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Old December 19th, 2006, 11:26 PM   #1
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Rode NT3 suitable for a beginner?

I am a rank beginner, and have the opportunity to buy a used Rode NT3 hypercardioid. I have very limited funds, so I'm wondering whether this is an appropriate mic to buy.

I want to learn to do good production sound (and video, by the way). I'm interested in dramatic short film, so I'll need minimal loud sound effects. I do want to learn about dialogue (with boom and lav's), ADR, voice-over, foley, ambience, and every-day effects.

I've read Jay Rose's "Producing Great Sound for Digital Video", watched Ty Ford's excellent vid (thanks, Ty, if you're reading this), and loitered on this forum a bit. From these, I anticipate that I'll need a hyper with shock-mount, blimp, boom-pole, long XLR cable, and a basic mixer to get sound into either my camera or a PC. Or both. For lav work, RF is way out of my budget, so I'd anticipate wiring an actor into the mixer, or buying something like an iRiver 2nd hand. I already have an acceptable pair of closed-cup headphones. I assume that the hyper would be good for booming, ADR, foley, and voice-over, and the lav would be good for dialogue and ambience.

My DV camera is basic in the extreme, meaning lousy audio circuitry and no manual level control. My laptop no doubt shares a similar quality of audio circuitry. I'm aware that an NT3 with Beachtek or the like will produce sound that these devices simply can't do justice. In the longer run, an external sound-card for the laptop (or an iRiver) might do a better job, but I have a very small budget for all this, and I'm impatient to start playing and learning.

Are my ideas straight here, or am I missing something completely?

Should I go after this Rode NT3? I've read that it sounds very good for the money, so I assume I could use it for years. I've also read that it's heavy for the end of a boom, but then, I'm not making feature films here.

Thanks,
Douglas.
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Old December 19th, 2006, 11:58 PM   #2
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Ideally, you'd have

* A LAV for shots that are too wide for a close boom
* A shotgun for an outdoor boom
* A small diaphragm hypercardiod for an indoor boom
* A large diaphragm condenser or nice dynamic mic for voice overs

And, if I could only afford one... I'd go with the small diaphragm hyper as the most versatile mic. It can be used in all situations above, except to replace a LAV. The NT3 is a nice choice - especially if the used one is in good condition at an attractive price.
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Old December 20th, 2006, 12:52 AM   #3
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I've used the NT3 quite a few times for indoor shots on a boom pole and have never had any issues - the sound quality has always been acceptable. The weight isn't an issue at all, especially if you're running off phantom and don't have a 9V battery in the microphone. You'll need to get an adapter (i.e. Beachtek, etc.) with phantom if you wish to do the same - may not be worth it. I started off using a suspension mount from a studio condenser with extra padding, but recently bought a proper Rode suspension mount (the one with the black elastic bands) which works great with the NT3. I'd recommend it, even though I don't think it's actually designed for the NT3. Not sure if you can get a blimp specifically for the NT3, although I'm sure you can find a product that will work with it. That said, the NT3 may not be the best option for outside shots. I've never used the NT3 outdoors, so I will let others discuss.

As for a first time microphone purchase, I'm not sure this is the best option. I'm sure there are more versatile microphones out there - I'm just not sure what they are. Depending on what kind of footage you're shooting maybe a Rode shotgun would be more appropriate? Again, not sure really.

Either way, the NT3 is GREAT VALUE for such a small price tag. Whether or not it's suitable for a single first time purchase, I'm not sure.

Also, check out these posts:

- Audio for Documentary
- Comparative Demonstration of the Sennheiser ME66 and MKH416 Shotgun Microphones
- Untraditional Microphones/Mixers...

...and this link: http://dvestore.com/theatre/mics.html

Hope this helps!

Chris!
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Old December 20th, 2006, 09:55 PM   #4
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My hat's off to you Chris. It is a great value, but I wouldn't want to be booming with it. Too heavy. If you're doing locked down shots with a boom on a stand, well that's different.

Hi Doug, thanks for the thanks.

STOP BEING IMPATIENT! Do it right the first time.

Mixers:
Sound Devices 302
Sign Video ENG-44
I don't like the Beachtek boxes.

