MKH 418S Stereo Mic and Double System
I had a chance yesterday to use the Sennheiser MKH 418S stereo shotgun mic and wanted to pass along some things I learned.
First, though, let me give you the setup: I was hired by an Austrian company to record sound for a television documentary they are shooting. Two things they asked for were a Sound Devices HDD recorder, and a stereo mic. At the time they requested the HDD, I thought it was a little odd since sending the audio to the camera would make more sense. However, after shooting this way for a full day, I don't want to go back to anything else! It probably makes for a little more work in post, but it gives me, the mixer in the field, total control and easier monitoring of the sound (just like in the days of film). No dealing with different camera audio controls, and all those menu setups. Jamming free-run timecode using an Ambient Lockit box, made once-a-day jamming a reality, as well.
As for using a stereo mic in a documentary/news situation, I'm not yet convinced this is a benifit...at least not yet. With all the major microphone makers coming out with their own "shotgun" stereo mics, and the advent of 5.1 surround sound for TV viewers at home, I have a feeling more and more companies are going to start requesting these mics be used for their productions.
The problem I found in booming with an M/S stereo shotgun mic, in a run-n-gun news/doc situation, was that I needed to maintain a correct stereo perspective with the camera angle. In other words, I needed to always be at the same angle as the camera in order to match the stereo field with the shot in the viewfinder. This wasn't something I always took into consideration. Again, when you're in a hurry to get the mic in close to capture good sound, you might not have it angled the right way so as to have the stereo patten matching the picture (or even being useful). The mic, itself, has the word "top" printed on it in order to keep the figure-of-eight pattern pointed in the right direction. Of course if you don't matrix it in the field, you can always just use the mid capsule in post. I was also booming with a pole that had an internal coiled cable which I couldn't use. A stereo mic uses a (thicker) five-pin XLR to two male XLRs. I had to wrap it around the pole each time I extended it. Not a big deal, but it would be nice to see a pole made for these cables. Maybe soon, we will.
Ty has a review of the MKH 418S on his site which I highly recommend checking out.
Thanks so much for taking the time and brain cells to pass along your experiences.
Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide