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Old March 15th, 2005, 03:05 AM   #1
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DVX100A mic - how do you get the best out of it?

Does anyone ever rely on the built in mic for the DVX100A to record high quality (professional) sound? I know you can get decent sound from it, but are there any parameters for getting REALLY good audio? I'm not planning to rely solely on the factory mic for my shoot, just wondering if you could actually make it work under ideal conditions. If so, what are they? Any and all input would be appreciated.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 11:37 AM   #2
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Acually the mic is really good, but for recording ambient sound. I used it just the other day to record downtown city sounds and it came out great. Where the mic falls short is when recording dialog or anything that requires a directional mic. For an ambient mic it is great, for anything else, get a shotgun.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 01:45 PM   #3
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The most critical factor to getting great audio is to get the mic close to the source. As such, that rules out any on-camera microphone, by default. The fault isn't in the mic itself, necessarily, but in the placement of the mic. You need to get the mic off the camera and right at your subject's mouth.

So no, if you're looking for great audio, it won't happen if the mic is mounted on the camera.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 02:22 PM   #4
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Thanks for the input, Stefan. If I can only use the on-camera mic for ambient sound that still makes it useable for a lot of my footage, which means one less accessory to worry about part of the time.

Barry, do you concur? I'm not sure, since the first part of your reply specifies proximity to source sound as a factor (as in dialogue), but the last line seems to rule out ANY good audio coming from the DVX mic. Could you clarify that a bit?
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Old March 15th, 2005, 03:14 PM   #5
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For ambient it does a fine job, because there isn't any specific source you're targeting (by definition).

For source recording (such as dialogue), no on-camera mic will do a good job. If you're recording someone speaking, you'll do far better to get a mic right up to the source, than you would with a $1,000 shotgun mounted on the camera from 15 feet away.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 05:26 PM   #6
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No on-camera mic will do a good job? Guess that sends me back to the drawing board then. I need portability and a high quality on-camera mic was going to be my compromise with the DVX100 factory mic. Is there a better solution? What are some of the highter quality LAVs? Sorry to ask so many questions. I had the impression a lot of people here found Stennheisers and other top grade mics to be adequate when mounted on-camera.

Well, maybe I should rephrase my question to read "How can you get professional sound with only an on-camera mic?". As much as it scares me to get an answer, it'd really help me to find out whether that's in the realm of realistic possibility or not.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 07:33 PM   #7
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I think what Barry was saying is that recording dialog at the source will always give you better audio than any on camera mic. This all depends on your application. If you are shooting a narrative film, then booming the mic to get your audio is prefereable, because you have complete control of the scene. However, if you are shooting weddings or other events where you cannot have someone holding a microphone at all times, an on camera mic is acceptable for receptions and other run and gun situations. A lav mic is great for getting vows and other intimate moments between the bride and groom, however, is not ideal for most narrative situations unless you have a way to hide the mic.
So it really depends on your application. What do you want to shoot with the DVX. The DVX was made for film makers (argue all you want about that but it is true). For this reason barry reccomended source recording.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 08:29 PM   #8
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Stefan's got it right, but let me clarify a bit:

Mounting a microphone on the camera is just about guaranteeing the lowest possible audio quality. You could only get worse by trying to intentionally harm the audio.

Now, if you have no choice, then you have no choice, and you do the best you can. But if you *do* have a choice, it's always better to get the mic closer.

To use Stefan's example of the wedding, a lavaliere planted on the groom or minister can deliver incredibly higher sound quality than an on-camera mic would (depending on other factors, such as: is the lavaliere a decent-quality one, and did you mount it properly?)

If you're gathering ambient, or shooting news or something like that, and you don't have any way to place the mic closer, or anyone to hold a boom for you, then yeah, on-camera's as good a place as anywhere. And if that's your case, you can improve the audio quality a little by going with a more expensive mic. However, if you have the chance to move the mic to the subject, you can improve the audio quality a LOT. A high-quality $179 omnidirectional lavaliere like a Countryman EMW, placed a foot away from the actor's mouth, will likely sound a whole lot better than a $1,000 MKH416 mounted on the camera and pointed at the actor from a distance of 15 feet.

What I'm saying is, one of the absolute most important factors for quality audio (and you did ask for "parameters for getting REALLY good audio") is mic placement. Other parameters would include selecting the proper type of mic for the shot (omni, cardioid, etc) and selecting decent quality gear. It can probably be argued back and forth, but mic placement is in my opinion one of the top two factors for getting great quality audio. The best boom operators will fight for every last inch of distance they can get, so they get the highest signal-to-noise ratio.

You gotta get that mic off the camera and over to the subject, that's rule 1.

Now, with that said, there is one way I can think of to get really decent audio from the on-camera mic. That way is, of course, to march the camera up to the actor, about six inches away from their mouth. You'll get lousy video that way, but you'll get the best audio the on-board mic can deliver! ;)
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Old March 15th, 2005, 09:42 PM   #9
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Ahhh, okay, glad you mentioned the part about marching the microphone to within 6 inches of the actor, Barry. That was going to be my next question (why can't you just move the camera closer to the actors?). So provided you can conceal them on your talent, the lavalieres are best for portability? I'm making a narrative feature film, but if I can, I want to forego a sound technician.

