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Old February 14th, 2012, 03:46 PM   #1
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Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

I am a freelance video editor trying to add videography to my skills. I have some camera experience but not much. I have even less audio experience. I have scoured the internet, including this forum for an audio set up. I want to run this by people with more experience than I before purchasing anything. I want to do mostly local small business highlights and some short documentaries to start. I would be doing mostly interviews and b-roll, no weddings, no live event recording. What I'm thinking about is the Audio Technica AT803 omnidirectional lav for a balanced connection to the Juicedlink DT414. I don't have to worry about disabling AGC but I want to control preamp and monitor levels. And I guess I have to buy a XLRF to XLRM cable. So is this a good setup? Anything I'm missing? Anything I don't need? I am on a VERY tight budget. Thanks in advance for any help/advice.
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Old February 14th, 2012, 05:19 PM   #2
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

The preamp in the Canons are for crap - meaning even if you have ML running, you're not likely to get the results you want.

Which leaves an outboard recorder. Before you decide on mic, you should probably decide on what recorder you want/need/can afford. There are two basic options: recorders with phantom powered XLR inputs, and recorders featuring only 1/8" inputs.

The ZoomH1 comes in at $95 and is highly recommended by many low budget shooters (like the Frugal Filmaker, Scott Eggleston). Lots & lots of positive reviews if you google it. Scott talks cheap add ons for the H1 here:
Zoom H1 Accessories - YouTube

Find it here:
http://www.amazon.com/Zoom-H1-Portable-Digital-Recorder/dp/B003QKBVYK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329260199&sr=8-1

Another highly rated $100 recorder from Tascam here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004OA6JW0/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thefrugfilm-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B004OA6JW0

If you know you're going to shoot using 3 pin XLRs, or simply want to future proof your investment, then you'll need to upgrade to something like the $275-ish Zoom H41, which again comes highly recommended by lots o shooters:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001QWBM62/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=4374026845&ref=pd_sl_95cbp8i8nq_b

If you want to go a little cheaper for XLR, Tascam has one for about $185:
http://www.amazon.com/DR-40-Channel-Portable-Digital-Recorder/dp/B005NACC6M/ref=sr_1_4?s=musical-instruments&ie=UTF8&qid=1329260876&sr=1-4

Once you've picked your recorder, the mic's next (note that in a pinch, any of the above recorders can also act as your mic). Lot of people dig the Rode 1/8" jack mics, although here are others in that price class.

Far as cheap lavs go, try this el cheapo $23 (again recommended by Scott):
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002HJ9PTO/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=thefrugfilm-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002HJ9PTO

If you want a shotgun mic, my research has lead me to this beauty (at $235 it's not cheap per se, but when compared to the normal $1,000 you can spend, it's a deal):
http://www.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-AT8035-Shotgun-Microphone/dp/B000ZLOGCC

Again, a not cheap, but cheap for what it does $300 wireless lav can be found here:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0051IAENY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=dfn0c-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B0051IAENY

A review of it here:
Samson Airline Micro wireless UHF system Review - DSLR FILM NOOB - YouTube

Alright - that's alls I gots! Hope it was of some help to you...
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Old February 14th, 2012, 05:55 PM   #3
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

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Originally Posted by John Vincent View Post
The preamp in the Canons are for crap - meaning even if you have ML running, you're not likely to get the results you want.
According to my tests, with a good external preamp into the 5D with Magic Lantern, you can get 90dB signal to noise. That's pretty much the 16-bit limit. Just this week, the guys over at Lindos confirmed it with better test equipment than I have. They also found that by running AJ5.9 firmware, the low cut filter was disabled and the response was flat.

Lindos Electronics Test Results - Canon - 5D mark II - Video

The THD is a bit higher than I'd like, but it's not bad. High level dialog can sound slightly harsh, but virtually noise free. The harshness is quite subtle, but it's definitely not as silky as you can get from high end gear.

Not only are the Canon preamps not "crap", but they can definitely deliver good 16-bit audio, given a good preamp upstream. In my experience, it's cleaner than an H4n or DR-100. The FR-2LE is the cheapest recorder I've found that beats a JL/5D2/ML combination.

A limiting factor used to be the low cut filter, but it seems that the latest ML code is able to bypass the filter.

