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How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?

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Vic Noseworthy
How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 11:09:19 am

Hi folks,
I'd like to have a lavalier mic on hand to record interviews on a prosumer camcorder. The camera doesn't have XLR inputs... just the 1/8" plug. It does have manual audio level control, so that'll help. I know if I purchased an external pre-amp, such as those put out by BeachTek or JuicedLink, that I'd get better sound (and could use XLR mics!). However, I'll be upgrading my camera soon, and would rather wait (my new camera will have XLR inputs).
In the meantime, I'm wondering how to improve the audio with my current set-up. Basically, I plug a cheapie (powered by battery, but cheap!) microphone into the mic jack and adjust the level while listening with headphones. The sound is kinda' crappy. Is it at all possible to get acceptable sound this way?
Would I be better off using a mic that doesn't have its own battery power, or one that does?
Is there a certain type of mic that works better in this situation?
Any other advice you can offer?
Thanks very much!
Vic


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Ty Ford
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 2:07:18 pm

Hello Vic and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

While mostly a forum concerning professional gear and techniques, we do get visits from folks with consumer gear trying to improve their results.

There are seldom one size fits all answers. The boxes you mention may or may not help your situation.

Will lavs with batteries work better than lavs without? Probably. Most lavs require phantom power. Some use the power from batteries in their own power supplies when phantom power is not otherwise available. Some camera audio jacks supply low voltages that can power some microphones, but not others. Dynamic lavs, if you can find them, don't require any power but are of such low sensitivity that they will probably overtax the mic preamp in your camera, resulting in hiss.

The 1/8" jack. Is that to input mono or stereo to the camera?

Is it switchable between mic and presumably consumer line level?

Is there an AGC circuit in the camera and is it defeatable?

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 7:51:26 pm

Hey, Ty!
Thank you for your help!
The 1/8" jack on my camera is stereo. And, it is not switchable between line or mic.
As for a defeatable AGC circuit in the camera, all I can tell you is that I can switch between Automatic or Manual mic level. When on Manual, I can set the audio input from lowest, where it doesn't record any sound, to highest, where any loud noises are clipped.
Is sounds like you figure I should avoid dynamic microphones? The one I've tried is a $60 Radio Shack mic. I'm pretty sure it's a condenser mic (if I remember correctly), and it has its own battery. The sound I'm getting is what I'd describe as kind of "weak and muffled", as compared to the sound I get when using a large diaphragm desktop mic and an Zoom H4n.
I was just wondering if another mic or another set-up would clean up the sound going into the camera (given the limitations of the camera).
Anyways, any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks again,
Vic


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Ty Ford
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 8:21:32 pm

Vic,

Your problem may be the mic cable. Most XLR to 1/8" cables are not wired for a mono mic to be connected to a stereo input and will behave weirdly.

If your mic has an XLR connector you need a female XLR to plug into it and a 1/8" that's been wired with the hot side of the mic connected to both the tip and ring of the 1/8" plug.

One of these:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/158476-REG/Hosa_Technology_XVM_101F_M...

Regards,

Ty Ford


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 8:49:36 pm

Hey, Ty!
Thanks so much for that! What you've described makes perfect sense, and seems to me to be a very logical explanation of what I'm experiencing with my audio. I especially appreciate your providing a link to the needed device. And your timing is perfect! I'm just about to place an order at B&H, so I'll definitely include one of these devices in my order.
Can you suggest a "fairly" decent (i.e. "not-too-expensive") mic? I'd obviously need one that has it's own battery, since my camera doesn't provide phantom power. I'd rather not go over a hundred bucks right now. Any thoughts?
Again, thank you so much!
Vic


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Ty Ford
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 9:58:19 pm

Vic,

remind me. what do you want to use the mic for?

Ty


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 10:37:50 pm

Hi Ty,
My main line of work is in real estate videos. However, lately, I'm doing more business promotional type videos, including personal promos for the agents. This involves "head and shoulder" type interviews. So, I'd like a mic that'll give me a clean, strong signal for that purpose.
Thanks Ty.
Vic


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Ty Ford
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 11:45:18 pm

OK, Vic, what's the make and model of the camera?


Ty


Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 4, 2012 at 2:42:42 am

Hey, Ty:
The camcorder is a Canon Vixia HF M400.
Vic


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Richard Crowley
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 2:34:34 pm

There are dozens of different things that can affect the sound quality. It would be impossible for us to offer any advice without something more specific to work on. Your description of the sound only tells us subjectively that you don't like it. With specific issues, we can most likely offer some constructive suggestions.

Ideally you could post a sample of your audio or video somewhere so that we can hear it. And tell us specifically about what you are dissatisfied with. And please give us specific make and model numbers so we know what we are dealing with.

