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Old October 7th, 2008, 10:19 PM   #1
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Best sound setup for solo travel doc for <$700?

Hi guys,

A run-down on my situation can be found on this thread where some suggestions have been made...

Advice on gear for solo travel doc around SE Asia - The Digital Video Information Network

But for those that don't want to read through that, I'm travelling around South East Asia, going solo and using an HV30.

I need to pack light but I obviously don't mind a bit of extra weight if the sound pay off is worth it.

I've done searches on the forum over and over but I'm getting bogged down in information and without knowing the technical details I'm a bit lost. :/

Points to consider:
1. I'm a total noob when it comes to sound, I've done a film course and made a couple of short narratives but I always left the sound to someone more competent.
2. I'm doing it solo so I will have to use a mic on camera at times but I'd like to reduce that to a minimum.
3. I'll be going around rural areas so I'll be mainly doing outdoors filming, but I expect there will be some indoor filming.
4. I'll probably narrate a bit whilst filming and if all goes well there will be some interviews.
5. I will be going on treks through the jungle/forests to waterfalls and the like and would like to get ambient sound.
6. My budget is pushing it at $700 especially as anything else I can scrape together will probably be eaten in currency conversion (especially at the moment) and shipping costs to Australia.
7. Footage is destined for the web whilst travelling and once home a proper edit onto DVD

I was thinking a shotgun mic that allows some ambient sound, a lav setup (maybe wireless??) and XLR adapter such as Juicedlink or Beachtek, plus accessories such as hand grip and shock absorber.

Any suggestions or advice would be extremely appreciated, I only have a few weeks before I leave!

Gav
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Old October 8th, 2008, 03:48 AM   #2
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There's a major disconnect in terms of your stated budget versus your stated equipment needs. A shotgun mic that can reliably withstand the humidity you'll encounter is going to consume your entire budget for just the naked mic. Likewise, a reliable wireless lav setup, if not taking your whole budget, will take a major portion of it. And we haven't looked at the other necessities you'll need to get it all to work. I don't see how it is possible to put together your kit for that amount and have gear that isn't likely to fail if you look at it cross-eyed. Sorry to sound pessimistic, but we gotta be realistic. Is there any possiblity of increasing the available $$?
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Old October 8th, 2008, 04:38 AM   #3
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You can get a passable Rode shotgun mic & widshield system for $700, or a working wireless lav, but not both. Problem with shotgun is that it is too big for a small camera, at least on a hotshoe. Either you have to hold it with the left hand (I have done that a lot) or get a side bracket for it for better balance. Will look funny, though.
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Old October 8th, 2008, 04:56 AM   #4
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I would avoid narrating as I go - you will have enough to think about with the filming and the narration can be easily added (and will probably sound better) in post. You also stand a good chance of spoiling your ambient sound with your narration.

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Old October 8th, 2008, 05:01 AM   #5
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Hi again, Gavin...............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Lampe View Post
I only have a few weeks before I leave!
Gav
Guess you stuffed up then, I'm afraid.

As Steve has most eloquently put it, "there is a major disonnect" going on here, and no mistake.

Sorry, can't say fairer than that. Nor can I offer any help, either.

Having lashed out on the "Full Monty" (English joke, don't worry if you don't get it) sound kit (at vast expense, I may add) you're $700 sound budget is a mere drop in the bucket, and a bucket where a mere drop goes nowhere fast.

Apart from delaying your departure for enough time to gather the readies to enable purchase of a decent sound system, I'm at a loss to know what to suggest, apart from, well, do what you can with what you have.

There is, however, one thing to consider (now, this didn't come from me and I never, ever, ever, said this on DVinfo, now, did I?):

When I started out in video (not knowing any better) I toodled off to the nearest "sound shop" and purchased two, extremely el cheapo, dynamic mic's (whatever, they each had a battery and a cable I could cobble together to stuff into my XL1s - whatever they were!).

Funnily enough, the sound, as long as I kept the cable length reasonably short (detail: less than 10 metres), wasn't half bad.

Total cost: 25 quid. For the lot. Mic's, cable, connectors etc etc etc.

Not saying I'd recommend it, mind (from my lofty "spent a million bucks on sound gear and didn't even get a lousy T - shirt" position), but
something to ponder over in your obviously impoverished garret far above the steaming streets of Sydney or wherever.

I'll leave you with that thought.


CS

Last edited by Chris Soucy; October 8th, 2008 at 05:06 AM. Reason: Hmm, took some work...
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Old October 8th, 2008, 05:26 AM   #6
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Maybe at this level you should consider the advice from minidisc field recordists, somewhere out there should be some serious forums about recording soundscapes etc, and those guys use stereo/binaural mics that are well within your budget and most of all those are light weight.

Maybe you should get the Rode video mic and a Olympus LS-10 so you are covered with stereo ambient recorder and shotgun to recorder or shotgun directly to camcorder options. But beware that the HV30 is noisy and any on camera mic will pick up the tape mechanics noise etc. so a tiny external recorder is a nice addition to get good soundscapes if it could be out of sync from picture. The recorder can give you much more interesting sounds to mix in later when you arrive home as you don't want to record onto tape just to get that sound that turns out to be interesting for a half an hour maybe ;).