Mics:
AT4053a hypercardioid
AT835st stereo/shotgun

If your camera has a 1/8" TRS, get an adapter cable.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 20th, 2006, 10:36 PM   #5
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To be honest the Rode Videomic is probably a better choice but if you can get the NT3 at a good price it'd certainly give good service and I doubt you'd ever want to sell it as being too cheap for anything you're doing.
Given that it can be self powered save you worrying about phantom power and being hypercardiod rather than shotgun it's probably going to be more versatile. I'm not saying it's going to be the ideal solution for every situation but I can't think of one where it'd be a total disaster, even on the end of a boom pole.
You can put it on a desk, use it as an interviewers mic for a piece to camera, use it as an instrument mic etc. Rode have a shock mount that'd let you put it on a boom pole and a foam cover that fits for outside use.
At a pinch a simple XLR to minipin adaptor cable will get it into your camera. I know this isn't how it's supposed to be done but I've made up a few such leads for use with our cheaper cams that mums and dads like to hire and so far at upto 10M we've had no problems. Sure a balanced adaptor would be nice, as would a camera with proper audio controls and a better lens etc, etc.

And at the end of the day if you really hate this mic or it plain doesn't work for you I doubt you'll have any problem selling it for what you paid for it. If the price is right I'd say go for it but do make certain the price is right, compare what you're being asked to pay against the best retail price you can find.
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Old December 20th, 2006, 11:11 PM   #6
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Ty, just out of interest: there's a huge price difference between the Sound Devices 302 (around AUD$1800.00) and the Sign Video ENG-44 (around AUD$720.00). Do you really think they're comparable? From what I've read (including your notes) no one has any real major complaints about the ENG-44, it seems like a great little unit. But I'm just wondering why the 302 is more popular? Are the extra features it offers worth the price difference? I haven't seen anyone compare the ENG-44 to a 302, I'm just interested in what others think. I know people have mentioned "it's no 422", but can it be interchangeable with a 302?

Douglas, here are some other good points concerning the ENG-44:

- Budget portable mixer
- Anyone ever heard of Sign Video audio mixers?
- $500 field mixer
- Sign Video ENG-44 vs. Roll MX422 (4 channel mixers)
- Anyone has used the ENG-44 field mixer?

I looked into the AT4053a when I was looking for a microphone for a short film I was shooting. At the time the NT3 seemed like the better option (financially speaking mostly). I don't regret my purchase, however I would love to purchase a lighter and "different" sounding microphone in the future just to add to the kit. The AT4053a may be on my future wish list.

Just had a look at the specs for the AT835st. Looks good and has many great reviews. But at around AUD$1200.00 wouldn't you be better off with an "industry standard" 416 for just a tiny bit more? I'm not sure - but I'd love to hear what others think.

I also agree with Ty - I don't like those Beachtek-like boxes either. I've got one, and it does the job when I use one of my little domestic cameras (although currently the little cable needs replacing because of the unnatural route it has to go to get to the mic input), however if I could turn back the clock I would have been much better off putting that money towards a good field mixer - something I currently don't own. Anyway - you live and you learn!
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Old December 20th, 2006, 11:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford
Do it right the first time ... I don't like the Beachtek boxes
Thanks for the comments, everyone. Regrettably, it's not so much a question of patience, as a matter of very little ready cash, and little prospect of that improving. An AT4053 would be nice, but it is double the price of an NT3. Given the small amount of time that I have available to play with this stuff, I think I'll put up with the weight. I can upgrade (or perhaps just add) sometime in the future.

What's the problem with the Beachtek boxes, Ty? They are a fraction of the price of the likes of the ENG-44.
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Old December 21st, 2006, 04:54 AM   #8
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Douglas,
Check out the Audio technika 897. It's a great shotgun for the money.
I have a Beechtek box I use on my Sony FX1, mainly because the FX1 has no XLR inputs.The beechtek is a passive box and merely gives nme a way to connect xlr cables to my FX1. I also have a SD 302, which is a really excellent mixer, with good sounding mic pres,limiter, and lots of other features.
My limited audio (for video) kit includes:
1-AT 897 shotgun with wind screen.
2-Sony wired lavs.
1-Sennheiser G2 with addl butt plug for turning any hand held mic into wireless.
1-Oktava Mk(?) 012 with all theree capsules (hyper,card and omni).
1- SD 302 mixer
1-Edirol R-09 digital recorder
1-Boom pole
1-Boom stand on wheels,grip head, and "Eric Toline" boom holder.(Ty knows what I mean).
1-sony 7506 headphone
Lots of cables, adapters, etc.
Good luck
Bruce Yarock
www.yarock.com
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Old December 21st, 2006, 05:13 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hocking
Ty, just out of interest: there's a huge price difference between the Sound Devices 302 (around AUD$1800.00) and the Sign Video ENG-44 (around AUD$720.00). Do you really think they're comparable? From what I've read (including your notes) no one has any real major complaints about the ENG-44, it seems like a great little unit. But I'm just wondering why the 302 is more popular? Are the extra features it offers worth the price difference?

