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Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio

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Danny Grizzle
Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jun 19, 2011 at 8:47:43 pm

Here is a interesting mic that will add a lot for anyone currently using the built-in mic on a DSLR:

Tascam TM-ST1

Sound Professionals sells this mic for $19.97 USD. Yes, that's less than $20! (See P.S. below...)

BTW - I bought one, and the build quality is not cheap.

There may be other inexpensive mics in the accessory lines for pocket recorders like Edirol, Zoom, etc.

But I think the Tascam mic is particularly interesting for filmmakers because it is the mid-side type stereo design favored for production. You can read up on mid-side by searching the Internet. But here is the succinct version of why this type stereo design is favored by filmmakers:

Instead of recording the stereo pair as right and left channels, mid-side uses a front facing directional cardiod along with a figure-8 (bi-polar) mic set at a right angle to the center channel.

The beauty of this in post is that you have a rock solid center channel with a variable stereo image that can be adjusted in post. Plus, the stereo sums to mono with no negative effects from phase cancellation, leaving your center channel in perfect condition. Great for web distribution in mono!

Mid-side is slightly tricky to work with, however. It requires a decoder to interpret the variable stereo field it produces. No big deal -- I suspect most of the NLE software packages can deal with this.

In the field, professional mixers all contain mid-side decoders so the audio guy can monitor the stereo image. Without the decoder, you can still monitor, but your center channel subject will be all in one ear, which can be a little confusing.

I don't see this being a problem for a DSLR shooter just getting started with external mics, however, because this mic will likely be plugged directly into the camera, in which case there is no headphone monitoring anyway. But just to point out: until the mid-side input is put through a proper mid-side decoder in post, the resulting stereo image will not exist. Instead, you will hear 100% of the center channel cardiod mic coming out one speaker, and 100% of the Figure-8 mic coming out the other channel. Don't let this throw you when you first playback.

If a Rode Videomic stretches your budget, the Tascam TM-ST1 is a no brainer. I can't think of anything better on a budget of $20!

P.S. - I am a Sound Professional's customer, and I like them. However, I will warn you that they are closed for vacation until June 2, 2011. If you order today (Sunday), Monday or Tuesday and enter the promo code "vacation", they promise to give a 10% discount on your entire order, plus include free shipping. Only thing is, nothing will ship until they get back from vacation. What a deal!


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Danny Grizzle
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jun 19, 2011 at 9:30:15 pm

OK, looking at Tascam's website, I'm not certain this mic does not include a built-in mid-side decoder. Which makes more sense, given the consumer target. Mom and pop recording their kid's high school orchestra would not know what to do with true mid-side output.

Tascam says, "The recordist can select between 90 and 120 degree pickup to capture more ambience or to reduce background noise."

Even so, the two channels should still sum to mono nicely.

I bought the mic several months ago on impulse while on the Sound Professionals website for something else. Maybe I should play with it a little bit...


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Chip Thome
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jun 20, 2011 at 12:16:26 am

Oh boy..... I shoulda maybe waited before spending the whole $17.97 shipped to my door !!! [/sarcasm] :-) :-) :-)

I quickly sailed through the reviews on Amazon, it looks like it is probably an acceptable mic. What got me to pop was the desktop mic stand. If it gives me a decent usable desktop mic and happens to perform better than the onboard mic on the GH1.... then hey, it's a screaming deal !!!


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Danny Grizzle
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jun 20, 2011 at 2:50:58 am

Yes, you cannot go wrong at this price as an alternative to the camera's built-in mic.

The desktop stand is not a little tripod or anything, it is simply a heavy, nicely machined pedestal that is substantial enough to act as a base and ballast. You can see it in the product photos on the Tascam website. It is heavy enough that, if you pull the mic cable, it will slide on the tabletop, not topple over.

Remove the base, and you have a very conventional mic clip that can be mounted on any standard mic stand.