One word of caution on the AT803b: it's a good, budget mic, but its signal is on the weak side. It doesn't need phantom power, so the DT414 is a good match.

One thing I'm not sure of is the T3i audio. The Magic Lantern Wiki shows the 600D as having "Limited Controls" for audio. I have no idea what the nature of the limitation is. I would have expected the same chip and implementation as in Canon's other DSLRs.

Unified - Magic Lantern Firmware Wiki
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Old February 14th, 2012, 06:57 PM   #4
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

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Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
One thing I'm not sure of is the T3i audio. The Magic Lantern Wiki shows the 600D as having "Limited Controls" for audio. I have no idea what the nature of the limitation is. I would have expected the same chip and implementation as in Canon's other DSLRs.
Jon, it's simply that there is a new chip in the T3i, and documentation is not available. This means that Magic Lantern is not really involved in the audio.

Unfortunately, this leaves a number of limitations compared to a ML equipped camera. While Canon now offer 'manual' gain controls, it's fairly clear that an unpredictable mixture of analog and digital is used when you adjust gain. Not good. The worst part is the lack of monitoring. Obviously you lose the 'extra' features like simultaneous use of internal and external mics too.

The AGC disable feature is a step forward though.

If you get the right signal going in, allowing you to set Canon's gain at the lowest, I believe the on-board audio should still be usable, but I would be inclined to use an external recorder if I only had the T3i, mainly for the lack of monitoring.

+1 for the Zoom H1 by the way.
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Old February 14th, 2012, 07:40 PM   #5
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

Bummer about the change in T3i audio.

FWIW, the Lindos guys measured a 9dB improvement in S/N ratio when Magic Lantern is applied. That is also in line with my tests.

With a new implementation in the T3i, no telling what the audio quality might be. I don't have one to test...
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Old February 14th, 2012, 10:04 PM   #6
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

Thanks for the input guys. As I understood it, the preamp on the t3i is not good which is why I was going to use the DT414. I'm not sure they make the AT803b anymore. When you go to the Audio Technica site there is only the AT803, but they both have the same description. From what I understand ML basically has nothing as far as audio controls for the t3i, another reason for the DT414. The DT414 also gives the ability to monitor levels.

Last edited by Lynne Cudden; February 14th, 2012 at 10:10 PM. Reason: Needed to add something.
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Old February 15th, 2012, 10:29 AM   #7
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

It's a little high priced still for this, particularly with a mic on top, but the FR2 LE is a wonder machine. The things I've managed to pull out of there even after low signal and badly mic-ed efforts are damn near miraculous.

I see a lot of people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid double system recording and/or winging it without 'phones if the distances get large. I guess it is pretty intimidating if you've never done it before, and there's other factors too. But for this I can't help thinking something like an H4n plus a lav would cost the same and be a lot more flexible. You've got several recording options into the bargain, instead of just one, and not restricted by things shackled to the camera.
With the juicedlink method, fine though it is, you're stuck with shelling out for more mics if you want broaden your audio horizons even a little bit.

Just a thought anyway.
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Old February 15th, 2012, 05:19 PM   #8
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

Man, Murray, I was really crushin' on the single system audio, but you make a good point. More options and about $50 dollars cheaper than my solution. I thought I was done looking things up but I guess I'll have to do a little more research. Thanks for your input.
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Old February 15th, 2012, 05:59 PM   #9
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

IMO, single system is the way to go for a single person. A separate recorder is great when you have a sound person.

I've shot solo with a 5D2, JL DT454, a wired omni lav, and Shure in-ear monitors at NAB. It was great! Given the noise on the show floor, I didn't bother with ML. I like to monitor from the camera, but being able to monitor from the preamp made everything simple. The omni caught the sounds of the show floor and it also let me clip it onto whomever I might interview. The in-ear monitors are stealthy and I could choose to plug it into just one ear. I felt more connected to the outside world that I do with headphones.

But the real reason I like single system for solo shooting is that I never, ever miss a clip. I know to turn on the preamp so I can hear the monitor. I then record into the camera without any worries.

