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Old November 23rd, 2007, 01:02 PM   #1
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Solo shooter audio options

I'm a solo operation using an HV20, Canon shotgun and an AT wireless lav. I've been reading a lot about improving audio. My camera is capable of great images but the audio leaves something to desired, so I'm thinking it may be time to add a mixer or, based on reading an older post in the HV 20 forum, something like an SD 7 series recorder and bypassing (or using it only as a backup) the camera altogether.

So, I have a few choices: mixer, recorder or both. I don't plan to keep the small camera forever, so the money spent on audio is an investment I need to be able to use with future gear. I understand how each unit works in principle, though not entirely sure why you can skip the mixer on the SD 7 series and go right to the recorder (is there a built-in mixer?)

What I don't "get" is the hands on logistics during a shoot. Where do you park the sound gear in relation to the camera, near the tripod? What if you are handheld, must you allow several dozen feet of cable to move around?

Forgive me the naive questions. Most of the people I see shooting are handheld and run everything directly to the camera. My camera is is sort of the weak link in the chain as it pertains to audio. I don't envision ever having a second person to work with, so my solution has to be as close to "set it and forget it" as reasonable.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 03:34 PM   #2
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Good audio is tougher to get than good video. To get good audio you have to get as close as possible to the sound source with a good quality mic of the right type for the application. Mixers and other equipment have their place in the chain, but they can't do much to fix the consequences of violations earlier in the chain.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 04:22 PM   #3
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From what I understand, the HV20 only has mic in. So if you don't want to try getting away with overloading it, you'll to supply a mic level input.

I believe a good solution would be to use an SD 302 mixer.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 06:21 PM   #4
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Hi,
Looking at your setup, your "set and forget" requirement and lack of a 2nd person.

Maybe you could upgrade your wireless mic system.
Lectrosonics perhaps?

And a SD 7 recorder couldn't hurt. The SD 7 is primarily a recorder but
you can mix with it too.

You generally park your sound equipment next to your recorder.
If you are handheld, it is ideal to run wireless mics.
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Old November 23rd, 2007, 11:31 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Moretti View Post
From what I understand, the HV20 only has mic in. So if you don't want to try getting away with overloading it, you'll to supply a mic level input.

I believe a good solution would be to use an SD 302 mixer.
I strongly second Peter's choice.

Regards,

Ty Ford

PS I own a 744T it has adjustable inputs, but they don't really take the place of a mixer. I also have a 442 mixer. Together they work very well. I can feed three cameras with a stereo mix the and AT THE SAME TIME record four iso traks from the mixer to the 744T.

Blows my skirt up just to think about it. :)
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Old November 24th, 2007, 08:30 AM   #6
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Bob, with all due respect to the other posters, if you're currently operating with a camera mounted Canon DM-50, I think that there are a number of things you should purchase and a number of things you should learn before you purchase a $1300 mixer. Start with a book or two. Hey, Ty's audio boot camp booklet for example.
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Old November 24th, 2007, 09:41 AM   #7
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::Blush::

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old November 24th, 2007, 11:48 AM   #8
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I agree David! Actually, it's the reading that prompted these questions. With more information comes more questions.

There's a lot of room for improvement, I know. I guess the question is: Where do you start and at what point do you concern yourself with mixing versus taking the sound directly from the mic into the camera?

The Canon shotgun is not that bad, but it doesn't eliminate the need for something like a hypercardioid on a boom (and stand). And I'm already planning to upgrade the wireless mic.

What were you alluding to with the "number of things you should purchase" comment?

I'm in no rush to buy a mixer, per se, if the more logical path should start somewhere else. My concern, in the original post, was creating good audio and then feeding it to the mediocre HV20 device.....and medicore is my term based on reading elsewhere where people have voiced that concern. But I'm not inclined to make the process any more complicated than it needs to be for good quality. If I can get quality without mixing, that's fine.

Bob
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Old November 24th, 2007, 12:51 PM   #9
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Why you DO need a mixer

Mixers are more than knobs that let you vary the volume.

1. They let you vary volumes without shaking the camera or getting in the way of the camera op.
2. You may need to do that a lot with some people. I ride gain even if one person is talking if their voice fades on the end of each line. You can only do this in a relatively quiet environment, otherwise you bring up the ambient noise.
3. Mixer preamps (good ones) sound better than camera preamps.
4. Good mixers have input transformers that scrape off RF before it get into your audio.
5. Good mixers have limiters that allow you to record hotter, keeping your audio further above the noise floor without distorting.
6. Good limtiers have EQ that lets you roll of LF HVAC noise before it gets into your audio.
7. Good mixers have mulitple outputs so you can feed more than one camera, or separate recorder simultaneously.
8. Good mixers make your sound better. If they didn't pros wouldn't use them.

