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Old April 14th, 2008, 03:59 PM   #1
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Audio for On-the-Go Documentary

I'm shooting a documentary about a band on the road, and I'm wondering what the best solution would be for me for audio. I'm using the Sony VX2100. The only accessory I have is a cheap wireless lav system that only cost us $150. It works well sometimes, but it's not a great system.

The two most common locations I shoot in are in the van, and the shows on stage. For the van, I've been using the on-camera mic, but we're looking for something a bit better. We have about $400-500 to spend. We'd also like to get a decent recording of live shows as well (especially when they're acoustic and they don't plug in at all, so no board feed is available).

A couple of options I've seen are the M-Audio MicroTrack II, which is nice because it's portable, but I'm not sure what the quality is like for it, or what kind of range it gets. Another is the Rode NT3, which someone mentioned works well for live shows.

Another thing to consider is that I'm the only person available making this documentary, so a person holding a boom mic is out of the question. Can anyone give me some advice on the two options I mentioned, or offer any additional options that might work better? Thanks.

jts
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Old April 14th, 2008, 05:02 PM   #2
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Van shots are so noisy, it won't really matter what microphone you use. Shotguns are definitely out as they don't block low-frequency noise from the sides and rear, they are long and clumsy and don't deal with overloads very well. They don't sound very good either.

With a 2100, you are limited to the types of microphones you can use unless you invest in an XLR adapter.

In concert, with an accoustic performance, I don't see how you will be able to obtain good sound with a single microphone. If the instruments all have pickups, why not have them plug in but just into a mixer that feeds the camera?

If you cannot do that, then consider hanging a microphone from the overhead (choir microphone placement). Something like a Shure SM81 which is a great unit. I use one for everything from gunshots to guitars to drums with no problems. I paid about $350 for mine and you would have to add a module to provide phantom power or get an XLR adapter that has that feature.

This one will work well in the van too. It comes with an effective wind screen so that will help as well. They have an accessory wind screen and grill for use as a vocal microphone.

http://www.shure.com/ProAudio/Produc...M81-LC_content if you want to look at it.
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Old April 24th, 2008, 02:57 PM   #3
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Thanks a bunch for the reply. Your help is much appreciated.

On an unrelated note, it now seems I'm having major trouble with my VX2100. Before, I was getting the occasional dropped audio when reviewing my tapes, but now it looks like the video is pixelating as well. This is occuring much more often too. When I looked at the tape itself, it looks to be a bit crinkled.

I have a head cleaner tape that I've used, but that doesn't get rid of the problem. I read a few other posts, and it definitely looks like my camera is pretty dirty (not the heads, but other parts) and is in needing of a good cleaning. Does that sound right?
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Old April 26th, 2008, 02:54 AM   #4
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Sounds to me like you need to get your camera serviced. Are you using one brand of tape or are you using different brands, eg sony, panasonic etc. Different brands of tape use different lubricants and if you mix them up they can cause problems. A solution to this is to put a cleaning tape through your camera every time you change brands.

Also in regard to you mic problems, LAFCPUG has an article comparing a number of lavalier mics.

Hope this helps
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Old April 30th, 2008, 11:59 AM   #5
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Thanks. Good to know. I use Sony brand tape only, so that's definitely not the problem. I think it just needs a good cleaning regardless.
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Old April 30th, 2008, 10:03 PM   #6
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Does your camera have plug in power? If so, I'd get a giant squid lav (wired) for the van interiors. Then get the AT897 as a general on-camera mic and for the concerts. Giant Squid should be about $35. AT897 should be under $300. Lets see, that leaves $250. Get a dynamic handheld mic like the Electrolux RE50, $160. Use this for interview type stuff in noisy locations. You should be able to talk to people in very loud environments with it, but you'll have to push the mic right into their face. As you're solo, you could just hand it to them and tell them to hold it right up to their mouths. For an on-camera shockmount, you can't beat the PSC UCSM for $56: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Universal.html. It has threads on the bottom, so if you ever get a boom pole you can use it with that, although be careful, as the foot is plastic. At least the foot is replaceable. For a cheap (balanced) XLR adapter, get a Shure A96F XLR -- http://www.shure.com/ProAudio/Produc...o_A96F_content. B&H no longer carries it, but you should be able to find one for under $50. Don't bother with double system sound. Spend all your money on mics.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 11:48 AM   #7
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Marco,

I have to strongly disagree with your choice of a shotgun microphone for general use and especially at any music event that might get loud.

Shotguns are notorious for being easily overloaded, they don't sound particularly good at the best of times and they accept lower frequency sound from the sides and rear.

That is why I suggested the Shure 81 although it does need a microphone suspension as it isn't as isolated from handling noise as one of the dynamics mentioned below.

