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Old March 17th, 2002, 02:28 PM   #1
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Rookie needs help with wireless mikes

I'm new to the event videography arena and new to this forum. I have read many of the posts here but I'm still not quite sure what type of equipment I should acquire.

My situation is that I film events at local schools, and then edit the video into polished VHS tapes (or DVD's) that are sold to parents. These events are usually on a stage in front of 300-500 parents. The events may be a songfest or a play that features a large number of kids on the stage. I usually have two cameras in operation, a VX-2000 that films from the back and an Optura Pi that typically is located in the first row. Neither of these positions is optimal for picking up good audio. (Crowd noise and uncensored comments from parents can ruin the audio collected in this way.)

So far I have been borrowing a third DV camcorder to position at the edge of the stage to collect the audio. The quality of the sound captured this way is pretty awful and it also requires that I synchronize this third audio track with the video provided by the other camcorders.

I need a better setup to capture the audio from these performance. This is an environment where I typically can't use microphones attached to people, so I need some microphones that could be positioned at the front edge of the stage. Optimally these mikes would have a 180 degree capture range to capture sounds from the stage but ignore sounds coming from the crowd. I would need wireless connectivity to get the signal from the mikes back to the VX-2000 in the back of the auditorium.

I am looking for some advice on the best way to address this situation with a wireless setup. My thoughts on priorities would be:
1. Sound quality needs to be good but not great.
2. Dropouts or static is totally unacceptable.
3. Cost is an issue.
4. Stereo would be very nice, but not absolutely necessary

I also have an issue adjusting the level of the sound prior to the performance. Do you use the AGC with the camera when using a wireless mike? Does this result in hiss during the quiet times? How do you prevent the sound from getting clipped if you don't use the AGC?

Any advice would be very much appreciated!
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Old March 18th, 2002, 07:47 AM   #2
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Cost and then do a search.

There are lots of options, but you have left out cost...how much are you willing to spend.

Basically, I think what you are trying to do cannot be done cheaply, requires additional operators, and technique.

As far as mic options go, do a search on this site for either wireless or mic and read what you get. When you get a chance, go over to the Jay Rose site and read everything there.

Nathan Gifford
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Old March 18th, 2002, 08:23 AM   #3
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Jay Rose site located at www.dplay.com -- in addition to further advice received here.
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Old March 18th, 2002, 03:32 PM   #4
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Is there a house sound system from which you can get a feed? That is normally the best way to get good sound at a stage event.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 12:34 PM   #5
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I agree with Ed, a feed from the PA board is ideal. Plus they normally set up the board in the back, so it's a short distance to your main camera, and no worries about sync. If that is impossible (but I can't imagine why, since it sounds like you have the full cooperation of the event management) then there's Plan B. I would be very concerned about using wireless at that distance unless they were UHF (and I know you said cost is an issue). Test, test, test! before using. Or go wired. Most professional mics using an XLR connector are lo-Z and can run a pretty good length of cable without significant loss (IF you have no problems with laying and taping down all that cable). Again, test the setup. I have done this as much as 125 feet from the camera.

But you are still better off pulling a feed from the board.

As for gain, I always keep a set of headphones on while taping. You can set the pot to handle peaks while the orchestra is playing full tilt and ride the gain for quiet passages, but at the end of the day I usually opt for letting the AGC compress it all for me unless I have all the dynamics committed to memory and this prevents surprises. Yes sometimes I do tweak the sound in post.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 06:59 PM   #6
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Thanks for all the feedback

I really appreciate everyone's comments and advice. It sounds like I should figure out how to get the sound off the board if I can. Unfortunately, many of these events are are school events and the equipment, if any, is handled by teachers who aren't very familiar with the setup. Lots of opportunity for screw-ups that could mess up the sound so that it wouldn't be usable... It is also difficult to run cables in this environment due to the number of parents and kids running around.
From a cost perspective, we could probably afford $500-$800 for a good setup if that is possible in this price range. It sounds like a UHF model would be required in this environment. Much more expensive than this and it would be tempting to get another DV camcorder, just to record the sound. Although the sound quality would be much inferior, it would give us a backup camera in case one of the others went down.
I will take a hard look at the website that was mentioned. Is his book worth buying?
Thanks again for all the advice.

Alan (Squash_pro)
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Old March 20th, 2002, 07:50 PM   #7
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It may be tempting to get another DV camcorder, but you might want to look at some of the other threads to see what some of us have to say about on-camera mikes---it ain't good. Actually, you have already proven that to yourself. If you are going to invest in an additional recording device, what about a used DAT and some decent general purpose mics on stands at the foot of the stage? Yes, you still have the sync hassle, but good sound. Or if you are really hot to get that extra camcorder, please use an external mic of some quality.
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