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Old April 14th, 2011, 12:13 PM   #1
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Best Audio setting for loud environment?

I will taping my band playing in a club tomorrow night with the NX5U and want to get your guys opinions on the best audio setting for the on-camera microphone? I don't want it to be clipping. Should I just leave it on AGC?
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Old April 14th, 2011, 04:06 PM   #2
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

What I suggest doing is switching over to manual audio control, using LInear PCM audio and engaging the audio limiter rather than relying on AGC. (You do know that a limiter basically compresses the loudest sounds to keep them from clipping while AGC simply moves volume levels up or down in relation to the loudest sound it detects? A limiter leaves your dynamic range intact until the sound goes above a certain level while AGC is like turning the volume knob up and down as you go along.)

I think there is an audio AGC circuit that runs whenever you use auto-levels with the on-board mic. There is no menu item or switch for shutting it off for auto modes. It only goes off when you switch from auto to manual level settings.

For running manual audio level with the limiter what you want to do is:

(a) in the "Audio Set" Menu switch audio limiter to on;

(b) if the "audio level display" is not already showing in your viewscreen, go into the Display Set Menu and switch "audio level display" to on;

(c) on the audio control panel on the left side of the camera, switch both channels from auto to manual (this engages the limiter function if you have switched it on in the menu);

(d) also switch both channels to either "Int Mic" (if you are using the built-in stereo mic) or Input 1 (if you are using the shotgun that shipped with the NX5).

(e) As long as your editing program will accept Linear PCM (not all of them will), I recommend that you change the Audio Format (in the Audio Set menu) from "Dolby Digital" to the more robust "Linear PCM" setting. (Don't do this if you need to convert to ProRes for editing, though. If you haven't tested LPCM audio with your NLE, do a short clip and make sure the NLE will play it back)

Then, get earphones and run a sound check before your start shooting. For a band in a club, I would probably try to set the level dials so that on the audio level display the very loudest levels do not push the bars further than about half or 2/3 the way across. The limiter will keep the sound levels from clipping when the band gets louder in performance. If you can test it with band playing at the absolute loudest you think it will go, you can try pushing the level settings higher.

You willl need to listen through headphones a bit to cross-reference the meters which are not particularly accurate. But, be aware that the headphone preamp on the NX5 can seem a bit noisy in quiet passages. If you hear ambient hiss or other noise through the headphones , it might be only the headphone preamp and not actually turning up on the recording. The mic-preamps on the NX5 seem pretty clean to me (noticably cleaner than they were on older cameras like the PD170.)

Do note that there there are two kinds of AGC on the NX5 and that this may create confusion. There is audio AGC and video AGC.

These audio controls should not be confused with the AGC settings in the "Camera Set" menu or the "Gain" button and switch on the lower left front side of the camera body These are light control for video recording, not audio.

Are you setting camera on a tripod and letting it run while you play? I would avoid using video AGC in a club setting, Instead, depedning on how dark or well lit the stage is, I would probably try to run set a manual focus and set a manual exposure. If the lighting is (like many clubs) rather dim, you might want to consider a 1/30th shutter speed and setting the video gain manually to M. You need need to go to H which will give you a lighter picture but also tends to be noticably grainer.
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Old April 15th, 2011, 11:29 AM   #3
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

Jay gives very good and very detailed advice but I note that you plan to use the camera's on-board mics for the audio, and going to all his settings would quite honestly be uneconomic for mic capsules that cost a fiver a bucketfull.

If it's going to be LOUD Jeff, than your biggest fear might be the mics bottoming out and sounding horrible. It wouild be better to consider an external dynamic mic setup that can handle the very high pressure levels, and your band probably has a suitcase load of these somewhere

tom.
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Old April 15th, 2011, 12:44 PM   #4
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

I don't know the audio block of the NX5 but a technique I use in this situation is to set one mic lower than the other. That way you have a few db of headroom on anything that overloads the other mic.
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Old April 15th, 2011, 03:54 PM   #5
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

Jeff---

I can see that we all are bit uncertain about exactly what you are going to do. So, Ill try to fill in some gaps here.

