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On camera microphone and windscreen

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ken hon
On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 28, 2007 at 6:27:22 am

Aloha,

I'm looking for some advice about a good combination of a small microphone that is relatively sensitive for use in filming volcanic eruptions. There is usually very strong wind here and I need a high quality solution for blocking it out. The camera we need the microphone for is the new Sony EX-1 XDCAM (small camera).

Currently we have a Sennheiser ME66 with a Rycote zepplin, fleece, and windjammer that works well but is just to big to be practical for a single person to use in the field. The ME66 is good at picking up small sounds (there are a lot of these suprisingly enough) though it would be nice to have mike with similar sensitivity but better sound quality.

We also have the Lightwave small zepplin with fleece and windjammer for this mike, but have found it doesn't really cut out that much wind noise. The Rycote is flawless, but they don't seem to have a small zepplin that has fleece and a windjammer.

We're not to familiar with sound so any suggestions about what would make a good combination for a small camera would be welcome. While it would be nice to have it less expensive, eliminating wind noise entirely is the real objective while keeping it light and small.

Mahalo,

Ken





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Danny Grizzle
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 30, 2007 at 4:28:51 am

The audio professional side of the board is going to be a hard audience for any recommendation for an on camera mic. The assumption being if audio is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Any assumption that camera position and mic placement are one and the same is almost always wrong.

That said, I'm going to put a Sanken CS-1 on my EX1. The Rycote website details wind suppression gear available for it. About $800, not including Rycote wind treatment.

You might also consider the Sanken CMS-10. This is a mid-side (stereo) mic that comes supplied with a softie type wind muff. About $2,100.

I've never used either of the Sanken mics. My main shotgun has for years been a Sennheiser MKH-60 paired with a MKH-30 Figure-8 for mid-side work. Rycote makes a huge windshield kit holding both mics, but this rig is more than most people want to deal with in size, weight, and money. I'll keep it though, but paired with a dedicated recorder for double system sound.

That's not a bad idea for your situation. You will do more good for yourself to forget any search for a miracle mic and instead prioritize audio over video and spend time acquiring optimal audio, even if it is wild. Spending $2K on a mic won't overcome poor mic technique.

To keep it simple, I would go with one of the Sanken mics, but do yourself a favor and get it off the camera. A cheap Rode boom, or an even cheaper hand grip... anything will beat an on camera mic.

If you want to go a step beyond, consider a Sound Devices MixPre ($675) or even a single channel MM-1 ($350). You will need to test and calibrate output to the EX1, if that's to be your audio recorder. I don't have my EX1 yet, so I don't know the details. But there have been issues with audio on small Sony cameras, so you will want to test in advance, and not make a bunch of assumptions about levels which may not prove true in the thick of production.

It is always best to monitor return audio from the recorder, to insure quality recordings. The MixPre has provision to monitor return audio. You will need a special snake cable. I got mine at Markertek. I don't think the MM-1 does return audio. If you monitor at the MM-1 headphone out, you will not have confirmation that the signal made it successfully to the camera or recorder. If you monitor at the camera, your audio guy will be limited in mic placement by the length of the headphone cable.

I'm not the coolest guy reading the audio threads. Absolute sound, and nuances of ultimate critical listening, for me, start sounding like dietary theories and regimens for weight loss. I'm not being dismissive -- in fact, I admire people who are more dedicated than me, because that's what I would expect of a specialized professional. I'm speaking as a one-man-band shooter with a real concern for audio. I believe in buying a high quality mic like a Sanken or a Sennheiser, and not being lazy or neglectful about sound on location. Any quality mic used with attention, skill, and diligence can yield great results.

Yes, I'm going to put a Sanken CS-1 on my EX1, but only as a contingency. I'll keep a length of mic cable in the bag, and a mic hand grip too. Not the best primary audio strategy, but a really good backup.

There is a famous George Patton quote, something to the effect, "A good plan violently executed today always beats a perfect plan sometime tomorrow."

That's my position on this. I can't buy every mic on the market, so no point going into analysis paralysis on infinitesimal nuances. A really good mic like the Sanken CS-1 seems perfectly capable of tremendous results.






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Danny Grizzle
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 30, 2007 at 4:55:25 am

Volcanic eruptions... well, mic placement won't matter in terms of 5 or 10 feet this way or that.

Some things are too big for the little screen. Or even for the big screen.

I understand you've got at least one continuous eruption going for years in Hawaii, so no worries on the talent missing marks or cues.

When stories get too big, we often have to focus on small details. Steam vents, burning vegetation, lava flows, etc. So close mic techniques can apply.

