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Old April 2nd, 2007, 06:20 AM   #1
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Just one mic

Hi:

I have just read through this forum to find suggestions on how to choose a mic. It appears that you sound folks are really into it and I imagine you carrying bulk loads of mics to the set. Now, I come from photography and a good exercise is to go out with a fixed focal length lens and learn to use it within the restrictions it poses, and learn how to get good results although another lens would be better.

So I ask you guys a question: If you were to choose just one mic, which would it be? To be more specific: The mic should perform to 90% or better in 90% of the situations you encounter (ok, I just made up these numbers, but I guess you get the idea).

In my particular case, I am just making the move into videography, I'm a newbie, and the bulk of the budget has gone to the cam (A1). My objective is really just to take the step to get away from the built in mic. I am looking for a versatile mic, although the situation that I will target is theater/stage recording (maybe there will be a possibility of getting sound from the theater sound system).

Thanks. Erik
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Old April 2nd, 2007, 08:12 AM   #2
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Canon XH-A1 or Sony HVR-A1? Well, both have XLR and phantom power.

If you plan to use it mainly on camera you will probably prefer a shootgun. I would stay away from the Sennheiser ME66 and head for a AT 4073a.

If you plan to use it off camera (more than half the rent on the way to good sound) get a hyper as your first mic. A good choice would be the Oktava MK12 with Rycote BBG and K-SSM Shockmount. You often get better sound with a hyper, especially indoors, as it sounds more natural. However, on camera it picks up more camera noise.

If you need both a shootgun and a hyper consider the AKG blueline.

[edit]
Personally I work with a Neumann KM185, a Neumann KMR81i and I have just bought an Oktava MK12 for a more risky field trip. I love the Neumanns but you can probably spend your money in a more economical way. If you go for the Oktava you might be able to afford a Mixer (e.g. Sound Devices Mixpre). That's where good sound starts.

Martin

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Old April 2nd, 2007, 11:16 AM   #3
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Thanks, sorry for not being clear. It's the Canon XH-A1.

Since I'm starting out I'm looking to buy just one mic, I don't know if there is such a mic: A general purpose versatile mic.

But of course I won't exclude that I may wish later to catch up with you guys and later want to supplement this, but not to replace it.

I see many references to the ME66/K6 as a starters kit. Which you recommend to stay away from. I'm in Europe and Sennheiser seems to be easier to find here. Sorry, but who makes the AT 4073a?

Since you mention phantom: Is this simply a module that powers from the cams battery? Does it reduce battery life significantly? Is there any situation that I may prefer non-phantom over phantom?

Thanks, Erik
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Old April 2nd, 2007, 11:45 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
Thanks, sorry for not being clear. It's the Canon XH-A1.
I see many references to the ME66/K6 as a starters kit. Which you recommend to stay away from. I'm in Europe and Sennheiser seems to be easier to find here. Sorry, but who makes the AT 4073a?
I started with the ME66 (as so many people have). It was fascinated by the sound at first but once you start hearing other mics things change. I do not like the sound of the ME66 any longer. It is just not as natural as it should be. Furthermore the off-axis coloration of the ME66 is quite strong (shotguns all have this problem as they are only directive in their mids and heights but not for low frequencies). The AT (= Audio Technica) 4073a is only about 100$ more expensive but plays in a different league.
Read this shotgun comparison here:
http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showthread.php?t=42674

Listen to them here: http://dvestore.com/theatre/mics.html
(although I consider the real world differences bigger than what you here in this test where everything is neatly set up.)

What you absolutely need in any case is good wind protection (at least a Rycote Softie, but in the end only a full Zepelin from K-Tek or Rycote really does the job outdoors) and a good shock mount. Consider it to be part of the investment. Without you only get half from your mic.

