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Old May 21st, 2015, 06:53 PM   #1
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Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

Looking to upgrade the AG-MC700P Panasonic short shotgun I have on my Sony PXW-X180, with something that can cut down the rumble, and pick out human voice from a distance surrounded by noise better. I put a link below to a few clips that demonstrate the typical environment I deal with. Lots of idling car engines, fire trucks, freeway background noise etc. Off camera micing is not really an option, and there are way to many times when I really need to turn up the audio level to hear someone talking across the street, and cannot approach.

The MKH8060 looks to be just about right. It's very expensive (for me!), but is the right size for on camera mounting. Length is a concern, because my LED light is mounted on the rear of my camera for balance, so if the shotgun is too long, it will cast a shadow. I've got a Rode NGT2 on it for testing, it sticks about 170mm forward from the mount, and doesn't cast a noticeable shadow. Wouldn't want to go longer with windscreen.

My X180 and the Panny mic don't get along well. If I turn the base level down (that -40/-50/-60db selector) I get a noticeable hiss if I turn up the rec level. Also, the Panny mic just always wants to be pegging my VU meter in camera at the same level as the vocals I want to hear. Really hoping for some suggestions for really good shotguns for the exact type of work I am doing, and the demanding background noise issues I cannot escape. My priority is pulling human voice audio out of the mud, and am less concerned about how things sound when indoors.

Thanks!

Paul

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Old May 21st, 2015, 07:31 PM   #2
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

Wow, I think your expectations may be unrealistic to expect to get anything resembling decent dialog capture from a little "shotgun" mic mounted on your camera. Or even a "full-size" microphone mounted on your camera. Shotgun microphones are NOT "zoom lenses" for audio. At best they narrow the angle of acceptance for sound (dialog PLUS ambient noise). And on top of the camera is just about the WORST place for a microphone.

And when you have several people talking and facing different angles, even if you had an experienced crew member to operate the boom-pole, it would be something even professionals wouldn't attempt.

If I were facing a similar situation, I would try using a few inexpensive Bluetooth wireless mics that you can clip-on or put in a pocket of the police/fire people. Something like the Sony ECMAW4 ($170 at B&H0
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Old May 21st, 2015, 07:47 PM   #3
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

I think you missed the point of the post, or misunderstood what I meant. Looking for the BEST option for this type of uncontrollable audio source. There must be a way to improve the audio, as the mic I am using is the stock shotgun that came on an old Panasonic DVCPRO camera 15-20 years ago. That is why I specified a shotgun that would "prefer" voice, not "enhance" it. :)

Taking a Rode NTG2 into the field tonight for evaluation. It's too back heavy because of the battery housing, it's pointing upward a bit....heh.

Paul
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Old May 21st, 2015, 07:49 PM   #4
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

And on my old X70, I actually had one of those little Sony Bluetooth kits. Audio sounded tinny and hollow, like a phone call, and audio was way too hot, overmodulated, and the things allow no audio level adjustments. Convenient in a pinch though for ENG, just clip the damn thing on their shirt and step back tos hoot. :)
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Old May 21st, 2015, 07:51 PM   #5
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

Sorry, a camera mounted mic will not bring voices out front or give them a close proximity sound .. no matter how much you spend. Many folks put wireless lavalieres on the primary subjects and have an audio person with a boom. However, the camera mounted mic is usually good for nat sound, B-roll and such
Low frequency rumble can be controlled somewhat with a high-pass filter, either on the mic and/or a pro mixer. The digital HP filters in low budget gear don't really do much good IMO, beside adding noise, they are 'after the fact', not where they are needed most, to protect the input stage components from distorting.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 08:19 PM   #6
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

It's a necessary evil to have the mic on-camera, and hope for the best in very difficult audio situations.

First you need to make certain you are matching the output level of the mic you have to the sensitivity or attenuation level of the camera's mic input. Without having the camera manual, I can't say for sure, but turning the audio input setting to -60db may be making the input more sensitive. As in this setting is now expecting a very low output dynamic reporter's mic to be connected with it's output level of about -60db.