We all will agree with Tom that you likely record better sound using external microphones. You doubtless have your reasons for not doing so. What is not clear to me is whether:

(a) you only will be using the NX5's "built-n" stereo mic (that small bulbous protrusion at the front of the handle below the view screen)
or
(b) the Sony shotgun that comes with the NX5 and mounts in the clamp to the right of the handle (which some people call an "on-camera" mike because it is physically mounted on the camera)
or
(c) both of them.

It seems to me that, regardless of which you decide to use, you will want to engage the limiter and do a manual audio setting in order to avoid audio blow-outs during recording..

Tom's comment about the on-board mics being a "fiver a bucketful" is all too true, but I think that is all the more reason to take some care to prevent overload. The things I suggested are actually very simple. They are much harder to describe in writing than to actually carry them out. Kind of like writing directions on how to make a left turn.

I think Les has given you an excellent suggestion for using both the built-in and clamped on mics together. If you were familiar with the venue and already knew what worked, it might be different. But at this point, you apparently do not yet know how your NX5 is going to work in this particular venue for this gig. So, to implement Les's suggestion, you do the following. On the audio controls on the side of the camera, set channel 1 to "Int Mic" and set channel 2 to whichever XLR plug you use with the clamped-on Sony shotgun. This will give you a mono track for each mic. Set the volume on one track lower than on the other so you have something to fall back on if the band gets so loud it blows out the higher-volume track. My experience is that the Sony shotgun is a bit more robust than the built-in mike, so I would use that for the track with the higher-volume level. Realisticallly, the single stereo mic does not have much stereo separation in this kind of situation, so you are not losing anything by doing this. Plus, if both tracks turn out well, you can always boost the quieter one and maybe get better stereo separation.
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Old April 15th, 2011, 08:12 PM   #6
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Re: "fiver a bucketful"

OK, ya'll, I give up. Someone please define a "fiver a bucketful".

I agree with everything else, but that term lost me.
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Old April 15th, 2011, 09:43 PM   #7
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

Five (bucks, pounds, euros, etc) per bucket of the things.

Lots of regional linguistic variations. Hereabouts in the rural Rocky Mountain Western US, I've heard it used by some young folks to refer to mass quantities of really inexpensive, greasy fast food (as with a bucket of KFC). A friend from far Northern Minnesota uses the phrase to describe cheap fish bait.

To me, it means dirt cheap. Literally, At the local hardware store, I just saw large bucket of of potting soil for $5.25 (US$).
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Old April 15th, 2011, 10:22 PM   #8
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

With the shotgun mic you can send to both ch1 and ch 2 at different levels with the limiter set on both. That is how I set up mine all the time. Sometimes set one ch on auto (if I have no idea of what the level is going to be)and one on manual too though most of the time they are both manual at different levels. I don't think I have ever used the built in stereo mic.

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Old April 16th, 2011, 09:02 PM   #9
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

"I don't think I have ever used the built in stereo mic."

This comment got me musing about when audio may be "good enough."

If have to say that my initial reaction to Ron's comment was to nod in agreement.

But, as I think about it, I can remember using the built-in mic on several occasions and getting results that were good enough.

One time, for example, I unexpectedly had to record a meeting. I had my NX cam with me and had the shotgun mounted on it. But I needed as wide a pickup pattern as I could get. The set-up was such that I really could not swing the camera and point the "EX" mike at whomever was speaking around the table. The wide pick-up pattern of the built-in mic was just what I needed. The audio was not bad. For the purpose, it was great.

More recently, from a local performance which I shot with multiple cameras, I gave the bands and dancers DVD copies of a fixed camera view. This was from the FX1000 that I had used for the back-of-the room, locked-down center-wide view. If I recall correctly, the FX100 uses the same built-in mic as the NX does. The fixed cam view used the audio from the FX's built-in mic. The fixed-cam DVDs was a freebie so I did nothing with sound. I just dumped the footage to DVD and it was good enough for them to watch themselves. They all said they were pleased with the audio. Of course, I did not use it for the multi-cam edit from which I made the DVDs that we sold. For that, I mixed the audio tracks from my good mics and got what I thought was distinctly cleaner and clearer audio. My name was on those and I was selling the disks, so I wanted the audio as good as I could reasonably make it.