Give the hyper option a second thought. It is really interesting: so many people I know start with a ME66 and feel a need to move on after one or two projects. You really want a hyper once you heared the difference indoors, especially in smaller rooms. Sometimes it's like



Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
Since you mention phantom: Is this simply a module that powers from the cams battery? Does it reduce battery life significantly? Is there any situation that I may prefer non-phantom over phantom?
Phantom does not draw a lot of power, but it does draw some. It reduced battery life but nowhere near what you would. The only reason to use non-phantom mics is with recorders that do not have Phantom.

Audio is a chain, not just a mic. Mic positioning, protection against wind and handling noise, pre-amps, recording device. Think about investing in things that will finally lead to a whole setup.

Martin
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Old April 2nd, 2007, 11:55 AM   #5
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The AT835b is the most verasatile mic I have ever used and is a great value.
It worked well in every situation and never clipped the pd170.

The only thing is the mic is long. When I had my light and this mic on a pd170 the mic blocked the light causing a shadow.
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Old April 2nd, 2007, 07:58 PM   #6
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I'm going to disagee with EVERYONE here.

Do NOT get any kind of cardiod/hypercardiod "on camera" mic as your basic "GO TO" mic.

These are pretty much speical purpose mics and will be LOUSY for most typical beginner sound recording situations.

Get a solid dynamic stick mic first.

Dynamic so that there's NO NEED for power, neither batteries to go dead, nor phantom power that can get switched off.

Good choices would be the venerable EV-635a or EV-RE50, or perhaps a Beyer M-58 if you want something that looks more modern.

You want something with an interview length handle and perhaps spend a few bucks for the non-glare black finish for on-camera use.

Critical is a typical well designed dynamic mic's LOW handling noise. (something those camera/boom mount hypers WILL NOT HAVE.

This will cover... On-camera talking head interview situations. Basic in the field and even in the studio fundamental narration work. And in a sound reinforcement situation like a concert or lecture, you can put it on a tall stand right in front of a house speaker and get a decent recording without overdriving the mic.

If you only have one mic, you want it to be BULLETPROOF. No batteries to die, not too sensitive if someone shouts into it or drives by on a chopper - and so dependable that you can drop it a HUNDRED times and know that it will most probably STILL get the job done.

Mic's number 2-20 in your kit can do the fancy stuff. Make mike number ONE the kind of mic you'll still find useful 30 years from now.

My 2 cents anyway.
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 07:08 AM   #7
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Great post, rather against conventional wisdom though...

I am curious. Do you really use a dynamic mic on camera or on a boom? Please post a recording done like this and let us judge with our own ears.

Dynamic mics are good for situations where the sound source is very close to the mic. They are good on stage to prevent feedback. But I have never seen anybody using dynamic mics on camera or on a boom in film or video, appart from TV style interviews where the mic is held by the reporter and visible in the frame. Have you?
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 11:05 AM   #8
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If I only had one Mic

If I wanted just one mic for News gathering, I'd follow Bill Davis' advice and get a bullet proof dynamic stick mic.

If I wanted just one mic and wanted to shoot documentaries, I'd probably follow Richard's or Martin's advice and go for a boom mounted shotgun.

But Erik, you're saying you primarily wants to do theatre and stage recording with the possibility of getting a feed from the theatre sound system. Could you be more specific, are you talking about recording plays, musicals or bands? Is the camera going to be too far away to run a cable making a wireless system the only option, or are your actors able to perform just for you? How much do you have to spend?

The less specific you are about what you want to do, the more divergent your answers are going to be.

Also keep in mind that the XH-A1 has both XLR and minijack inputs which allows you to also use less expensive mics like the Rode VideoMic, which although not a pro mic, will give you much better sound than the camera mic with the advantage that it can be both camera mounted and used with Rode's own short boom. You may also want to partner up with somebody who wants to do sound and is willing to invest in a little gear...
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 06:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Saxer View Post
If you plan to use it mainly on camera you will probably prefer a shootgun. I would stay away from the Sennheiser ME66 and head for a AT 4073a.
Martin
This is a theoretical question that can not be answered properly. You can go 18 holes of golf with one iron (or wood) but it would be silly to do so.