Camera brands and models have many differences in these controls, settings, how they are named and how they actually behave. Some camera mic inputs have sensitivity settings, some have attenuation settings. So studying the manual and experimenting when you have time to test in a more controlled setting can be helpful in getting the best performance.

You may also need to buy an external attenuator like the AT8202 or similar A15AS from Shure if you are using a hot mic with a sensitive input that doesn't have an internal attenuation setting.

I would suggest the AT875 if you are only going to use the mic on-camera or with other phantom-power sources. It's also a very short mic.
Or the Sennheiser MKE 600 which can also run on a AA battery (and is about an inch shorter than the Rode NTG2). This would allow it to work with a wireless transmitter or a recorder that doesn't provide phantom if you ever move it off the camera.

In either case, these are hot mics and need to be matched to the mic input sensitivity or you won't have much success.

As already mentioned, on-camera mics are rarely in the best place for audio, but you try and capture what you can if you are working alone.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 08:31 PM   #7
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

Agreed not optimal, but that DUI driver being arrested video above made AIR in a reporter package, using that NAT sound. We use a lot of my NAT's of things like that on a daily basis, so whatever can be done to improve the voice clarity is a plus. Also use the mic to capture witnesses describing events to authorities, not specifically for air, but for broadcastable story info.

I plugged the Panny mic and the NTG2 in together. The Panny is hotter, and also brighter. Had to set the NTG2 to -50db to match the Panny at -40db. The Panny at -40db with the levels turned up has a too noticeable hiss to it. The NTG2 has a fuller deeper tone to it.

Paul
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Old May 21st, 2015, 08:53 PM   #8
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Anderegg View Post
...The NTG2 has a fuller deeper tone to it.
IOW, it picks up low-frequency sounds better.
Typically that is a DIS-advantage, because low-frequency sounds are almost always NOISE and NOT dialog. Note well Mr. Reineke's statement about rolling-off the low-end with a high-pass filter.

Some of the comparison you are describing seem to indicate that understanding microphone self-noise, sensitivity, and gain-staging might be helpful to learn more about.

The first generation of those cheap bluetooth mics were indeed pretty terrible. But you would be surprised how much better the current generation are. The nice thing about them is that at that price, you won't have a heart-attack if one is lost or destroyed. They aren't quite "disposable", but they aren't hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, either.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 09:32 PM   #9
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

With the exception of the last clip, those appeared to be shot from fairly far away. I agree with the other posters that you certainly aren't going to get studio quality dialog in those situations. If you absolutely must use a camera mounted mic, the AT875 (already suggested) is pretty good for something that's physically short. The AT897 is a bit more directional, but is significantly longer and might get into your shot unless you can mount it a bit higher.

The final clip appeared to be shot fairly close and intimate, and I can't imagine why the voices were so weak, unless the mic was pointed in an entirely wrong direction.

In many of those clips, the background noise could have been reduced significantly with software in post, but perhaps you are unable to do that.

By all means, if you're going to start swapping around equipment and experimenting with different combinations, try to do some reading and familiarize yourself with the concept of gain staging, attenuating, correct levels, etc.
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Old May 21st, 2015, 11:03 PM   #10
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

All the forgoing is good info; that said, I did spot news with an Senny ME66K6 with some success, as it is more sensitive than the Rode or At897 mikes (at least is my experience) and I was able to pull out audio from some distance with it, if there were not overwhelming nearby sound to drown out what I was after. It is somewhat long --- I used a homebrew adapter similar to the Rode shockmount with tube, to move the Sennheiser, used on the XHa1 Canon, back far enough to be out of the picture.

BTW, I would not like to be the guy asking a cop on a breaking news scene to wire up with a radio mike. Just saying.....

Last edited by Battle Vaughan; May 22nd, 2015 at 11:00 AM. Reason: correct typo
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 12:50 AM   #11
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

I'm very confused by the hiss? I've never come across any mic that hiss would be any issue with for any form of high noise environment. Self noise in mics is rarely an issue, and the hiss usually comes from mics with lower output that the camera noisy preamp then reveals in quiet environments. Used in noisy spaces, then the only real factor will be the length of the interference tube that sets the narrowness of the pattern. Different mics will have different tonal balance. Bottom end is wide anyway, so needs getting rid of to reveal a voice, which is a very narrow band of frequencies.