The permanently attached cable is about 4' long. Annoying long for use on camera, and a little short to position away from the camera. I would add an extension cable to my kit. This being such a common size, it should be possible to find one at little or no cost in the wire bin of a computer store. The connector is the same size and type used for speakers on PCs, or headphones on an iPod. Or you can order the Rode extension cable for $10.

For use on camera, Sound Professionals sells a cold shoe mic mount for about $10.

The mic is powered by a single AA battery.

This is really an insanely cheap way to add a stereo mic to a DSLR.


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Noah Kadner
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jun 20, 2011 at 4:44:39 am

Yeah I'm sure it's decent enough and better than the built-in camera mic if for no other reason than you can get it closer. But once you try out really good lav mics and hear not only their sound quality but how much level they give you which translates into much much less noise in the BG by comparison you'll realize you get what you pay for. Which is to say with a $20 mic, $20 sound quality. Not exactly what I'm personally aiming for with a $1,000 camera and $500+ lenses. Here's a video that opened my eye a bit on how good really good lav mics can sound:

<iframe src="//player.vimeo.com/video/15979250?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0" width="480" height="270" frameborder="0"></iframe>

Noah

Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Panasonic GH2 and Canon 7D.


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Chip Thome
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jul 5, 2011 at 2:06:02 am

OK... my $10. mic stand arrived and shipping was $7.95. And you know what.... THEY THREW A MIC IN ON THE DEAL !!!! :-)

I have played a bit with it, still learning Audition CS5.5 and how to save audio there. :-) When I get it all up and flying, will do a sample test of this free mic and $10 mic stand and compare it to my Rode Stereo Videomic. I am hoping the Rode blows it away.... or I really got screwed on the Rode !!! :-)


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Danny Grizzle
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jul 5, 2011 at 3:23:25 am

What's not to like? I've played around with my Tascam TM-ST1, and it is not a deplorable mic. In fact, even if you have better, something like this might be useful as a plant mic or simply for ambiance or redundancy.

I am an advocate of high quality mics whenever possible. The lavaliere review Noah posted is very interesting. I own 3 of the 4 lavs tested, some in multiples, plus others (Countryman), plus an assortment of Sennheiser MKH series wired mics, which are superb. Still, reality is everyone approaches audio for DSLR production from different perspectives. The little Tascam is an amazing value for $20, better in my estimation than some nationally advertised video microphones (biting my tongue to not name names...)

My recommendation on a quality entry-level microphone for DSLR is Rode Video Mic Pro, with furry cover for exterior wind control, a Rode Boom and Rode extension cord. The Rode lavaliere with full compliment of connectors is fascinating also, and it seemed to review well. I've never seen or used one. These two mics cover the basics fairly well.

There is a lot more discussion on cameras and lenses than you will ever hear about audio, but if anything, audio is the most important component of quality video production. No exotic technique, lens, or photographic device will compensate for a lack of audio quality. This is a fundamental that is too often overlooked by neophyte producers. Before you go chasing anything else, any wild device or technique in production or post, get audio fundamentals down cold.


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sam brozinski
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Aug 13, 2013 at 2:04:03 am

in my experience, the best mics are the mid-priced ones. you never wanna buy things that are too cheap, but the ones that are very expensive are not worth it either. i've had good experience with bronstein mics, here are a couple that i bought:

brn-670 http://www.amazon.com/BRONSTEIN-BRN-670-Broadcast-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B...

brn-200 http://www.amazon.com/BRONSTEIN-BRN-200-Audio-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B00AT...


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Zack Chiu
Re: Low Budget Mics for DSLR Camera Audio
on Jan 20, 2013 at 12:34:31 pm

I bought a TASCAM TM-ST1 from Amazon couple days ago. But I wonder if it work normally. I used canon t2i recording with it. In the same occasion, the channel recorded the built-in microphone's level is around-28dB, and with ST1 it's around -42dB(which is barely heard). Is this normal? Or I got a broken mic...


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