Audio is similar.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old April 3rd, 2007, 11:13 PM   #10
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Listen to Ty.

I must confess I did once watch a guy play 9 holes with nothing but a 3 iron on a bet!

Made every pitch shot a very interesting learning experience --- well, actually what *I* mostly learned were a whole lot of "colorful" new words & phrases - but it sure was an entertaining round.

Ty, you going to be at NAB?
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Old April 4th, 2007, 03:15 AM   #11
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Interesting comments - Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Do NOT get any kind of cardiod/hypercardiod "on camera" mic as your basic "GO TO" mic.

These are pretty much speical purpose mics and will be LOUSY for most typical beginner sound recording situations.

Get a solid dynamic stick mic first.

Dynamic so that there's NO NEED for power, neither batteries to go dead, nor phantom power that can get switched off.

Good choices would be the venerable EV-635a or EV-RE50, or perhaps a Beyer M-58 if you want something that looks more modern.
I didn't even think of a dynamic omni-mic simply because everyone here seems to talk about sho(r)tguns - what do I know, I'm new on this. An omni-mic seems to be most useful in interview situations where you can get the mic up close.

But I'm the crew, so in most situations the easy go would be a camera mounted mic. Some situations may allow a fixed mounted mic somewhere nearer to the subject. A boom is out of the question as of now, that would require another person.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalunga Lima View Post
If I wanted just one mic for News gathering, I'd follow Bill Davis' advice and get a bullet proof dynamic stick mic.

If I wanted just one mic and wanted to shoot documentaries, I'd probably follow Richard's or Martin's advice and go for a boom mounted shotgun.

But Erik, you're saying you primarily wants to do theatre and stage recording with the possibility of getting a feed from the theatre sound system. Could you be more specific, are you talking about recording plays, musicals or bands? Is the camera going to be too far away to run a cable making a wireless system the only option, or are your actors able to perform just for you? How much do you have to spend?

The less specific you are about what you want to do, the more divergent your answers are going to be.
You're right, I'm not very specific. Partly on purpose, because I wanted to know what to get first. I know as time goes you will go out and get other mics when you learn the limits of what you have. Partly I was not specific because there seemed to be an established conversion towards sho(r)tguns.

With regards to theater: I talked with one actor and asked how they promote their play. They make a dvd that they distribute to interested theaters, and I just thought this would be a fun place to be: You get to work with actors that like acting and can give creative feedback - although these are not the best paid jobs.

I imagine that such a video will be composed from interviews with the actors, recording of rehersal and from the actual play. If recording in the theater there may be access to the sound system, and if not it may be needed to have a separate mic because camera won't be where the sound is best, but I can't predict the situation, because I haven't done it and it depends on the theater anyway.

To start out, I can only assume what I have. My budget is 4.000 euros, the 3.500 has been spent on the cam and I need a tripod too. So for a mic I can't spend a fortune.

Cheers, Erik
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Old April 4th, 2007, 03:21 AM   #12
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Interesting comments - Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Davis View Post
Do NOT get any kind of cardiod/hypercardiod "on camera" mic as your basic "GO TO" mic.

These are pretty much speical purpose mics and will be LOUSY for most typical beginner sound recording situations.

Get a solid dynamic stick mic first.

Dynamic so that there's NO NEED for power, neither batteries to go dead, nor phantom power that can get switched off.

Good choices would be the venerable EV-635a or EV-RE50, or perhaps a Beyer M-58 if you want something that looks more modern.
I didn't even think of a dynamic omni-mic simply because everyone here seems to talk about sho(r)tguns - what do I know, I'm new on this. An omni-mic seems to be most useful in interview situations where you can get the mic up close.

But I'm the crew, so in most situations the easy go would be a camera mounted mic. Some situations may allow a fixed mounted mic somewhere nearer to the subject. A boom is out of the question as of now, that would require another person.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kalunga Lima View Post
If I wanted just one mic for News gathering, I'd follow Bill Davis' advice and get a bullet proof dynamic stick mic.

