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Old January 30th, 2006, 07:48 AM   #1
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Shotgun Decision Dilemma

I have a small budget and need a good microphone. While I am well aware that there is no microphone at there that does all jobs equally well, I do need something that is versatile. The microphone will be camera-mounted, and I suppose its primary purpose will be to pick up dialogue in both indoor and outdoor situations (including weddings, short-feature films, on the road documenting relief work in El Salvador). My camera is a Panasonic PV-GS200 and the audio will be going into the mini jack. My budget is ideally about $150, but from what I’ve been reading I can get a much better microphone if I spend another $100. The ones that have caught my attention so far have been the AT 835b, ATR55 (which I have read bad things about), various Azdens (which I’ve read bad things about), and the AT 897 (which seems to be the best one so far, though it is a little more expensive than I’d prefer).

I have read some comments about mic sensitivity and the “hotness” of a mic. I wont have any preamps or anything besides the one in the camera and I want to make sure that the microphone I get will be sensitive enough to pick up audio that is more than three or four feet away. I also am unclear of the difference between balanced and unbalanced and do I need to worry about that. Also I’m not sure whether I would be better of with stereo or mono audio. It seems from what I’ve been reading that mono would be better and I could add a stereo effect on post (I’m using FCP). Additionally, I need to order a mic ASAP because I need it in my hands in two weeks.

Also, from what I’ve been reading I would also need a shock-mount to both absorb shock from camera movement and also to raise the microphone out of the video frame (I often use a 0.45 wide angle lens). So basically, are the mics I am looking at suitable, are there any others I should be looking at, and am I forgetting anything? Thanks for bearing with me while I figure all this out.

***Ok, so I've been reading the replies (thanks for being so prompt) and now I have to add in the Rode video mic into my possibilities and also the Sennheiser MKE 300. Are these acceptable pieces of equipment. Would it be worth the extra $100+ to invest into a AT897. Thanks for all your suggestions.***

Last edited by Eli Mazzola; January 30th, 2006 at 02:29 PM.
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Old January 30th, 2006, 08:01 AM   #2
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You need a shock mount.

If you are willing to spend the extra $$ the AT897 is an excellent choice, I love it. For the price of the ATR55 it can't be beat (around $60 USD). You will need to use a shock mount for both of these mics. I have used both of these mics with my VX2000 and they work great. The ATR55 comes with a 1/8" mic plug on the end.

I should add that I use a beachtek dxa-6 with the AT897.

Last edited by Sean Bouchard; January 30th, 2006 at 11:10 AM.
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Old January 30th, 2006, 11:02 AM   #3
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I was in your situation a few months ago and have settled with Rode Videomic (about $150, a mono shotgun with integrated shock mount.) I have tried ATR55 but returned it since the noise level of the mic (especially in the shotgun mode) is too high to be useful. I have used Rode Videomic in a few solo recitals and the sound quality is very good.

I have also added an ATR25 (stereo condenser, $25) for casual stereo application. The output is a little bit weak on this one but my GL2's mic pre is able to compensate it with reasonable noise level. The noise level of ATR25 is also much less than both operation modes of ATR55. I am using it as an alternative of the build-in mic when I need a more focused reception of ambient sound (unidirectional instead of omnidirectional.)

Hope this help.

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Old January 30th, 2006, 12:08 PM   #4
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For a small camera like the yours with a mini-jack as an audio in, I would agree with Po-Wen: the Rode VideoMic is exactly what you want. The whole package is light and won't bog down your camera and will give you wonderful sound. An attenuator cable is also quite handy in that it will bring the VideoMic down to a level that works with your camera's AGC:
Purists don't believe in this but I do. I want to just point and hit record. I don't have time to set audio levels.
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Old January 30th, 2006, 12:17 PM   #5
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I have an ATR55 and the sound it produces is clean, but the signal is a bit weak. You would need a pre-amp with this unit.
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Old January 30th, 2006, 03:28 PM   #6
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The Rode is the best bang for the buck. It's easily worth four ATR55s. Yeah, for another $130 for the mic and an additional $40-60 for a shock mount the AT897 gives you metal construction and maybe a slightly better sound to some ears. But the Rode is more sensitive and for that reason will just plain sound better under many practical circumstances unless you use a preamp with the AT897.

I tried an AT897 on my GL2 and returned it because it wasn't senstive enough for my tastes. I own a GS200 also, and use a Rode VideoMic on it.
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence..." - Calvin Coolidge
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Old January 31st, 2006, 05:37 AM   #7
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Rode VideoMic.

See and hear for yourself.
Go to my website. Click on the OnLine Archive atop column 2.
Look in the VIDEO folder and download the VideoMic.mp4 video.


Ty Ford
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Old January 31st, 2006, 09:30 AM   #8
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Rode Videomic and...attenuator cable?

Hey thanks for all the advice so far. I've looked into the Rode Videomic and it seems like I'm headed in that direction for a couple of reasons:

1) It's cheaper. And it comes with an integrated shockmount so that is one less thing to buy. Also it is wired with a stereo mini plug for direct input into my camcorder, hence I don't have to buy an XLR adaptor.

2) Fred mentioned that the Rode is more sensitve and that with the AT897 I might need a preamp, which I don't really want to bother with (not to mention purchase). He also uses the same camcorder as I do with the Rode and likes that setup. I am comforted in knowing that it's a reliable and tested combination.

3) I also watched the short demo of the Rode Videomic on Ty Ford's website and was satisfied with the sound from the Rode.

So I guess if anyone thinks the Rode is a bad choice, now is a good time to reply. But I really hate the idea of changing my mind again.

One last question: My camera doesn't have an manual audio controls (which is why I wanted a sensitive mic as I have no gains on the camera), but Laurence mentioned that I might want an attenuator cable. I don't mind spending the extra $30 if it is something that would be beneficial to the audio quality. I'm just not exactly sure why or if I need it. Is it something that would always be attached, or something used only in certain situations. Thanks again for all your help.
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