I suspect you are onto a hiding to nothing here. A shotgun on the camera sounds exactly like it is - the ultra compromise. If you could get good audio, then everybody would forget waving handhelds around in noisy spaces.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 05:53 AM   #12
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

When I was shooting weddings on my Panny's I tried quite a few mics especially for doing on the run guest interviews during the rather noisy pre-dinner drinks session! The only one that cut right thru all the ambient noise for me was my Rode VideoMic ... OK they are a bit big with the mount but they have a fairly hot output of -39db with the attenuation switches at 0db ... Dunno why but those seemed to push thru ambient noise better than anything I had used ...fairly cheap too (about $149.00 here)

If I was doing industrial shoot in noisy environments they still would be my first choice even if they a heaps cheaper than the NG series!! The only drawback is that you need to unsolder the cable and 3.5mm plug and put in a decent cable and XLR plug
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 06:25 AM   #13
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

The microphone picks up what ever sound reaches it according to its directional pattern, so sound coming from some directions is "heard" with more sensitivity than other directions. However, unlike the human ear-brain system the mic cannot discriminate among the sounds reaching it to provide separation between foreground and background, direct and reflected sound sources. Using directional mics, low frequency roll-off, and dead cats can help remove some unwanted sounds like wind noise. Note that different designs of shotgun mics have different patterns and side/back lobes that can influence your selection. And using camcorder audio AGC can help or hinder intelligibility depending on the environment.

The most effective way to remove background noise is to get the mic as close to the desire sound source as possible - there is not good substitute for that. It is a fact of acoustics. However, you may be able to use graphic equalizers, noise gating, and noise reduction processing at your audio work station to improve intelligibility in post - if you have time.

Lastly, microphone selection is a very personal thing - what the rest of us like may not fit you preference. I use NTG2 and AT875 shotguns when needed but I do not do your type ENG. For noisy event interviews (e.g., receptions) I use a handheld (e.g., SM58 cardioid) with a wireless transmitter. Far better than trying a shotgun from even just 6 feet away with the DJ's music flooding the room.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 09:44 AM   #14
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Anderegg View Post
My priority is pulling human voice audio out of the mud...
Sadly, your priorities don't line up well with the laws of physics. And in any fight with the laws of physics, physics wins. Each and every time.

Yep, it's frustrating. But microphones aren't human ears, and they don't have the brain available to them to help them listen to just what you want, and ignore the rest. This is difficult for even the human brain/ear to accomplish, because the frequencies you are interested in are the same ones that the "mud" is using. Ask any audiologist.

What you are basically asking for is an increase in your signal to noise ratio. You want more human voice (signal) and less "mud" (noise). The only way to do that is to move the microphone closer to your signal source, and position it so that the signal source is in the microphone's pattern (point the mic at the speaker's mouth).

This is true of any mic, be it the Panasonic AG-MC700P you are trying to replace, or a Schoeps SuperCMIT, or anything in between. That said, the Sennheiser MKH 8060 is a heck of a mic, perhaps the best value for what you are trying to do. Just don't expect it to work miracles. It will give you somewhat better sound quality, but it won't pull "human voice audio out of the mud" unless you get it sufficiently close to, and pointed at, the human voice in question.
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Old May 22nd, 2015, 10:42 AM   #15
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Re: Need a good shotgun for high noise ENG environment

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Originally Posted by Bruce Watson View Post
What you are basically asking for is an increase in your signal to noise ratio. You want more human voice (signal) and less "mud" (noise). The only way to do that is to move the microphone closer to your signal source, and position it so that the signal source is in the microphone's pattern (point the mic at the speaker's mouth).
.
Which is exactly why you see the "cop reality shows" using wireless clip-on mics on the officers.

I fear that Mr. Anderegg will have to learn the laws of acoustic physics the hard way.
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