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post #1 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 02:52 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi All

Does anyone have any tips for me on the best external mic options for this camera? I'm about to head off into the desert for 3 months and need to get this right first time, for budget, weight, reliability and audio quality.

After exhaustive research it seems that the Rode NTG-2 mic through an XLR-3.5mm adaptor cable is going to give me the best in-camera audio for under $200 and the Sennheiser MZS-CAM shock mount the lightest and best quality platform for that. But i cannot find any info or pics of the Panny's shoe mount to know if it's going to even fit?? (It hasn't arrived yet).

I'm also going to get a Tascam DR-05 recorder and the ATR-3350 lavalier mic to give me max flexibilty for minimum cost and weight.

Any advice will be hugely appreciated.

Thanks
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post #2 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by withoutamap View Post

Hi All

Does anyone have any tips for me on the best external mic options for this camera? I'm about to head off into the desert for 3 months and need to get this right first time, for budget, weight, reliability and audio quality.

After exhaustive research it seems that the Rode NTG-2 mic through an XLR-3.5mm adaptor cable is going to give me the best in-camera audio for under $200 and the Sennheiser MZS-CAM shock mount the lightest and best quality platform for that. But i cannot find any info or pics of the Panny's shoe mount to know if it's going to even fit?? (It hasn't arrived yet).

I'm also going to get a Tascam DR-05 recorder and the ATR-3350 lavalier mic to give me max flexibilty for minimum cost and weight.

Any advice will be hugely appreciated.

Thanks

Hi withoutamap - you can probably save a little money and get a better mic if you get the $216 Audio Technica AT897 instead of the $263.50 Rode NTG-2. Also, make sure you get a line attenuating matching transformer (like this one or this one) and not just a straight XLR-3.5mm adapter cable. The 600 ohm output of a balanced mic with an XLR output needs to be matched to the ~2500 ohm input of your camera.

You may also want to take a look at a $30 Campro Deluxe Shock mount instead of that $38 Sennheiser MZS-CAM. If the Campro Deluxe is out of stock (it is a very hot seller), the $20 Campro SM3 is a good alternative, and even less expensive.

I would take the money saved on the mic and the shock mount and get a Micover windscreen. If you're going to be outdoors in the desert, you will need it.

For an idea of what this would look like, here is a used Audio Technica AT835 from eBay with a Hosa line matching transformer, a MM-21 wind muff and the Campro Deluxe shockmount on my Panasonic GH2:



This setup gives me very clean, directional sound with good off-axis rejection.

I would also get a Tascam DR-40 and pro quality Audio Techica AT899 instead of the DR-05 and ATR3350. Pro XLR connections will hold up a lot better in the field. I have the DR-40, and it is a great value for the money.

Hope this is helpful and good luck,

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution

EDIT: Here it is on my GH3:

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post #3 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 01:52 PM
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Several websites that are useful concerning microphones and recorders:

primarily radio production, but has some tests of portable recorders:

http://transom.org/?cat=6

audio for video:

http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/all-things-audio/

http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/forumdisplay.php?29-Location-Sound-Post-Audio&order=desc

Audio professionals, including a lot of audio for video:

http://forums.creativecow.net/audioprofessionals

tests of some mics used for video production (probably much higher end than you are considering, but there are samples so you can hear what high quality microphones sound like):

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/lavs_brockett.html

http://www.kenstone.net/fcp_homepage/right_mic_brockett.html

For connecting the AT897 or the NTG-2 microphone to your camcorder, you don't want an attenuating cable, you want an impedance matching cable. Bill provided URLs to such cables, but at one point referred to them as attenuating transformer cables. You don't want attenuation, and if you just use a regular XLR to 3.5 mm cable, without impedance matching, you will end up with serious attenuation. The cable with impedance matching transformer greatly diminishes any attenuation.

If you spend some time at the various audio websites, you will quickly learn that for serious sound the worst location for a microphone is mounted on the camcorder. There are some situations, such as run and gun, where you have to compromise and mount the microphone on the camcorder. But if you are serious about sound, you will realize that correct microphone placement for the individual situation is paramount. An inexpensive portable audio recorder placed at the right location can easily outperform a $2000 Schoeps microphone placed at the wrong location. Depending on your shooting situation, simply placing a more expensive microphone on top of your camcorder might simply be a waste of money. Perhaps you could state what camcorder you are using and what type off shooting situations you expect, and then more detailed responses could be given.

