hard wired is maybe a better idea. The camcorder has some good focus options. One is focus memory, that allows focus preset on a subject, so that I can switch to it (when multitasking with sound an everything else).

The question about the 4 channel comes from this. I don't think I need the stereo sound when recording something at a distance using a mono shotgun or something. That leaves mono voice and mono far off subject. Afraid they will mix to a dull sounding mono.

This is the crux of the 3-4 channel decision. If it will sound ok, the 3 will do (lighter, cheaper too). If not (true stereo needed at a minimum for aesthetics), then I need the 4 channel.

Is there any field mixer worth using (by way of compromise in quality) under $500? Once I learn post production, it will be incorporated, but my vids are hands on and so I need the live vocal track.

I am open to hardware suggestions (and would very much appreciate them). The wallet constrains though, so quality reduction and doing nothing are the only choices.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 12:47 PM   #8
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Re: Which would you buy?

With one lav and a one mono shotgun (or other mono mic) Those tracks could be recorded on separate tracks and mixed in post.. (possibly using a mono-to-stereo simulation plug-in.. but that's for another thread altogether) So two channels and tracks would work in that configuration. If you record the ambient with a 'stereo' mic, which uses two channels, than a three channel mixer would be needed. (two for stereo ambiance, and one for your narration.. this configuration would have to mixed at the time of acquisition.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 01:46 PM   #9
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Re: Which would you buy?

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Originally Posted by Nick Mirro View Post
...

Is there any field mixer worth using (by way of compromise in quality) under $500? Once I learn post production, it will be incorporated, but my vids are hands on and so I need the live vocal track.

....
Just because you're hands-on does not mean your narration has to be recorded at the time of shooting. Camera original is virtually never the finished product in serious productions. There's absolutely no reason your commentary can't be added after the fact in the more relaxed environment of post-production where you can think about what you're saying and get the wording exactly right, then record it in as many takes as it takes to get it sounding exactly right.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 02:47 PM   #10
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Re: Which would you buy?

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There's absolutely no reason your commentary can't be added after the fact
Yes there is. The reason is right here.

If I'm handling a live arthropod, reptile or picking apart a plant in the field and talking about it, how would post production audio overlay what I am saying live? Yes it is multitasking, but the XA10 makes it very do-able.

Are you saying "No I can't do that!" What the heck? Maybe you are assuming that this work is some sort of avocation and that I should not submit work that is less than professional in quality. I'm a naturalist, not contracting with anyone.

Thanks Rick. Just saw the pseudo-stereo plugin at Audacity. Not sure how it sounds but they're saying its a heck of a lot better than straight mono playback. That means a 3-channel will work. Appreciated : - )
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Old November 30th, 2012, 03:22 PM   #11
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Re: Which would you buy?

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Originally Posted by Nick Mirro View Post
Yes there is. The reason is right here.

If I'm handling a live arthropod, reptile or picking apart a plant in the field and talking about it, how would post production audio overlay what I am saying live? Yes it is multitasking, but the XA10 makes it very do-able.

Are you saying "No I can't do that!" What the heck? Maybe you are assuming that this work is some sort of avocation and that I should not submit work that is less than professional in quality. I'm a naturalist, not contracting with anyone.
"Avocation" would mean it's a hobby with the product shown mainly to friends and family - I'm assuming you're trying to go beyond that. Doesn't matter if it's paid work done for someone else or your own work done for your own purposes, my assumption is you want anything going out to the public with your name on it to be the best that it can possibly be. So I'm assuming it's a vocation, not an avocation, and you want to produce work that looks and sounds as professional as you can make it.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 03:40 PM   #12
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Re: Which would you buy?

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looks and sounds as professional as you can make it.
Well isn't budget a factor that impacts my ability in this regard?

So if I can afford a max of 500 for a field mixer, you say don't us it to mix more than 2 channels because it is not as good as I can make it?

I'm not stuck on Azden, but without a suggested alternative...

I don't see anything, even used that offers a significant improvement in that price range.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 05:00 PM   #13
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Re: Which would you buy?

" its a heck of a lot better than straight mono playback"
- Only in certain instances... depends on the audio.
A pseudo-stereo effect would probably work on atmos' and such, but narration should be mixed dead-center in the stereo field.
Not familiar with the Audacity FX. There's other free stereo simulation plug-ins as well. Search and you shall find.
... As I recall, the 'Sheppi Spacial Enhancer' and 'Voxengo Stereo Touch' are decent on some material.. Both are free VST (PC) plug ins. Warning, a little goes a long way. Mono compatibility should always be checked as well.. but that applied to most everything
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Old November 30th, 2012, 05:44 PM   #14
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Re: Which would you buy?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Mirro View Post
....

If I'm handling a live arthropod, reptile or picking apart a plant in the field and talking about it, how would post production audio overlay what I am saying live? Yes it is multitasking, but the XA10 makes it very do-able.

Are you saying "No I can't do that!" What the heck? Maybe you are assuming that this work is some sort of avocation and that I should not submit work that is less than professional in quality. I'm a naturalist, not contracting with anyone.

Thanks Rick. Just saw the pseudo-stereo plugin at Audacity. Not sure how it sounds but they're saying its a heck of a lot better than straight mono playback. That means a 3-channel will work. Appreciated : - )
I wouldn't try to mix in the field at all. To do so needs an audio operator who can give it his or her undivided attention, monitoring the audio and constantly adjusting the faders. I'd spend your $500 on a decent mic preamp such as a used Sound Devices MixPre or if you can find a few more bucks in your pocket a new Sound Devices MixPre D. I'd also suggest you get an inexpensive recorder such as the Zoom H4n. The preamp gives you better control than sending the mics directly to the camera, better limiters and such. When you're on-camera handling a critter or addressing the audience I'd use the lav and record your speech to the camera. If you want to deal with double system you could go to the recorder but recording in camera is simpler. If you're shooting a distant subject like a moose bellowing in the bush, etc, and want to comment in real time you could put your lav on one channel and the shotgun on the other, not mixing them but recording them in parallel as two mono tracks (just because they are labelled left and right when recording stereo doesn't mean that's their only uses.). Dialog is always mono centred between left and right so you don't need to record it in stereo, you pan the mono track equally into the left and right channels in post. Same for that moose bellow - its source is mono and a stereo recording is pointless, you can pan it to the proper location on the screen in the stereo soundtrack built in post. I would record ambiance, background sounds, and SFX as wild tracks on the Zoom and not necessarily at the same time you're shooting - professional soundtracks are assembled from a large variety of sources recorded at different times and places. In post is where you put it all together into a coherent whole.
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Old November 30th, 2012, 08:18 PM   #15
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Re: Which would you buy?

Well this is all really helpful. Lots to think about. Thanks! Now to turn what would have been some lousy recordings into less lousy ones :-)
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