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Old May 28th, 2005, 11:27 PM   #1
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Philadelphia, PA
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Best audio set-up

I'm going to be shooting a low-budget film with the XL2 soon, and not knowing much at all about audio production, I was wondering what the best set-up would be? I can't afford any expensive equipment (as I spent most of what I had on the camera itself), but I was looking for advice as far as, for example, would you suggest using a boom, and if so, what would be a good, inexpensive mic to use with it? Would it be better to use something like a dat recorder? As I said, I have practically no experience with audio, and was hoping someone could help me with advice as far as what settings to use on the camera for the best audio, is the mic that comes with the camera sufficient, etc? Any help would be appreciated.

Joe Kramer is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 29th, 2005, 12:20 AM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Los Angeles
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Hi Joe,
I am sure that if you search the posts you can find lots of advice on this topic. (I would really suggest picking up a book on production audio, such as Ty Ford's, as it may be an indespensible resource for you if you are really knew to this.) Unforntunately (well actually fortunately), there is no one answer since it depends so much on what you are shooting and on your budget. I am shooting a Very low budget film with an XL2 as well and, for what it's worth, my suggestions would be as follows:

Rule #1 : DO NOT skimp on audio! As many will tell you, it is "70% of what you see." Well, whatever it is, if it is not good, you will heavily regret it because it will be a big distraction from your story.

Rule #2 : Try and find a soundman or someone who knows about sound enough to help set it up and shoot it. This can be indespensible as it is difficult to shoot and listen and direct and whatever else you might be doing all at the same time.

If most of what you are shooting is dialog, then as a minimum I would suggest a boom mic going into the camera.
Rule # 3: Do NOT use a camera mounted mic as you will suffer from bad audio in most situations.

The XL2 has pretty decent audio and the only problem with recording straight into the camera is that it does not have a limiter! That means you can easily suffer digital overs which can and will destroy moments in your audio. If you leave enough headroom, you might end up with weak and noisy audio when you try and bring the volume up in post. Ideally, you would like to bring the audio into a portable mixer with a good limiter and then out to the XL2. I would forget about the DAT as it is not necessary and a creates other work.

Rule #4: There is no one mic that will work best in every situation. You really need to think about what types of locations you will be in. Short shotguns work well outdoors and in larger rooms or acoustically treated rooms. For dialog in small tight rooms, you WILL need a cardiord or hyper-cardiod mic.

After saying all that, though I have no idea what your budget is (much of this may be too much, but frankly if it is, you might want to reconsider what you are doing. The camera produces great pics, but if audio is bad, you film will be also) I would suggest the following as a starting point :

Mixer: Sound devices mixpre ~ $660 new, Shure FP32A or FP33 can be had used for $400 and up.

Mics: Short shotgun: Audio Technica AT4073A ~ $500 or AT897 ~$250
Hyper-cardiod Audio Technica AT4053A ~$377

There are a lot of mics that can do a fine job, but I am a real fan of the Audio Technicas for the great value they are. To get better, frankly you would need to spend 3 to 4 times as much, and then you would be hard pressed to tell the difference in many situations.

You will also need a boom pole and a shockmount ~$150 to $250 for a decent aluminum pole and general purpose shockmount. You will also need wind protection if you are shooting outdoors, a Rycote "softie" type unit at a minimum. Don't count on the foam that comes with the mic for more than indoor material. These can run ~$100 to 600 for a full zeppelin system.

Of course, this is what I would call the absolute minimum, since you can spend a lot more for a lot more "little things", wirelss mics, etc... But with the minimum, and good recording technique, you can get quality audio that will make your movie sound as much like a movie as the XL2 can make it look like a movie. If you just can't afford the equipkent for audio, I really suggest that you rent or borrow some for even one day and shoot wiith it, then compare the results to an on-camera mic (of any quality). I think you will see that you will see the great difference it can make.

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