You didn't mention which camcorder you have. Most camcorders have lousy audio circuitry and noisy preamps when using external microphones. You generally have to go to higher level prosumer or professional camcorders to have XLR inputs and high quality preamps.

As for audio recorders, the DR-40 is a step above the DR-05, mainly because it has XLR inputs. However, its mic preamps are not really quiet, especially when using low output microphones. If you want XLR inputs and quieter preamps, consider the DR-100 mkII. See the Transom website for tests of the DR-100 and DR-40. If you want quiet preamps in a small package, and you don't need XLR inputs, the Sony PCM-M10 is widely regarded as the least expensive quiet preamp small size portable audio recorder.

Generally you get what you pay for, but in the case of the AT3350, I am surprised at the quality of the sound for a $17 microphone. Many inexpensive microphones are very noisy, but the AT3350 is decent, considering its cost, especially if you don't need XLR. I own much more expensive XLR microphones, including lavaliers, and I would not be embarrassed to use the AT3350 in some cases.

Many consumer camcorders are capable of creating great images with good lighting, but the sound is usually so-so. People are surprised to find that they might have to spend several times the cost of their camcorder on microphones, a mixer and a recorder to obtain sound quality on a par with the picture quality from inexpensive camcorders. Simply having good equipment is not enough - you need to develop experience in how to properly use it.

With audio equipment, you have to be careful to not buy equipment that is not high enough quality for your needs, nor to buy equipment that is overkill for your needs. I know from experience, as I have done both. Fortunately, unlike consumer camcorders, quality microphones, mixers and high end recorders tend to hold their value and can fairly easily be re-sold. Good luck with your project.
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post #4 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 03:31 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, David and Bill, thank you for such comprehensive answers. The camera involved - which I didn't detail as I thought this particular part of the forum was camera specific (I'm very new obviously) - is a Panasonic HC-X900 which seems to give the best picture quality for it's price range and also takes very high re stills so I don't have to take my old DSLR + lenses. I am trying hard to keep the weight right down. Back up will be a Go Pro hero 2. The project is a hazy right now but we - wife and I - are heading to Xinjiang in China for 3 months or so to buy a camel and cross the Taklamakan. It'll be very much a run and gun affair whenever we're around any settlements and probably quite guerilla as well. In the desert I'll be able to get a bit more creative. I haven't made a film for over a decade but once had some success on the mountain film festival circuit and wouldn't mind having another go. The journey itself is priority no.1 though.

I've been sweating over audio and have spent the better part of a week poring over reviews and forums. My choices have been based on those, on a very limited budget and on availability on the UK. That Campro deluxe shock and Micover windscreen you mention, Bill, are hard to find here and shipping from the US makes it pointless. Couldn't find the Sennheiser either so had decided on this

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B002YN87TC/ref=ox_sc_act_title_3?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A2L0UV81X3JLZ5

for it's apparent effectiveness and toughness. Also, the HC-X900 has a shoe mount at the front so I have to keep a shotgun well up and out of the way. So I had also decided on this:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004D502II/ref=ox_sc_act_title_8?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A34USJQIBUKXBI

Again it's lightweight and robust. Will that be far enough away from the camera to make any difference , do you think, David? I have a Rode deluxe windshield on the list too. I'd like to record principally to camera if I can as there'll be only two of us. I had decided not to go down the Juiced Link sort of pre-amp, fully xlr, route because I thought that with care, I could get away with it and I'd rather spend the money on a camel.

I won't have more than a few days in London on the way through - in Africa at the moment - to test all this stuff so I really do need to get it right. Attenuation!! What's that? I'll check it out.

Thanks again

Mark
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post #5 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 05:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Oh but you guys have it easy in the States!! All your electronics at a two thirds of the price and most of it stocked Amazon and B&H. I have found neither of those impedance matching cables (nor the Beachtek equivalent) even after 2 hrs going through the few audio specialists that exist in the UK. Some exciting possibilities on page 5 of google and then.....squat.
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post #6 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 09:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by withoutamap View Post

Oh but you guys have it easy in the States!! All your electronics at a two thirds of the price and most of it stocked Amazon and B&H. I have found neither of those impedance matching cables (nor the Beachtek equivalent) even after 2 hrs going through the few audio specialists that exist in the UK. Some exciting possibilities on page 5 of google and then.....squat.