Basically to the maximum extent possible, I need to travel light and move FAST. Assuming I won't be able to operate a boom mic AND the camera all at once, could I get away with lavalieres for dialogue and maybe the DVX mic for ambient noise? Or would it be simpler and less time consuming to stick a mic stand just out of frame? I could move it between shots, but not while the actors are talking. Bear with me here. I think I've got my setup nearly figured out. All your free wisdom is saving me a lot of heartache further down the road and I honestly appreciate it.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 09:54 PM   #10
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99% of the audio recorded in feature films is done by a boom mic.

If you want your pic to sound like a feature film, you should employ similar techniques.

Lavalieres are the easiest mics to get "wrong"; if they're not mounted properly they'll rustle and pick up clothing noises and basically ruin your audio. Plus they'll have too much "presence" and sound more like a news reporter than a feature film.

Putting the mic on a stand out of frame is fine as long as nobody moves, but if they move, you want a professional trained boom operator following them.

You can, of course, forego a professional sound guy, but you do so at your soundtrack's peril. Not trying to be discouraging, but just telling it like it is. Go to a festival and watch some low-budget films, and one of the most glaring and instantly-noticeable things wrong with them is bad audio. If you don't want yours to sound like theirs, don't do what they do (and don't let a completely untrained individual operate the boom!) Instead try to get someone who knows what they're doing, and emulate the "right" way as much as possible.

And by all means, experiment before committing to the big project!
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Old March 15th, 2005, 10:23 PM   #11
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All very sound advice. I'm pretty sure I don't have scenes with anyone moving while delivering dialogue. Think I can get by with just a carefully placed mic on a stand. If there are any tricky scenes that way I'll keep the option of a very temporary sound tech in mind. Thanks again for your help, Barry (and Stefan). Glad I asked instead of relying on my meager knowledge at shooting time.
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Old March 15th, 2005, 11:11 PM   #12
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Another thing you can get away with, if you into this kind of thing is to record the dialog with an on camera mic, just so you can hear it, and then re record the dialog later in a controled environment. This works particularly well in situations where there is a lot of movement, or situations where there is a lot of ambient noise, or you just can't get a good recording. Through filters and talented actors you can get really good results having them re record their own audio. I am working on a short film right now where all of the audio (everything) is being done in post. Since I had such a small crew I quickly found out that the audio was not up to my expectations. Since then, I have had all of the actors re record all of their dialog, I have re recorded ambient sounds, footsteps, car screeches, doors, keys, everything in post. The results are better than I expected. I have complete control over how loud every single sound is, how crisp and clear I want it. Is it a lot of work? OH yeah, but I feel it's worth it. WOuld I do it for a feature length project? only if I was getting paid. As it is my film is only about 10 min long, so it is doable. But Roger, it is good that you are concerned about good audio, as good audio will always, ALWAYS outway good video. I look at audio as about 85% on the importance scale. It does make a big difference and is what separates the amature films from the professionals.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 01:26 AM   #13
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Roger

Possibly placing a crew call for a sound position might be in your interest; why invest so much time in something you are almost sure will not be the right way to do it? You will be surprised at how many people might be interested in crewing for you; taking care of the sound and possibly supporting and believing in your vision.

Something to think about.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 03:07 AM   #14
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I have given some thought to bringing in a sound person, John, but I guess I prefer to rely on as few people as possible. Actually, I'm NOT almost sure the way I'm approaching the sound won't be the right way to do it. That's what this thread is beginning to iron out for me. On-camera mics are clearly better relegated to ambient sound. Got that. No problem - put up a good shotgun mic on a stand just out of frame when my actors are speaking and keep all their action confined to the mic's most effective pickup area. So far so good....

Is there anything I'm not factoring in yet?


Stefan: I love the dubbing idea, but wouldn't it be hard to avoid the Kung Fu Theatre lip lag phenomena? You know the one I mean. Great if your film's a comedy like mine, but maybe not so good for other genres. It would work well for long shots at least.
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Old March 16th, 2005, 04:34 AM   #15
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<<<-- Originally posted by Roger Van Royen : No problem - put up a good shotgun mic on a stand just out of frame when my actors are speaking and keep all their action confined to the mic's most effective pickup area. So far so good....

Is there anything I'm not factoring in yet?
-->>>

Well, you may or may not be aware of the value of a good sound operator using a boom to get that shotgun as close to the actors as humanly possible (other people have said it, but just let me reiterate it).

I very rarely use a sound engineer on my shoots (I think I've contracted one twice). But both times have been for very dialogue-intensive shoots, and it's paid off immeasurably.

And on a semi-related note -- you say you have no scenes with actors moving while delivering dialogue. Just from a cinematographer's perspective, that sounds like a pretty static picture...might want to re-think that a bit. :)

Also, don't use a shotgun indoors...
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