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Old December 9th, 2005, 03:33 PM   #1
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Sound on a budget (First post from a n00b)

I've spent the last few days searching the forums here for info on field mixers and microphones and have a few questions on both. The info I did find was superb, one question is more 'clarification' of what I have read here on the forum.

I am about to film a documentary with a local guy who has a Canon XM2. We're both going to just get stuck in at the deep as we're just beginning and are happy to make as many mistakes and learn as much as possible as we go - it's not a serious project by any stretch of the imagination! It's just for our benefit as a learning curve.

If I can first explain the project, it may help with the questions. It's very much run and gun type stuff .. there will be lots of walk along, in car and also indoor interviewing. As our budget is very small, I was wondering if there is a shotgun mic that will serve for both indoor and outdoor 'moving scenes' (where we are following the subject around a house, and also walking along outside for example). We can control the environment to ensure there will be little background noise both indoor and out - we will choose remote locations that are quiet if this helps our cause. So the first question:

Is there a shotgun mic that will be suitable for both? There will never be any 'long distance' sound, the boom will always be just above the subject - at the very most a few feet away .. but again, we can change this if that would add problems. I'd be looking to spend maybe 200 ($350) .. but could stretch a little on that.

The second question regards seated interviews. Does this need to be a lav mic really? Or could the trusty boom above be used at a push for all three? If it's really bad practice and a lav mic would be needed - what would be a good (preferably easy to set up for a beginner) lav mic on the same budget?

After reading the forums, I think I'm looking at either the MixPre or the MM-1 as a field mixer. After googling them, one thing I don't understand is that the MM-1 (on the images I've seen) appears to have no meters, how is the input level checked on the MM-1? Or would it have to be done on the cameras own meters?

A further question on field mixers .. do they actually improve the level to the camera (XM2)? (I mean as opposed to putting a shotgun directly through the camera via a Beachtek adapter). As I understand, without a field mixer I would need an adapter to provide phantom power to the mic, and to convert XLR to mini jack .. is this right? Of the two options .. Shotgun --> Field Mixer --> BeachTek DXA-2S, or, Shotgun --> BeachTek DXA-6 .. which would provide the cleanest audio to the camera?

If I have not quite understood what I've been reading, please put me straight :)
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Old December 9th, 2005, 07:23 PM   #2
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Thank you for the correction Jay.
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Last edited by Bill Hamell; December 10th, 2005 at 01:13 AM.
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Old December 9th, 2005, 09:35 PM   #3
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With the MM1 someone will need to monitor at the camera end. I like the MM1 a lot, but if you can swing a Mixpre get that. I think you'll need an attenuator for either one.
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Old December 9th, 2005, 10:25 PM   #4
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The XM2 is what Canon calls the PAL version of the GL2.
The MM-1 and MixPre can accept a line-level return from a camera, but it would be easier for someone in this case to monitor at the camera while the boom op listens to the mic signal at the MM-1 or MixPre.
The MixPre gives you more capabilities but the MM-1 wouldn't be a waste. It'll probably come down to your total budget.
As for mic choice, the ability of a mic at this price point to be successful indoors as well as outdoors depends heavily on the acoustic properties of the indoor space. How much control will you REALLY have there? If you can be in a dead space indoors with certainty, I'd say get an AT897. If not, and you're certain you'll only be booming at short range, you could get a tested Oktava with a hypercardioid capsule or even a Rode NT3. The Rode is too heavy for any boom length beyond 3 or 4 feet, but that's a typical length for run and gun. The Oktava requires a good shockmount and wind protection as well as phantom power. The AT897 or Rode NT3 can also run on battery power. This topic gets discussed alot, because there is no perfect choice at this price point.
What's your total budget for everything and what if anything do you already have?
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Old December 10th, 2005, 04:45 AM   #5
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Thanks very much for the advice. I think excluding the camera, the total budget for sound would be around 1000 (currently $1750).

Battery powered mics sounds like a good option! Does this mean I could eliminate phantom power from the equation? If so, would this mean any degradation of the signal to the camera - or is it just a different method of accomplishing the same thing?

With regard to the indoor environent .. it certainly wouldn't be dead. Here in the UK, more often it's both cement and plasterboard walls so there's going to be some additional reverb and ambience. I don't think I explained properly .. let's say 'quiet' locations rather than 'dead' locations. There will be very little background noise, but there will be slight reverberation indoors from walls and other surfaces.

One more model I've seen available cheaply field mixer wise is the Rolls MX422. Does anyone have any experience with this unit?

At a push for both environments .. would the best compromise be the AT897, The NT3 .. or the Oktava purchased with several capsules?

Thanks again.
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Old December 10th, 2005, 05:31 AM   #6
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Tony,
I used to use the AT897 with my XM2, via a Beachtek box, then I bought the Sony FX1 and transferred the mic and box to that. It's a great combination and will suit you just fine for what you need. Since you've got a spare set of hands to hold the mic, you'll be able to get it just where you need it for those interviews. I don't see any need for a mixer in your case as there's more than enough output from the mic (it doesn't need phantom power either...