I agree that the Electrolux or a Shure dynamic will work in noisy areas including the van.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 12:24 PM   #8
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I don't think that the Shure 81 is a realistic option with this budget. It requires phantom power for one thing, and doesn't seem like a good choice as an on-camera mic, which he clearly needs. The AT897 has a maximum sound level of 115 dB SPL, which is louder than a pneumatic drill. You're right though, if the band was really, really loud, it would blow out the AT897. It would also be painful to the audience. It seems unlikely that this band is that loud. As far as sound quality, I can't argue that shotguns are ideal for concerts. Still, we're shooting a documentary about a gospel band right now, and the camera mounted CS3e has been turning in surprisingly good sound, sometimes better than the Schoeps and Blueline mics I also set up. The CS3e is really just there as a backup, but I've ended up using it as the main sound source for some of the footage. No doubt I probably didn't get good placement on the other mics, but you can make surprisingly good music recordings with a shotgun. And remember, it's not like he's recording the philharmonic.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 12:41 PM   #9
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The AT897 is only 115 db when not on phantom power. when using phantom power, it can handle 129 db. I use it to record top fuel blown nitro motorcycles. I commonly stand within 5 foot of the starting line, and I have never had a problem with the sound quality. We listen to the footage in slow motion to detect problems in the engine. I agree that in a van it would probably pick up a lot of undesirable noise. There may be a lot of reasons to not use the AT897, but I honestly do not think he could overload it even without phantom power.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 01:40 PM   #10
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I would worry though about overloading the camera preamps. It would be wise to keep an inline, switchable attenuator handy just in case, if it can be worked into the budget. Better yet, an under the camera XLR adapter with adjustable pots. This would let you use the on camera mic and the handheld dynamic at the same time, which would be a good idea.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 02:21 PM   #11
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The 81C can handle 136 db of pressure which is enough to keep me out of trouble during SWAT live fire and entry excercises (flash-bangs) and I can stick the microphone right down the exhaust of engines to hear every nuance of the exhaust sound. It has a built-in 10dB attenuator, comes with an effective wind screen and works really well as an on-camera microphone. It is a Cardiod and works much better than a shotgun in noisy environments.

It also is shorter than a shotgun, the lenght of which can, in a crowd be a problem.

If I could only have one microphone, the SM81 is the one I'd choose.

A phantom power supply isn't a big deal and many are battery operated. Once you have one, your microphone options go way up.

Here is what Shure says about the microphone. I tend to agree.

The SM81 is ruggedly constructed. It operates on phantom power and performs over a wide range of temperatures and humidity conditions. It is furnished with a swivel adapter, attenuator-switch lock, foam windscreen, and case for carrying and storage. Other accessories are available.

0 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response
Flat response curve for accurate reproduction of sound sources
Low noise and high output clipping level
Low distortion over a wide range of load impedances
Cardioid polar pattern, uniform with frequency and symmetric about axis, providing maximum rejection and minimum coloration of off-axis sounds
Low RF susceptibility
Selectable low-frequency response: flat, 6 or 18 dB/octave rolloff
0 dB/10 dB lockable attenuator switch
Phantom powering (DIN 45 596 voltages of 12 to 48 Vdc)
Rugged steel construction for durability
Field-usable over wide range of temperature and humidity conditions

Did I mention it sounds better than any shotgun I've ever heard?

Other than wireless lavs for weddings, etc., the only other microphone I normally use is a Beta58 for noisy interviews (like Market Street in San Francisco during rush hour) and for singers.

Although I don't get rid of much equipment, I did sell my shotgun microphone since I didn't use it at all after I got burned using it at an outdoor concert.

The preamps in the Sony's are susceptable to overload and an attenuator of some sort would be advisable.
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Old May 1st, 2008, 06:15 PM   #12
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Hey, sounds like a cool mic! Yeah, I agree having phantom power is a must, but I'm not sure how Tag can make that work here.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 02:24 AM   #13
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Somehow he's going to have to adapt a balanced microphone to an unbalanced input. So get an XLR adapter with Phantom power. They work OK and won't go over his budget.


http://www.audiogear.com/cgi-bin/sho...&preadd=action for a really simple XLR to mini-plug at $ 13. I'd prefer a transformer-based conversion but direct wire conversions work too.

Add a battery-operated Stewart Phantom power box for around $70 IIRC. Sweetwater carries those.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 10:43 AM   #14
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That's a cool adapter. Does the Sony have plug-in power though? I was under the impression that it did. If so, that would require an adapter with a voltage blocking capacitor. That's why I suggested the Shure.
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Old May 2nd, 2008, 12:03 PM   #15
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Another nice high SPL mic is the Audio Technica AT3031. Requires phantom but it's cheap, has a decent pad, and low frequency roll-off. At 5" / 4 oz. it's like a little stick of audio dyno-mite.

[EDIT] And it works great with the Microtrack I.
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