Else you can go to sound professionals.com and see which headworn binaurals you can get with in-line volume control and powering option to match as HV30 don't provide any plug-in power for mics. The binaural headworn mics will pick up everithin you hear in stereo and when played back through headphones it will take you back there where the imagery was taken. Binaurals require you to have some experience with them before you go out for the real shoot and like with any mics there is the constant wind protection issue that needs to be addressed. The easiest way is to cover a lav/binaural mics with furry little covers, DIY from kid's gloves fingertips, Kashmir if possible, plenty of colors available...
... as binaurals are omny lavalier mics essentially you could use one of the pair for narration too, just make sure you turn the levels down as those tend to be quite sensitive. Practice before critical application.

In any case search the net for soundscape field recordists if you want to get by cheap and light, a wired LAV mic for narration is also good weight and hassle wise. Just make sure you can use the mics with your unpowered mic input, it requires a battery box that you can select as option for many binaurals listed on the soundprofessionals site.

You might end up by investing only $300 and buy real equipment when you really need as for traveling as one man band there are too many aspects anyway to consider.

Just some creative thoughts about the situation.

T
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Old October 8th, 2008, 05:31 AM   #7
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In addition to Chris's suggestion how about a secondhand Sony MZ-900 minidisc player with a Rode Stereomic and a cheapo tripod/clamp stand that you can get from a camera shop for about UKP 15.
That would let you capture ambience etc and you could use if for separate sound too if you want.
It's obsolete technology but it's robust, compact, works well and the media is cheap.

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Last edited by Richard Gooderick; October 8th, 2008 at 06:02 AM. Reason: addtional comment
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Old October 8th, 2008, 07:15 AM   #8
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If you can work the camera with one hand, holding a wind protected shotgun in the other is not all that difficult. One big advantage is that you can keep the thing pointed at the most important sound source and turn the camera without affecting the sound. I did that with TV900 & Rycote Windjammer combo for 5 weeks once, the end result was good enough for a adventure sequel in "into the unknown" series for NG.

NEVER narrate as you shoot, impossible to remove afterwards without loosing ambient sounds.
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Old October 8th, 2008, 08:43 AM   #9
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Well, after seeing such a sombre outlook in the first reply I must say I'm now a little more confident I can find a workable solution, it looks like the Rode Stereomic is the way to go and possibly a minidisc player as well.

All I was hoping for was a recommendation that got the best sound within a reasonable distance of my budget.. I don't expect the best quality sound around but I assume that it's possible to get a setup for around $700 that will be a distinct improvement on the HV30's built-in mic.

I assumed I could get a decent shotgun or similar for around $250 and then maybe a lav for $300 - I didn't think I'd get wireless within the budget but I thought I'd ask - which would leave $150 for hand grip, desk tripod or whatever else I need. It's possible I could scrape together enough for an XLR adapter if that is going to make a big enough difference to justify the extra cost.

Thanks Richard and Toenis for the suggestion; but if I needed to, how hard is it to sync up the sound when it's recorded on a separate device without a timecode? Do I just make sure I have some sort of clapper to sync it up?

I had a quick look and found some binaurals selling for around $300, am I understanding correctly that these could be used instead of a dedicated lav mic? If so, would the quality be comparable?

As for narrating, I actually meant presenting.. not sure why I wrote narrating, sorry. But thanks for the tip because I probably wouldn't have thought about it and ended up talking whilst shooting!
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Old October 8th, 2008, 08:46 AM   #10
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Gavin, I have a Sony PCM-D50 portable stereo field recorder that I use for this kind of thing. It runs about $450, and it has two fairly good stereo mics with adjustable mic directions. It has very low noise. You can do a search for it here. It won't solve all your problems, but is a very good quality system for the price. If you are filming while walking, you might be able to rig up something to hold both your camera and the recorder. If you go this route, you will have to buy the muff or windscreen accessory, and you will have to practice using it to make sure you know where to put it and how to use it to get the sound you want. Don't forget to bring a decent pair of headphones with you.