If I wanted just one mic and wanted to shoot documentaries, I'd probably follow Richard's or Martin's advice and go for a boom mounted shotgun.

But Erik, you're saying you primarily wants to do theatre and stage recording with the possibility of getting a feed from the theatre sound system. Could you be more specific, are you talking about recording plays, musicals or bands? Is the camera going to be too far away to run a cable making a wireless system the only option, or are your actors able to perform just for you? How much do you have to spend?

The less specific you are about what you want to do, the more divergent your answers are going to be.
You're right, I'm not very specific. Partly on purpose, because I wanted to know what to get first. I know as time goes you will go out and get other mics when you learn the limits of what you have. Partly I was not specific because there seemed to be an established conversion towards sho(r)tguns.

With regards to theater: I talked with one actor and asked how they promote their play. They make a dvd that they distribute to interested theaters, and I just thought this would be a fun place to be: You get to work with actors that like acting and can give creative feedback - although these are not the best paid jobs.

I imagine that such a video will be composed from interviews with the actors, recording of rehersal and from the actual play. If recording in the theater there may be access to the sound system, and if not it may be needed to have a separate mic because camera won't be where the sound is best, but I can't predict the situation, because I haven't done it and it depends on the theater anyway.

To start out, I can only assume what I have. My budget is 4.000 euros, the 3.500 has been spent on the cam and I need a tripod too. So for a mic I can't spend a fortune.

Cheers, Erik
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Old April 4th, 2007, 10:11 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Norgaard View Post
But I'm the crew, so in most situations the easy go would be a camera mounted mic. Some situations may allow a fixed mounted mic somewhere nearer to the subject. A boom is out of the question as of now, that would require another person.
Erik, I hear you on the one man operation, as I am just that as well.
However, you should really have 2-3 mics in your kit.
Hyper cardiod (will give you great side rejection) for closeup recording (instruments and vocal)
Cardiod Shotgun for ambiant recording
or Omni for ambiant recording.

I use a Rode NTG2 for on camera recording. But I also use a wireless handheld for ambiant recording or micing of speakers (If no board feed is available), sent to my camera for recording.

Or I may also use an AT822 stereo mic or matched pair of Rode NT5 hyper cards (to record musicians or readers. Or direct feed from sound board) sent into a digital recorder (Edirol R4 or Zoom H4) and recorded to hard disk. At the same time I send a mixed down signal to my camera (RCA out or Line out) via wireless for monitor/sync/backup audio.

I set the channel with the wireless feed to my camera lower than my onboard shotgun mic and always get a good mix.

You really shouldn't rely on your onboard mic for anything more than ambiant mix of audio, as your sound source will always change depencing on what direction you are shooting.

The key is to set 1-2 additional sound sources for a constant audio signal.

Will work every time.
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Old April 4th, 2007, 11:23 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Liebergot View Post
E...
However, you should really have 2-3 mics in your kit.
Hyper cardiod (will give you great side rejection) for closeup recording (instruments and vocal)
Cardiod Shotgun for ambiant recording
or Omni for ambiant recording.

I...
Good advice but a minor clarification for our readers ... there is no such thing as a "cardioid shotgun." A mic may be cardioid with a wide hemispheric pattern, or shotgun (more properly called 'super-cardioid') with a narrow spotlight beam-like pattern, but they're mutually exclusive.
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Old April 4th, 2007, 11:30 AM   #15
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You can get away with using a dynamic mic in interview situations. The news guys do it all the time. If you're a one man band, just hand the dynamic mic to your subject and off you go. The dynamic mics that Bill listed in his previous post are rock solid, professional level microphones that you will be using forever and they are cheap (under $200 US). The problem with going with an on-camera mic is that you often have to compromise either the picture or the sound since the best location for both is seldom the same.

One other option, if all of your interviews are sit-down style (or at least limited in motion) is to consider a wired lavaliere. They are less obtrusive than a dynamic, although probably a little more expensive.
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