Sorry Mark, if I had known you were in the UK, I would have posted UK links frown.gif

I have the X900's predecessor, the TM900, and the X900 should do a good job for you. That £8 C bracket is a good choice for getting your microphone up above the camcorder:



You can find the Hosa MIT-156 on eBay UK (shipped from the States) for less than £20.

You can also find the Campro SM3 shock mount labeled as the iSK SKSE113 shipped from the UK for less than £20.

The larger iSK SHM-15 ships from Australia for less than £30 via eBay UK.

Again, hope this is helpful,

Bill
Hybrid Camera Revolution
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post #7 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by David Sholle View Post

...For connecting the AT897 or the NTG-2 microphone to your camcorder, you don't want an attenuating cable, you want an impedance matching cable. Bill provided URLs to such cables, but at one point referred to them as attenuating transformer cables. You don't want attenuation, and if you just use a regular XLR to 3.5 mm cable, without impedance matching, you will end up with serious attenuation. The cable with impedance matching transformer greatly diminishes any attenuation...

Sorry, you're right. I fixed it.

Cheers,

Bill
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post #8 of 13 Old 01-19-2013, 09:48 PM
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Since you have a two-person crew on your trip, here is what you do for audio:



smile.gif

PS. This is a video frame grab from an LX7 video.
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post #9 of 13 Old 01-20-2013, 12:48 PM - Thread Starter
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Re: Since you have a two-person crew on your trip, here is what you do for audio.

Ah...but who then will be in front of the camera? We will be filming one another interacting with the peoples we might meet along the way, an observational documentary if you will. Shooting will be a one man show except for interviews and set ups. The rest of the time we want to be able to whip out the camera and get, as quickly as possible, sound that we needn't be ashamed of at a festival, if chance has it that we return with a good enough story. And it needs to be very small and light in case we end up on foot. I was at one point heading down the DSLR route and had got hold of 5D Mk2, body only. I have to smile now when I think of how much stuff I still had to get hold of to make the end result worth the escalating cost, meanwhile the camel budget morphs into first a donkey and then a larger rucksack. I think a combo of HC-X900 and some filters, a Go Pro Hero 2 with LCD bacpac, a Sony M10 with softie, an NTG-2 with softie and impedance adaptor, a bracket to keep the mic from the camera, 2 long -lead Lavaliers (keeping with the NTG-3350s) and a long XLR cable should pretty much cover it . And every last necessary little bit acquired for less than the cost of the 5D Mk2 body - which has been returned - and weighing in with all the peripherals except for tripod and back up hard drive at little over 2kgs (4lbs)! I can't wait to get stuck in.
Thank you, David, for those very useful links - changed my mind on the DR05 - and to Bill for alerting me to the impedance issue. Might that be the missing link in the few negative reviews there are of the NTG-2?? I'm sure I'll be firing a few more questions your way before too long. Just researching what to buy has been an education.

Mark
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post #10 of 13 Old 01-20-2013, 01:50 PM
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Hi Mark,

if one person is shooting and the other is interviewing, it might make sense to use a handheld interview microphone, such as reporters use. The interviewer would hold the mic and speak into it, and then hold the mic near the person being interviewed for a response. That would give good sound, but it might not be the "look" you want for a documentary. If you do decide to use an interview microphone, two you might consider are:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/102900-REG/Electro_Voice_16502345_RE50N_D_B_N_DYM_Dynamic.html

which is a higher than average output dynamic microphone (dynamic microphones need more gain than do condenser microphones, so the additional output strength is an advantage)

or

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/68217-REG/Audio_Technica_AT8010_ATM10A_Fixed_Charge.html

which is a condenser microphone (higher output, less gain needed in mic preamp) It is listed as an instrument mic, but it is popular for on-the street interviews.

Using a handheld interview microphone will give you good sound, even in moderately noisy environments, as the microphone will be held close to the mouth of the interviewer or interviewee, as needed. The disadvantage is that it will be in the shot, which may not be the look you want.