So, what is "good enough" depends on who wants to watch and listen to what and for what reason..

Also, it seems to me that the built-in mics of the Z5/FX and AX/NX cams work better than those on older cams like the PD170/VX2100.

I recall some postings from last year, from when the AX & NX cams had just been released. These were from early users of the AX cams. Some posted video/aiudio samples using the builit-in mic. Sherri Nestico's name comes to mind as somebody who got very acceptable audio with the AX's on-board mic when shooting bands and interviews at a street festival.

Now, would Jeff get better sound with well-placed good-quality mikes? Of course. If I were making a demo disk for him, would I use the built-in camera mics? Of course not.

But maybe the purpose of the video is only to get a sense of what the performance looks like, something that can be hard to gauge when you play in the band as he apparently does.

Seems to me that Jeff is looking to set up a locked down camera someplace in the room and try to get a sense of how the band looks and sounds while he is playing. For recording a band which is probably playing loudly, the built-in mike will be acceptable. Where you can get serious problems with it is during very quiet passages where the built-in mic with auto gain control will let you hear the auto-focus and the image stabilizer at work, and let you know every time you touch the camera. But it seems that we are talking about a locked down camera (so no handling noises) in a loud environment (so you don't need to worry about mechanism noises). .

Also, depending on where he can put the camera, the shotgun's pick-up pattern might be too narrow. Maybe it gets too much of the drummer or the bass-player. Or, if it is a string band, maybe there is too much of the banjo or fiddle player. Or maybe, Gold help us, you get the accordian player. :-) Maybe you want a wider swath of sound and more of the audience.

The NX cam's ability to run both the shotgun and the built-in together give him some flexibility, too, even though he has only the one one camera to work with. For example, he might want to have the camera on a tripod one side of the band (using the built-in mike for one audio channel) while the other audio channel comes from the shotgun on a stand on the other side of the band (connected via XLR extension cord,). He may have to fiddle with volume levels and panning while editing, but this may give him what he wants or needs. .

Would you make a commercial recording this way? Of course not. Would you use this recording to showcase the band?. Probably not. Although, there is no accounting for taste, here. I was recently given some footage and asked to put it on a DVD for a demo. I think it came from an iPhone or something similar. They did not want any editing. What they wanted was my DVD printer which could give them DVDs with the fancy label that they wanted.

Words like "appalling" and ludicrous" ran through my mind. But, the kids were happy. What they had was good enough for what they wanted. Sometimes good enough is, in fact, good enough.
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Old April 17th, 2011, 09:01 AM   #10
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

My main reason for not using the built in mic is I always shoot multicam so end up with 2 main cameras with shotgun mics, a XR500 in 5.1 ( using the Sony Blutooth mic at stage level for center channel), SR11 in stereo, and also stereo Zoom recorder at stage level too, with occasional feeds multitrack from the sound board to my Zoom R16. More audio sources than I need !!!!

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Old April 17th, 2011, 12:59 PM   #11
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

So true.

Another thought about the mics that Sony supplies with the NX5.

If Jeff were placing the camera in the back of the room, the Sony-supplied shotgun would be better for picking up the band because of its narrower pick-up pattern. In that case, it would best to have both channels assigned to the shotgun (as Ron suggested) and setting one channel lower than the other (as Les suggested.)

I gather Jeff has already done his recording, so it would be nice to know how things worked out for him.
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Old April 19th, 2011, 06:24 PM   #12
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Re: Best Audio setting for loud environment?

Wow guys!!! thanks for all the info!! I'm sorry I didn't chime in here earlier... I ended up not bothering trying to use the NX5 and just got my girlfriend to tape us using a point & shoot!! LOL... it served the purpose of seeing our performance.

When I had two guitars, amps, cabs, cables, mics and everything else to bring to the gig I decided to forget the NX5!

But thanks again for all the useful information! I'll definitely keep it in mind if I do try and use the NX5 to record us in the future.
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