Robin
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Old December 10th, 2005, 06:01 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Jones
...
Battery powered mics sounds like a good option! Does this mean I could eliminate phantom power from the equation? If so, would this mean any degradation of the signal to the camera - or is it just a different method of accomplishing the same thing?
...
.
Chrck the individual specs on the mics you're considering. Some will work on either battery or phantom but have lower output when on battery.
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Old December 10th, 2005, 09:04 AM   #8
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The 897 is going to sound pretty bad in the interior environments you describe. Why is it you want just one mic? Is it because you don't think you'll have time to switch them out? With your budget you could get the 897 and an AT4053 or AKG CK93 (hypercardiods). In fact, if you went with the AKG (Blueline) you could get the CK98 short shotgun capsule and the CK93 cap. I haven't used that shotgun, but I've heard good things. That system has a bayonet mount that makes it obscenely easy to change caps. Seriously. You could go from hypercardiod to shotgun in seconds without having to take the power module out of the shockmount. I would just carry the shotgun capsule around in a Rycote furry windscreen so you wouldn't have to mess with that either. They're real tough mics too. Perfect for run and gun. If your dead set on going with just one mic, the Sanken CS1 has the reputation of being closest to what your looking for. I haven't used it though.

As far as the battery question, since you plan to get a mixer there's no reason to even factor that in. The only time you would need that is if you ever wanted to camera mount the mic.
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Old December 11th, 2005, 05:45 AM   #9
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Okay, I think from the feedback here - the 897 is looking good for the outdoor scenes.

Marco - I was just thinking that if I had one mic for the 'moving around' scenes both indoor and out (where I am following the subject either walking along the road, or going about their business indoors .. be that cooking, pottering about etc.) I could boom those scenes with the one mic. This might leave me enough in the budget to consider a good lav mic for the many 'seated' or 'static' interview scenes, where we simply sit the various friends / family of the main subject down and then have a dedicated stationary or lav mic for those scenes to get really clear sound. So I was just thinking budget really.

I think that's maybe something else that I need feedback on .. i.e. would an indoor boomed mic (such as the AT4053 or AKG CK93 mentioned) be good for both the indoor 'moving around' scenes AND seated / static interviews .. or am I best to go for a compromise on the boomed mic which will do for indoor and out movement scenes, hence saving enough for a lav or other mic for the static interviews?
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Old December 11th, 2005, 08:30 AM   #10
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Unless you have your heart set on having a "film crew" presence on the set, I think that a wireless lav would serve you very well whenever you have a single subject, whether moving around indoors or out, or doing stationary interviews. Much less awkward than trying to follow with a boom, especially through doorways, down halls and around furniture, and allowing more freedom for the subject to turn away. The intimacy of the lav would also help counter the reverb effects of interiors. $500 and you're covered.

That leaves a lot of budget for booming groups of subjects. Presumablly you would have some control over the environment for that--and you'd need it.
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Old December 11th, 2005, 08:50 AM   #11
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I think that could be another possibility for sure - I just searched the forum and then watched the DVestore Theatre movie on the G2. With the exception of maybe three or four scenes, we will be looking at single subject shots at close proximity. This would have the added advantage that I could use it for the seated interview parts.

Taking this route, we'd need only a boom for the scenes where several people are talking at once. We could ensure in those scenes that all particpants were in close proximity.

From the G2 tutorial, another advantage appears to be that the receiver can be mounted to the camera, which is a huge bonus. Does this also mean that the field mixer / extra mic powering are no longer needed? I could conceivably need only the G2, and perhaps go for a powered shotgun mic for the group scenes?
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Old December 11th, 2005, 09:02 AM   #12
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I have the G2 Evolution 100 and love it. Yes, the receiver (smaller than a cigarette package) mounts right on the cam's accessory shoe. The set has a quality feel that makes it a pleasure to use.

You can get a Rode VideoMic and boom it for the group scenes. It's battery powered, has plenty of output, excellent audio quality (entirely comparable to the AT897) and you can get their boom and a 20 foot cord, all for about $300. I think you'd be pleased. But if you don't like it, or outgrow it later, you can get at least 80% of your money back on eBay and upgrade with the knowledge you've gained. The Rode can also, of course, be mounted on the cam. With some properly chosen adapter plugs you could even use the wireless and the Rode at the same time, one in the left channel and the other in the right. With a $10 bracket they could both be camera mounted.

You would be off to a great start without a mixer. I'm not saying that pro gear isn't better, but this would be a darned good and versatile outfit to begin with, without comminting a lot of bucks to the wrong high-quality specialty items before having the knowledge to choose wisely for your needs.
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Old December 11th, 2005, 10:43 AM   #13
 
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FWIW, Were I locked down to just ONE mike for indoor/outdoor on a budget, I'd select the AT 4051. Great for interiors, not as tight as my fave 4053 so it works well in many outdoor situations too.
I realize it's a wrench in the conversation, but if you only have "one"....
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Old December 11th, 2005, 01:00 PM   #14
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It's great to have a few options to look into, so it's another model I can put into the search function here / google for info and pics. I'm sure this is a common dilemma for anyone just starting out - which way to go and which will be the most suitable option given the budget and type of project involved.

From a practical point of view .. I do like the idea of having wireless boom (with the addition of the SKP 100 G2 Plug on transmitter for the G2 and an additonal mic such as the VideoMic or AT897) .. so no trailing wires to worry about / get caught on anything.

Using the one mic though, such as the AT 4051 mentioned - there would be more consistent audio I guess and there would be no need to change the set-up which also adds to the efficiency if we're doing all day shoots with different scenes.
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