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Canon EOS Crop Sensor for HD
APS-C sensor cameras including the 80D, 70D, 7D Mk. II, 7D, EOS M and Rebel models for HD video recording.


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Old April 20th, 2010, 08:55 PM   #1
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Suggestions for Equipment for a Documentary?

How's it going everyone? I'm a still photographer who's looking to get into doing a series of mini documentaries on local graffiti artists and muralists. They would be about 10 minutes apiece, shot mostly outdoors. I have a 7D, lenses, a good tripod and ballhead, and a Sennheiser lav mic already, but I need advice on adding a few things.

I need some type of line mixer, but I have no idea where to start. Since these will be short docs, gorilla style, getting top notch quality isn't a priority. Price and size are. I basically just need something that will do the trick so my sound isn't clipping and all over the place.

Like I said, I do have a tripod and a Manfrotto ballhead, which pans around, but is there anything else I should be thinking about? Again, price is my main consideration. Since price is relative ($1,000 is cheap for some), I'd say if I can get away with spending less than $300 total, I'd be happy. I do understand that price range may mean cutting big corners, but I'm just beginning and only need something to do the bare minimum for now.
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Old April 21st, 2010, 03:41 AM   #2
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You might want to consider getting a Fader ND so that you have more control over the light that's going into the camera (and therefore your aperture, depth of field, shutter speed etc).
Also some kind of loupe so that you can see the LCD properly eg the LCDVF.
That's probably blown your budget.
Maybe you could borrow a sound recorder from a friend?
On my 5Dmk2 the sound from a Rode Stereomic fed straight into the camera on auto works a lot of the time.
It would probably do the trick for what you are planning if it's non-critical ie if you can review on location and re-shoot if necessary.
The Rode has it's own power supply. I don't know if your lav will send a signal that is strong enough. Have you tried it?
I wouldn't underestimate sound. You can usually do something to fix or replace a bad picture. Bad sound usually cannot be fixed and will not be forgiven by the viewer.
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Old April 21st, 2010, 08:20 AM   #3
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I have a G2 wireless, so it's battery powered. I have tested it, and it works fine. I was just thinking of some type of cheap line mixer to help monitor (visually) the audio coming in. I also come from a sound background (mixing music), so I know how critical sound is!
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Old April 21st, 2010, 10:08 AM   #4
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Both Juicedlink and Beachtek sell devices that will trick the camera's auto gain into dropping way down so you can control input. The Juicedlink seems to be the best one, but it's going to cost you $400-$500.

You can get excellent sound quality by shooting double system sound with a recorder like the Zoom H4N, which sells for just under $300. It has a 1/4" socket on the bottom, so you can mount it to your hotshoe, with a hotshoe-to-1/4" adapter (around 20 bucks or so). Since you already have a good wireless, that's about all you'd need. You can get a J-Rod Cube for the hotshoe which allows you to mount both the Zoom and the wireless receiver. Or look into something like the marksphototools.com handle bracket with a coldshoe on the handle top. Indisystems sells a similar one that's only about $49, with a handle on the top. There are lots of gadgets like this out there, similar to a strobe handle bracket.

You will need one or two ND filters, since you'll be limited to a 1/50 shutter speed (or 1/60 if you're shooting 30fps instead of 24). I use a .9 (3 stops) which is good for most outdoor conditions. Some use the fader as mentioned above, but I prefer regular NDs. I can stack a .3 if I need more, or use the .3 or a .6 if I need less.

I use the Zoom H4N and am quite happy with the quality--better sound than I got from any traditional video camera shooting single system. You have to be careful and make sure the recorder is running, then start the camera. It takes 2 pushes of the record button to make the recorder go, so be sure to watch the numbers go by for a second or you could get burned. Syncing is easy since you have a reference track coming in from the camera.

A line mixer won't do you any good because the camera still has only auto gain. The only way to defeat is is with something like the Juicedlink, or as most of us do, go double system sound.
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Old April 21st, 2010, 10:21 AM   #5
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I have tested out the new Beachtek device DXA- SLR which seems to produce decent audio quality- though I can't compare it to the old model, as I never used one. It fits nicely below the camera and disables the cameras auto gain control. The biggest downfall to the unit- is that is doesn't provide a peaking meter, just a small light that flashes when the signal is peaking.
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 12:13 AM   #6
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Thanks for the replies everyone. So, it looks like there's no super cheap way to do acceptable audio w/o dropping $400 or so. I guess I'll shoot some silent movies for now to get the hang of video!
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 05:55 AM   #7
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You might do better with a video fluid head, like the Manfrotto 501
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Old April 23rd, 2010, 08:48 AM   #8
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Since I already have an RC2 system, how about a Manfrotto Mini Video Head? I'd prefer to not have to switch out plates continuosly since I'm primarily a still photographer.
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Old April 28th, 2010, 12:48 PM   #9
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This may be heresy but the on camera mic does actually work :) It's far from ideal but it will pick up usable sound with the usual caveats, handling noise, lens noise, operator noise, no good in wind, etc

That being said - what about renting? I know lots of rental houses have the zoom.
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Old April 30th, 2010, 01:51 PM   #10
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The camera mic is OK for ambient sound under some conditions, but it picks up from behind the camera as well as it does in front. It gives new meaning to the word "omni."

One thought I had, Norman. If money's tight at the moment, you could simply use your Sennheiser and go directly into the camera. If you're shooting interviews outdoors, there's going to be lots of ambient sound and you might get by with the auto gain not hurting you too much. As you said, it's about getting the films done cheaply, not about pristine quality. You won't have any way to monitor while recording, and all you can do is set your receiver level so it's OK, and monitor out of there with your headphones, just to be sure there's no interference, etc. People have done this and got useable sound. If you're in a quiet room, it wouldn't be so good because the auto gain would crank itself way up. But outside where there's some steady noise all the time, like in an urban area, it might work in an acceptable fashion for you. I think it would be worth a try.

If you go with a separate recorder, it doesn't have to be the Zoom H4N. That just happens to be the one most people use because it's the best quality for the money and it has 1/4" threads for easy mounting with a hotshoe adapter. There are little recorders for $100-$200 that would be OK, though they won't have XLR inputs, but your lav probably has a mini plug anyway. If not, you can get an adapter. I'd try the mic direct to the camera first. Not spending money and getting acceptable results is always a good thing.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 08:22 PM   #11
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Based on the fact that I'm new to video, and therefore don't have pan and manual focus-on-the-fly skill, I've decided it makes a lot more sense to get a video cam. However, I do plan on using my 7D for specialty shots, ie. ultra-wide and macro. Thanks everyone for the advice. Maybe, at some point, I'll take the plunge and learn more.
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Old May 2nd, 2010, 09:29 PM   #12
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A couple things pop into my head...

I have the G2s as well... Good little mic packs.

However:

If something will cause audio to overdrive, a lav clipped to your subject will do it before a shotgun mic that is a distance away will... the difference in proximity is a big deal. If you have the ability to borrow an ME66 or another type of shotgun that can use an onboard battery and a tap into the beltpack, maybe a friend could play sound man (or woman) for the day for you?

Alternatively...what if you did interviews with the graffiti artists on a video camera (rented? borrowed?) and got your conventional audio that way...and use you DSLR for the dynamic range it has to shoot the art itself?
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Old May 22nd, 2010, 11:28 AM   #13
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Sorry, somehow got posted in wrong thread - my fault I'm sure. Removed.
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