>>Yes.

I looked into the AT4053a when I was looking for a microphone for a short film I was shooting. At the time the NT3 seemed like the better option (financially speaking mostly). I don't regret my purchase, however I would love to purchase a lighter and "different" sounding microphone in the future just to add to the kit. The AT4053a may be on my future wish list.

>>>Put the Schoeps cmc641 on you list.

Just had a look at the specs for the AT835st. Looks good and has many great reviews. But at around AUD$1200.00 wouldn't you be better off with an "industry standard" 416 for just a tiny bit more? I'm not sure - but I'd love to hear what others think.

>>better a Schoeps CMIT or a Sanken CS3e.

I also agree with Ty - I don't like those Beachtek-like boxes either. I've got one, and it does the job when I use one of my little domestic cameras (although currently the little cable needs replacing because of the unnatural route it has to go to get to the mic input), however if I could turn back the clock I would have been much better off putting that money towards a good field mixer - something I currently don't own. Anyway - you live and you learn!
hopefully! :)

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 21st, 2006, 05:55 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Royds
What's the problem with the Beachtek boxes, Ty? They are a fraction of the price of the likes of the ENG-44.
The ENG-44 is a mixer. The beachteks (with the exception of the DXA-FX) are passive adapter boxes that offer no gain. You can only turn down a signal that goes through them. They are built to interface pro gear with consumer gear. As such, you really do get what you pay for. The ENG-44 is OK, but you don't really get to the good stuff until you get to something like the Sound Devices MixPre or 302. More expensive, but worth it.

Operationally, as a sound mixer, I usually ride gain during a take to keep levels where I want them. It's very difficult to do that with any device that's strapped to the bottom of a camera.

A little story: I don't know too many shooters who can do camera moves and audio moves at the same time. Something has to "give" and it's usually the audio. When you get to the point in your career where audio begins to matter again, (usually after you do a shoot for money and something bad happens to the audio because you weren't paying enough attention) you make the decision to get it right.

That frequently means getting some else to pay attention to the audio while you pay attention to the video. The big question is, who is that someone else?

I get a lot of calls from new shooters who have "hit the wall" and realize they need help. It's the biggest growth sector of my business. This works out pretty well because while I'm more an audio guy, I also shoot and edit. I can be the other pair of eyes and hands on a shoot that make it run more smoothly.

I also get calls from upcoming production companies who tried an intern for audio last time and, well, things didn't work out very well. I've even had production companies hire me and afterwards ask if I can explain to their intern what I did to make the audio sound so good so the intern can do it the next time. (what a hilarious burn! :))

I explained that while the strategies I used on this shoot are valid, the same stratagies may not be applicable for the next shoot.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 21st, 2006, 06:41 AM   #11
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We have several Beachtek and similar boxes and they are just not used anymore, we've had one too many client / user created audio disasters with them. Those little 3.5mm plugs can come out of the camera way too easily and with cameras with no audio metering it's damn hard for the mums and dads to realise they have a problem. Even one user wearing cans was certain they could hear the audio in the cans but the audio output of all cameras into the headphones just isn't upto scratch. This was compounded by us loaning out expensive cans, we solved that by switching to horrid el cheapo cans that must be at least 10dB more sensitive than the Sony 7509s we were loaning out.
Things got much worse with the latest crop of camcorders that load from the bottom, hitch a Beachtek under the cam and to change tapes you've got to undo way to many things, and that when the flimsy cable from the Beachteks to the 3.5mm plugs also fail, I've repaired all of them several times and that's not that easy.
We've found wiring directly from the mic to the 3.5mm plug although unbalancing the line works just as well as the Beachtek if not better at times with less risk of things going south during a shoot.