Pat
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Old October 8th, 2008, 10:05 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Lampe View Post
All I was hoping for was a recommendation that got the best sound within a reasonable distance of my budget.. I don't expect the best quality sound around but I assume that it's possible to get a setup for around $700 that will be a distinct improvement on the HV30's built-in mic.
This is like asking for the best car for $1000 and saying you just expect it to be better than your current bicycle. Sure nearly ANYTHING is going to be better. But you've outlined so many different uses for the microphone, that no one that cares about audio is going to be comfortable recommending anything. A microphone that is suitable for narration is exactly the opposite from one good at capturing ambient sounds. And a shotgun mic is awesome for outdoor capturing of dialogue, but HORRID for small indoor work. And any decent condenser mic is going to have XLR connections and want phantom power, and your camera can't provide it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Lampe View Post
I assumed I could get a decent shotgun or similar for around $250 and then maybe a lav for $300 - I didn't think I'd get wireless within the budget but I thought I'd ask - which would leave $150 for hand grip, desk tripod or whatever else I need. It's possible I could scrape together enough for an XLR adapter if that is going to make a big enough difference to justify the extra cost.
A narrative (film/tv) level shotgun hovers around $2k-$3k. A decent shotgun for corporate work is about half that. Any shotgun for $250 I wouldn't touch. Either it's crap or damaged. $300 for a Lav is what you'd pay for a quality microphone portion (Tram, Sanken, Senn, Countryman), not for the entire setup.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Lampe View Post
Thanks Richard and Toenis for the suggestion; but if I needed to, how hard is it to sync up the sound when it's recorded on a separate device without a timecode? Do I just make sure I have some sort of clapper to sync it up?
Tmecode wasn't around for the first half of the 20th century. PLENTY of quality films got recorded. Just stand in front of the camera, indicate the scene with a notepad, then clap your hands.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Lampe View Post
I had a quick look and found some binaurals selling for around $300, am I understanding correctly that these could be used instead of a dedicated lav mic? If so, would the quality be comparable?
Those will be great if you intend everyone to view your movie with headphones on. Otherwise don't worry about stereo recording and just try to get one decent microphone. Frankly, I'd be looking for two dynamic mics if I were you. Maybe a shure SM58s for close mic work, and something else for the longer reach you need. You're going to kill a good condenser mic carrying it through the bush.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gavin Lampe View Post
As for narrating, I actually meant presenting.. not sure why I wrote narrating, sorry. But thanks for the tip because I probably wouldn't have thought about it and ended up talking whilst shooting!
Leave as much talking out of it as you can. Other than interviews, where you and someone else are on camera, don't record you. You can do that when you get home and have a decent microphone. DO record ambient sounds that you can use later as a "bed" for your narration so it sounds like you're actually in that background.
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Old October 8th, 2008, 10:19 AM   #12
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Hi Gavin
I have owned a Zoom H4 (not robust enough for you, expensive media) and I now own a Fostex FR2-LE (too big for you). I also own an HBB minidisc recorder (brilliant piece of kit but too big for you and it eats batteries).
I wouldn't use any of them for what you are doing. I think that you want something small and compact and robust. That's why I think I'd go with the minidisc in your situation.
You can record lots of discs. They are so cheap that all you are going to have to worry about is recharging your battery.
And with a Rode Stereomic the rig is going to be small enough for you to capture all kinds of sound that will really make a difference to your film.
You can hide the minidiscs somewhere in your luggage and nobody's going to steal them. Same goes for your tapes. The chances of getting your kit stolen or damaged are quite high but it won't matter so much if you have got your material.
You could even perhaps send them home with a friend or courier them so that they are safe. I wouldn't trust them to the mail service. I lost all my film and tape 30 years ago by doing that.
Syncing the sound is easy as long as you have got it recorded on the camera mic as well. You can get someone to clap their hands if you want. That will help. Especially if the sound is being recorded at some distance from the camera.
But so long as you have the sound from the on-camera mic on your camera tape you can slide the two tracks above and under each other in your NLE until the echo disappears - you will then be in sync. It's easy - so long as the sound is close to the camera. For ambience it doesn't really matter much of the time whether it's exactly in sync.
If you really want to catch those monkeys in the tree canopy, the waterfall, market place, prayers in the temple etc it's going to sound a lot better in stereo.
The main hassle with minidisc would be transferring it to your computer. If you can borrow or rent and HBB you can do that in real time via a USB cable.
Final point, after reading Perrone's post. Whether you record in stereo or not is a creative choice that you need to make in relation to the kind of film you want ie is the soundtrack something that happens in the background while you are talking over the film or is it more intrinsic to the film.
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Old October 8th, 2008, 11:14 AM   #13
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Hi Gavin, you should consider the Canon DM-50, it connect directly to the hotshoe of the HV30, no need for power or cable. Easy to use and fast to set up. Also can be swith to mono or stereo. The popular Videomic is said to be better, but in the context of what you plan to do I think you gain in flexibility and polyvalence with the Canon without making to much of a sacrifice.
I would bring along a wired lavalier, the affordable AT 35, is probably the best value for the price. I would love to have the lav particularly if tou plan to do some self-recording (travel journal type).
Finally , I would bring along a Zoom H2, to record street atmosphere, nature, music, religious ceremonies or whatever else the road will throw at you.
Within the budget you have, I think it is realistic and the secret is to familiarize yourself with those gear , learn their limitations. Good luck and bon voyage!
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Old October 8th, 2008, 11:21 AM   #14
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One thing to remember, you guys that have recommended budget shotguns like the dm50 or Rode Videomic, is that condensor mics don't play nice with high humidity and Gavin said he was going to be in the jungle in a very humid part of the world. Those budget 'guns may not survive. When I said the shotgun would consume the entire budget, I was thinking of the new Rode NTG-3 which is more rugged and humidity resistant that standard condensor mics. I don't know that I'd chance with anything less unless it just didn't matter whether you brought back usable footage or not.
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Last edited by Steve House; October 8th, 2008 at 11:54 AM.
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Old October 8th, 2008, 11:26 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Those budget guns may not survive.
I'd completely agree if conditions are going be that wet/humid.
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