Most budget recorders lack a Standby button. You push REC once to go into standby, then push it again to record. As a shooter, I'm trained to hit REC once on the camera. Having to hit it twice on the recorder is a recipe for failure. I once did a series of lightning interviews ("Say your name") with about 75 people using a separate recorder. Due to a low battery and human error, I lost three clips. That's a 4% failure rate. The thing is, I was busy wrangling people, seeing how the light fell, and framing. When shooting, my attention was 100% on the video monitor. When shooting, you can't just look over at the recorder to see if it's really recording, or if the Low Battery warning popped up on its screen. Has I used a preamp, I expect that I would have had zero failures. When the preamp battery is running low, you hear problems as they occur. You don't lose clips.

On the other hand, when you have a separate audio guy, it's nice not to have to run extra cables. He/she can watch the recorder for warnings and get into that STDBY/REC rhythm. Just shout, "roll sound" and go.
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Old February 15th, 2012, 08:06 PM   #10
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

I have a T2i so this is slightly different. However-

Even with Magic Lantern installed, the audio on the camera is a joke. I mean, technically you CAN get decent audio if you do everything right, but with no genuine way to monitor it (the ML workaround is pretty crappy) you're flying blind- it makes no sense to risk that unless you just need ambient sound.

People like the h4n, but I found that the Tascam DR-100 is a better buy. You can get a used one for $250 and the preamps are better; not only that, you have individual analog gain control, something the zoom doesn't have. This is key. After a lot of testing, I found this solution:

XLR mics into your Tascam. A gain of +7 is about as loud as you need to crank it.
Set the Tascam's audio output down (it defaults to 20, I think I set it to 13)
plug a mini cable from the Line OUT of the tascam to the mini jack on the T2i.
Bring all the ML audio gain settings down to 0.
Record on both the Tascam AND your T2i.

result- you now have good audio on the tascam, and a matching audio track already synced up with picture on the canon just in case. Plus you can monitor with headphones from the Tascam to ensure a good sound. That's still a pretty low-budget solution that yields professional level results. If you have good mics (I used my sennheiser 416) no one will ever question your methods when they hear the results.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 11:04 AM   #11
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

OK, I've made my decision. I'm going to stick with my original plan. While the H4n would give me more recording options, allowing me to use the camera audio as backup and save me around $50 bucks, I am a little concerned about the standby issue. As a newbie, I'm going to have enough to worry about without having the counter intuitive issue of having to push the rec button twice. Also, dual system audio costs money in time taken to figure out which audio clip goes with which video clips and then DualEyes or PluralEyes them together. Those are great products and when they work they can save time, but when they don't, they can cost you a lot of time and time is money. As an editor, once I'm done logging my clips I don't want the added step of syncing audio. So that's it. Thank you all for your input. Once I get the system up and running, I'll let you know how it works.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 11:37 AM   #12
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

Great thread. From what I gathered here I may opt for a JL as well. I usually capture audio on a sepearate recorder and lav, but sometimes you need to move faster! And it's great to not have to sync in post, though that is becoming less and less of an issue.
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Old February 16th, 2012, 11:39 AM   #13
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

Down the road, if you want a cheap, standalone option, you can get a cheap 1/8" input recorder to use with the JL.

I have a Microtrack II, which has terrible 1/4" preamps. Alone, it really doesn't compete with the H4n or DR100. Add a juicedLink preamp, and the Microtrack II becomes viable. It's still not quite as clean as the other recorders, but it's very close.

I haven't tested it but a JL + H1 combination would probably be pretty clean.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 03:11 AM   #14
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

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Originally Posted by Murray Christian View Post
I see a lot of people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid double system recording and/or winging it without 'phones if the distances get large. I guess it is pretty intimidating if you've never done it before, and there's other factors too. But for this I can't help thinking something like an H4n plus a lav would cost the same and be a lot more flexible. You've got several recording options into the bargain, instead of just one, and not restricted by things shackled to the camera.
Even better use a cheap lav with a Zoom H1 at 1/3 of the price or put another way you can have three of them for the price. The H1 is much smaller & more suitable to be thrust into a pocket. It will record all day on a single AA battery. The in-built mics are very decent too. We use multiple H1s & just let Plural Eyes sort it all out.
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Old February 19th, 2012, 10:36 AM   #15
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Re: Thoughts on my t3i audio setup

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let Plural Eyes sort it all out.
I'd never heard of that one. Look interesting. How accurate is it? Even if it's only fairly accurate it'd speed things up a lot.
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