Good luck!


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ken hon
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:00:04 am

Aloha Danny,

Thanks for the reply. The Sanken mikes look good. I like the CS-1 for it's size. Our real problem is wind though and like I said in my first post, I'm not so happy with the Lightwave mini that we have. Haven't tried the Rycote minis, but would sure like to know if they cut out all the wind noise. I've worked with a couple of crews that had mini's that worked, wish I would have asked what they were. Our Rycote zepplin doesn't really cut out the wind unless we put the felt on under the windjammer. Wonder if any of the minis have this? (the light wave uses a short fur under the long fur and it just doesn't seem to work all that well).

Thanks again.

Aloha,

Ken

PS We do have a pistol grip and a boom pole and a wireless setup and a 4 channel field mixer for our shotgun and lavs, but it's all impractical when you're filming solo, which we do most of the time. We are also filming about as close as you want to get to the lava, so having the mike on the camera isn't really a problem especially the EX-1 with no tape mechanism.



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Danny Grizzle
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 31, 2007 at 6:31:02 am

Rycote has a layering system.

I think your term "mini" is what Rycote calls a "softie." That is the first step above the lousy foam windscreens that comes with most mics. A softie is good for modest wind gusts, but certainly not heavy duty. However, a softie is about all you can to on a camera mounted mic.

The industrial strength wind solution is the rigid zeppelin enclosure. This is where layering comes into play:

1) Level 1 - Zeppelin housing
2) Level 2 - add felt sock to exterior of zeppelin
3) Level 3 - add "dead cat" fur cover over top of felt sock

There is a bit of trade off in high frequencies the more layers you add.

If that won't do it, I don't know what will.

If you are dealing with straight line winds, and you might be on top of a mountain, you may be able to position your body to serve as a wind break. Hey, every little bit helps.

All this should be detailed on the Rycote website. They have a configurator with specific recommendations on the CS-1.

BTW - Ty Ford has a review of the CS-1. Click his moderator headshot on this BBS for a link. I couldn't get through on his tyford.com URL, but his .Mac link will work.

The Sanken CS-1 is not a conventional interference tube short shotgun mic. It is an "active" design with a phased array of 4 separate square diaphragms, arranged down the entire length of the tube. This delivers very high performance, and excellent directional pickup, in a very small mic.


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ken hon
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 31, 2007 at 9:46:09 am

Aloha Danny,
Thanks for the reply. The Sanken wasn't really on my radar but it is now. I'm leaning strongly towards it especially since it has a very high sensitivity (32 mV/Pa) similar to the ME66. The reason we mostly use the ME66 is because it picks up small sounds at a distance really well. However, it's got pretty high background noise and we don't use it for people. I would like a mike with a similar pickup but with a lot less noise.

Danny wroteThe industrial strength wind solution is the rigid zeppelin enclosure. This is where layering comes into play:

1) Level 1 - Zeppelin housing
2) Level 2 - add felt sock to exterior of zeppelin
3) Level 3 - add "dead cat" fur cover over top of felt sock


We have a full Rycote setup like this and it's spoiled me as it cuts out all the wind. Nothing else seems to work nearly as good. The felt liner makes a huge difference. Unfortunately you need 2 people to carry all this around with the camera. I wrote Rycote and asked if they happened to make a softie with a layer of felt. It would be nice, but I'm not holding my breath.

Aloha,

Ken





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Danny Grizzle
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Dec 31, 2007 at 5:12:35 pm

Sanken is definitely on the A-list of production audio, alongside Sennheiser and Schoeps.

Ty Ford says the CS-1 has more self noise than a Sennheiser MKH-416. This distinction is probably not critical for an on camera mic. Not just because of camera preamps and audio circuitry, but also because rigs like this are used outdoors a lot.

I've bought most of my sound package from dealers in Hollywood, and Sanken's reputation there is golden.



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ken hon
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Jan 1, 2008 at 12:29:14 am

Aloha Danny,

Thanks for all the input. Ultimately after talking it over with a person at Coffey sound I went for the MKH 416 and a K-Tek softie. I'm going to make a felt sleeve for the mike and insert it into the K-tek. The Sanken was close, but they thought the 416 would have a bit more range. It's 2 inches longer, but I think we can live with that as it's 2 inches shorter than the ME66. Anyway, it's a bit more versatile according to all the reviews. Thanks again for the leads and advice.

Mahalo,

Ken





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Danny Grizzle
Re: On camera microphone and windscreen
on Jan 1, 2008 at 1:20:38 am

Hey, nobody faults a 416 for field work!



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