As to Ty's suggestions re buying Sound Devices kit.
Well I too drool over all the Sound Devices gear, no question about it's worth however the original question relates to someone who has a camera with no way to disable AGC, switch the camera's audio inputs to Line, no audio metering etc. I'd suspect anything made by Sound Devices to cost more than the camera cost. Even from a simple financial angle I can't see the sense of buying a Sound Devices mixer to sit in front of his camera, in fact I'd suspect it might be counterproductive, you'd be taking a mic level signal, amplifying it then dropping it back to mic level to feed the camera and then the AGC would play havoc fighting your attempts at controlling levels anyway. The process could well add more noise than it avoids, that's certainly been my experience putting a Wendt mixer in front of most handycams.

Even when you step up to the prosummer cameras like the PD 170 I have doubts about the merit of putting a good field mixer in front of the pretty lackluster audio sections in the camera, why not go the full hog and double head record at 24 bit using a Sound Devices HDD recorder. In this scenario levels aren't such a critical issue as you've got way more headroom.

Better still, take the task of riding levels away from the boom op, give him a headphone amp like the Rolls PM50sOB so he can hear what he's doing with good levels in his cans and let him focus on the critical task of mic placement, incorrect mic placement seems harder to fix in post than levels that are a bit too low, by recording at 24bit the noise floor can be very low so adding 10dB gain in post isn't an issue, having a shotgun aimed wrong is a real challenge to fix though.
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Old December 21st, 2006, 06:59 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Grant
Even when you step up to the prosummer cameras like the PD 170 I have doubts about the merit of putting a good field mixer in front of the pretty lackluster audio sections in the camera, why not go the full hog and double head record at 24 bit using a Sound Devices HDD recorder. In this scenario levels aren't such a critical issue as you've got way more headroom.
I definitely can vouch for preceeding a PD150/170 with a good mixer (Sound Devices 442). It makes a very big difference. I shoot with a Canon XL2. The 442 makes a difference there as well. Perhaps it should be said that the best tools don't guarantee the best results unless they are operated by folks who know how to get the best from them.

Regards,


Ty
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Old December 21st, 2006, 05:16 PM   #13
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This is a kind of broad question that is slightly off topic, but I'll ask it anyway:

I've seen fantastic cinematographers use cheap and nasty gear and still pull off absolutely amazing results. Can a fantastic audio recordist/boom swinger use cheap and nasty gear and still pull off absolutely amazing results?

Is the job of a sound recordist/boom swinger purely technical rather than creative? Is it just a matter of getting the science right and leaving the creative side to the sound designer/post production team?

Just wondering . . .
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Old December 21st, 2006, 05:20 PM   #14
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Art & science. Do you really think the pros would buy expensive gear if they could get good sound with crap?

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old December 21st, 2006, 07:10 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford
If your camera has a 1/8" TRS, get an adapter cable
My understanding is that an adaptor cable will unbalance the XLR cable to the mic. If it's running over 5 or 7 metres to the end of a boom, it'll be susceptible to interference. Is this correct?

I also understand that a Beachtek or the like (for all its acknowledged limitations) includes a balun, avoiding unbalancing the long mic-line.

Could I start with a 1/8 adaptor (risking additional interference problems), then spend the money on a Beachtek or equivalent later? For all the Beachtek's limitations, I'd be able to learn about mic placement, and many of the other risks and pitfalls of sound recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Grant
To be honest the Rode Videomic is probably a better choice
If I run a 5 or 7 metre unbalanced line to a Videomic on a boom, won't I suffer from the same interference problems?

Isn't the Videomic a short shotgun, making it susceptible to low-frequency "booming" indoors, as demonstrated in Ty's video?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce Yarock
Check out the Audio technika 897. It's a great shotgun for the money
It certainly appears to be good value, but I'm thinking that on my very limited funds, a hypercardioid would be more versatile - on the boom indoors, or on a stand for voice-over, ADR, or foley. I'm aware that a hyper won't be as good as a shotgun outdoors.

The NT3 still looks promising as a versatile mic, if somewhat heavy on the boom.

Without doubling the money (or more), am I on the right track here?
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