Field Mixer / New Mic Recommendations Needed
Help me spend my money! OK, not my money, but my companies money. It's the end of the year, and I've got some budget to spend this week. I'm looking at 500-600 for a mixer.
I don't have a mixer at all right now, so I'm kind of limited to two mics (to the two channel input on the one HMC-150 Panasonic camera we've been using), adjusting and monitoring levels at the camera (which has been an issue!). So I definitely need one. Can't spend a couple of grand for the really high end stuff (As it's not my money, that's the budget I've got to work with) but the entry level pro stuff will have to do.
I've narrowed down to
a. Sign ENG-44 (based on the fact it's got 4 channels, the price, the fact that's in a lot of how-to videos online, it does tone, and I like the LED levels)
b. Azden FMX-42 (again, 4 channel. Already got Azden lav's, and they work good, price point, not sure I like the analog dials though, I'm a Gen X'r, and use to the LCD levels on the camera, hehe).
As far as the new mic goes, I need a mic that can pick up a group of people in a room. Live classroom style. Some for background/ambient noise, but the main goal is to get clear responses from individuals responding to the teacher. In the past, I've been using a Sennheiser shotgun on a fixed boom pole, but being that it's very directional, the people in the center of the room or closest to the end of the mic, are very loud. Other people you just can't hear. From what I know about mics, a Hypercardioid or Omnidirectional style would be better. But I haven't picked anything out for this.
I'm thinking maybe a Audio-Technica AT4050ST, but would like to try for less inexpensive options, and this newb has no idea what style audio pattern it uses, or if this will work for the scenario.
I've never owned or used either of those mixers. That said, between those two I would likely get the Sign for the meters. The rule of thumb is that if you're not investing in a Sound Devices mixer, you're getting sub par audio and build quality. If you could get by with the two channels of the Sound Devices MixPre, you'll have a much better piece of equipment on your hands.
The proximity problem you experienced with the Sennheiser shotgun isn't going to go away when you swap it out for a different mic. You need to get the mic as close as possible to the person speaking.
The AT4050ST is a large diaphragm studio condenser mic, and it's not a good choice for this purpose. I would suggest that you use the shotgun that you already have, but perhaps getting a wireless system for it and a pistol grip, so that the sound operator on the shoot can move freely to try to get close to and point the shotgun at the person who is speaking.
I try very hard not to dis certain products, but from personal experience and numerous war stories from peers I would recommend that you steer clear of Azden products. The Sign Video ENG-44 is a decent mixer for those on a restricted budget, as is the PSC ProMix.
As you are shooting primarily indoors a hypercardioid mic is the best choice. The Audio Technica AT4053b is popular, as is the AKG SE300B w/the CK93 Hypercardioid Capsule. The CAD CM217 cardioid is an acceptable extreme micro-budget alternative; it's good enough to find its way into pro kits as a "disposable" for recording where the mics might get damaged. Musicians Friend currently has two (2) for $50. You could use the Cads on mic stands to record the students to one audio track and perhaps use a wireless lav on the instructor on the second audio track. The Audio Technica Pro88 series is usable as long as the receiver is close to the transmitter
Filmmaking is the art of the invisible;
If anyone notices your work you haven't done your job right.
I've heard good things about the Sign Video mixer as an entry level mixer. As a cheaper option I'd go that over the Azden. But I agree with Sam that you might be better off with a Sound Devices MixPre. For what you are doing you are not going to need more than two channels. From the sounds of things you don't even have four mics to occupy the four channels of the Sign Video ENG-44. You'd be better of with 2 good channels of audio than 4 ordinary channels. And the MixPre is not much more expensive than the ENG-44.
The other problem you may run into is the fact that with the ENG-44 you'd be mixing 4 channels of audio down into 2 channels when you record it on the camera. So if one of the mic signals from the mixer has a problem (eg. clothing rustle from a lapel mic) you would ruin the other mic signal that is mixed in on the same camera channel.
As for mics for booming indoors check out this thread http://forums.creativecow.net/thread/30/865231#865231 as it contains lots of information about different hyper-cardioid mic options.
Hope that helps,
Sound Devices 552
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