The picture that Markr041 showed has a shotgun mic held outside of the field of view of the camera on a boompole, but that would require an additional person, so it might not be practical for your use. Also the person needs to be skilled in moving the boom pole from speaker to speaker for good sound.

Another possibility is to use an MM-BSM set of dual omni lavaliers. That would easily connect to your camcorder, or to a handheld audio recorder, as appropriate. One of the lavaliers would be worn by the interviewer, and the other by the interviewee. The two connect to one 3.5 mm stereo jack, which could be connected to a handheld audio recorder on the interviewer. One voice would be on the left channel and one on the right channel. This setup would work if you can "corral" your interviewee as they will be tethered by a wire. This microphone needs what is known as plug in power or bias power, and the Sony M10 supplies that on its mic input. Your camcorder might also supply that - check the manual.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/337637-REG/Microphone_Madness_MMBSM7M_BSM_7_Stereo_Lavalier_Microphone.html

I have used this microphone, and it is decent for the price, and I think it would work OK for your project.
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post #11 of 13 Old 01-20-2013, 04:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Whoa, Dave, no more stuff! I'm just a little guy and my knees have had a battering!

I was rather hoping that the two ATR 3350s joined via a splitter would achieve the same. Will they not?

Other interview options I was imagining, most likely to be informal type affairs huddled around a lantern in a yurt, include hanging the shotgun from the roof with a 4m XLR so it hangs just above and between the speakers and out of shot.

Reporter style mics not the right look as you guessed.

Best


Mark
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post #12 of 13 Old 01-20-2013, 06:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by withoutamap View Post

Whoa, Dave, no more stuff! I'm just a little guy and my knees have had a battering!

I was rather hoping that the two ATR 3350s joined via a splitter would achieve the same. Will they not?

Other interview options I was imagining, most likely to be informal type affairs huddled around a lantern in a yurt, include hanging the shotgun from the roof with a 4m XLR so it hangs just above and between the speakers and out of shot.

Reporter style mics not the right look as you guessed.

Best


Mark

Hi Mark, the handheld interview microphones were suggested as an alternative to the shotgun microphone, not in addition to. On the type of trip you are doing, the less equipment, the better. It sounds like interview microphones are not appropriate for your project. In a pinch you could use the AT897 or the NTG-2 as a handheld microphone, but handling noise likely would be an issue. The MM-BSM dual lavalier was suggested as an alternative to using two separate ATR 3350s. The advantage of using the ATR 3350s is that combined they are less expensive than the MM-BSM. The disadvantages are that they are powered by small batteries, and you will need to take extras along, and also that you will need to rig up something to combine the two outputs together to send into a portable digital recorder or camcorder. That shouldn't be too difficult to do if you can handle a soldering iron, and there is probably an adapter that can do it. For example, the mic input on the Sony PCM-M10 digital recorder uses a 3.5 mm stereo plug. It has three connections - ground, left and right. If you look at the plug for the ATR-3350, you will see it is a mono plug, with only two connections, ground and combined left/right. What this means is that if you plug it into the M10, even though it is a mono microphone, it will send identical audio to both left and right channels to record. So you will need some sort of Y-adapter, with two 3.5 mm female mono jacks, and one 3.5 mm male stereo plug. The adapter would combine the grounds of the two microphones together, and would send the signal from one of the microphones to the left channel, and the signal from the other microphone to the right channel.

I'm trying to give you suggestions that will give you OK sound quality and will keep equipment, complexity and weight to a minimum. If you were really doing location audio properly, you would have XLR microphones connected to a mixer, and an audio person would operate the boom and ride the levels on the mixer to ensure the various microphones were recorded with proper levels. That obviously won't work in your situation, with your minimal crew.
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post #13 of 13 Old 01-21-2013, 02:09 AM - Thread Starter
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No, I hadn't got around to noticing that the 3350s have a mono output, and almost certainly wouldn't have until almost too late, so once again you've come to the rescue! (I hope you're not getting bored yet!). I'll look for the right splitter.

I was thinking to use the M10 as a handheld if we needed one. I have to keep the shotgun I think for those 'grab a scene' moments where I won't want to interrupt anything by fannying around with cables and hand sync claps, although in reality, given the rigging from stowage issues the camera mic itself will be the emergency mic. Obviously I'll try to avoid that.

Or real emergency may well be the PC M10 and the Go Pro.
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