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old November 24th, 2007, 04:35 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
Mixers are more than knobs that let you vary the volume. [...] Good mixers make your sound better. If they didn't pros wouldn't use them.
I second Ty's statements. I have a Sony Z1U that I use with a few different microphones for different situations, and ever since I put an SD302 between the mic and the camera, there's been noticeably better audio quality in my recordings. So while technically my Z1U has all the goodies that the mixer has (pre-amps, gain controls, limiters), there's a significant difference in how well they work.

- Martin
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Old November 28th, 2007, 09:09 AM   #11
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Going in cirlces

Using the fine information obtained here, I spent yesterday evening in a pro sound shop in NYC, one that specializes in sound for video. What a difference pro in-person advice makes! They offered some suggestions about improving wireless performance but, eventually, the discussion turned to "You're going to land up spending more on quality sound than you spent on your camera!" when I started to ask about mixers and other improvements.

I'm going to rent before I purchase, regardless of what path I take. But the salesperson asked me "What's the point of buying a good mixer (MixPre or 302) and then feeding the signal into a consumer minicam, albeit a good one (HV 20)?" This wasn't delivered sarcastically and they don't sell cameras so he wasn't trying to make a sale on that end.

So I feel like I'm chasing my own tail here. I'm very happy with the image quality from the camera. Will I keep it forever, no. I'd prefer to see what shakes out with the new crop of Sony's....but even then the audio circuitry in the camera will be the weak link; it's a camera after all, not a sound recorder.

Surely I'm not the first person facing this issue, whether to get a mixer, stand alone recorder or some other option I don't see.

Bob
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Old November 28th, 2007, 09:33 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Kerner View Post
But the salesperson asked me "What's the point of buying a good mixer (MixPre or 302) and then feeding the signal into a consumer minicam, albeit a good one (HV 20)?" [...] So I feel like I'm chasing my own tail here. I'm very happy with the image quality from the camera. Will I keep it forever, no. I'd prefer to see what shakes out with the new crop of Sony's....but even then the audio circuitry in the camera will be the weak link; it's a camera after all, not a sound recorder.
Bob,

you are correct in that your current camera will not be able to make the most out of a superb mic/mixer setup. Still, here is how I would look at the purchase of a MixPre or 302 if I were in your situation:

- It will improve your sound quality with your current camera to some extend,
- It prepares you for fully exploiting the better audio circuitry in a camera that you may work with in the future, and
- Should you decide one day to rent or purchase a separate audio recorder, you'll be in an excellent position to feed this recorder the best possible input signal.

The question I would ask myself is: how likely am I going to have a camera with better audio or a separate digital recorder in the future? If there's a high probability that either or these will happen, then a good mixer should be a wise investment for you at this time. If not, well, then it would be much harder to justify.

- Martin
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Old November 28th, 2007, 11:04 AM   #13
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Bob, don't make me come up there and push you into the pool with the big kids. I swear to God I WILL do it!

Regards,

Ty Ford
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Old November 28th, 2007, 01:20 PM   #14
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Bob,

I'm going to be using this exact same setup, but I'm still waiting on the 302 and 744T to come in. So I'll let you know what I discover.

That said, I believe the HV20 only accepts mic in. This means you'd need a line level to mic level attenuator to use the MixPre, since it only has line out.

Here's a link to an attenuator, but I can't attest to how well it, or attenuators in general, work.

http://benchmarkmedia.com/micpre/lma.html

The 302, on the other hand, has mic out.

Here is a "crazy" idea for you that I'd love the audio experts here to comment on:

1. Get a 702T.
2. Send the 702T's timecode signal (LTC) to one of the HV-20's audio channels.
3. Send one of 702T's audio outputs to the HV-20's other channel. (I believe there is a way to do this w/o creating any significant delay.)
4. Use attenuators, if needed, with the above connections.

You now have a kick-butt 24-bit sound recording. And you have matching audio track AND timecode on the tape to synch the externally recorded sound to.

You will be relying on the 702T's levels and limiters. But if you don't like their job, you could always add a MixPre (or 302) between it and the mics.

Comments? Is this crazy, or should it work?
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Old November 28th, 2007, 01:58 PM   #15
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Peter,

I like your thinking. Don't record the SMPTE level very high; maybe -6 or -10.

There's also modules that pull SMPTE out of the LANC signal that many prosumer cameras have.

As for line to mic adapters, Sound Devices makes their own.
http://www.sounddevices.com/products/xl40.htm

Regards,

Ty Ford
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