It is quite possible to get good sound out of very modest equipment if you know the limitations and work within them.


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 8:00:04 pm

Hey, Richard. Thanks so much for your help.
I'm shooting with a Canon HF M400 camcorder. And the microphone is an old Radio Shack lavalier mic; pretty sure it's a condenser mic, and it has it's own battery.
The picture quality on the camera is amazing for an inexpensive camera, but I'm wondering if I can get better sound. I've read about the BeachTek and JuicedLink devices, and have considered purchasing one. However, I'm thinking I'll be buying a camera with XLR inputs later this year, so I don't want to waste money for short-term solutions. Though, I wouldn't mind buying a decent mic if this would help.
I'll post a sample of the sound when I get a chance in the next day or so.
Thanks again.
Vic


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Craig Alan
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 7:47:53 pm

[Vic Noseworthy] "BeachTek or JuicedLink, that I'd get better sound (and could use XLR mics!). However, I'll be upgrading my camera soon, and would rather wait (my new camera will have XLR inputs).
"


So why not invest in an audio mixer that will help you now and for years to come? The least expensive one and the best one for consumer gear with mini-plug connections is http://www.sounddevices.com/products/mixpre-d.htm
It will allow you to lower the preamps on your mini cam a lot and provide phantom power, clean preamp many options for output both to your current cam and to your next one with xlr, a very good headphone monitoring jack and amp, etc. It can also be used in post. If you want to spend more the Sound devices 302 adds an extra input and 2 stages of input levels and is an industry standard. These are built like a tank, fully professional, reasonably priced, and you won't regret it. The mixpre-d can be mounted under your camera with an optional accessory. For the mini-plug you'll also need a special interconnect.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/764543-REG/Sound_Devices_MIXPRE_D_Mix...

$750

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=SOXL3&N=0&InitialSearch=yes

$40

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/765186-REG/Sound_Devices_XL_CAM_XL_CA...

$80

Unlike professional cams when you are dealing with consumer cams you'll need to experiment for proper calibration between mixer and cam. What I have found with consumer level Canons (the highly recommended HV30/40 tape based HDV) is 0 level tone out the mixer should be set to -12 on Cam's meter. On more professional cams it should be set to -20. (give or take how much headroom you prefer). Regardless of this fine-tuning you'll be able to capture decent sound for the first time and you won't look back.

Cordless mikes are far more expensive than corded mikes. You can get a very good handheld mike for $150. Cordless kits start at about $600. For any given application post here what you hope to shoot and these pros will give you some options at different price points. Audio is by far the hardest and most important variable in any production. Don't treat it like an afterthought.

One other thing about Sound Devices -- don't be intimidated by the professional jargon. Their customer service is great and they'll help you through any problems and set up.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 8:35:17 pm

Hey, Craig.
Thanks for the info. I have bookmarked the MixPre-D for future consideration. The cost, right now, is somewhat prohibitive... especially since I'm considering a new camera purchase soon. But, I've read a little about the device, and I have to say, it looks impressive. Perhaps you can tell me something...
While I see the benefits of this device for my current camera, would attaching it give me significantly better sound on a good quality camera with XLR inputs?
I realize I'd have more options (additional inputs, switchable from mic to line, etc.) but would a single mic going into the camera yield better audio by adding this device?
I'm asking because I've always assumed that a good camera with XLR inputs would give good sound (by "good", I mean it would serve my purposes for getting clean sound for television and web, single-person interviews). I'm sure this device could make the sound even cleaner, but for a one-man operation like myself, wouldn't the XLR inputs on my camera suffice?
Thanks, again, Craig.
Vic


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Craig Alan
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 11:04:41 pm

Yes I believe you will get significantly better audio. The preamp is of a better quality than you'll find in most prosumer level cams. As is many other features such as built in limiters and filters. But perhaps even more important -- it will be way easier to monitor and control the levels. If you mount the mixpre-d under your cam after calibrating correctly and taking a sound check, you need only ride one or two knobs that are fat and easy to manipulate even in the dark. Most of the knobs on prosumer cams are awkward to ride. The meters hard to read in the middle of a shoot. The LED meters on SD mixers are easy to read and you can control how much headroom you want to leave depending on what you are shooting. You will also have a good quality port for a good set of headphones. Most headphone outs on less expensive cams are so poor that it is hard to judge quality. With SD mixers you can control the output level to play well with your camera. You can control the input levels. Doing the camera work and riding audio levels is less than ideal except perhaps when you are shooting a static scene that you frame once and set the exposure once. Explaining what a good mixer does from just a technical pov is less than complete answer. Let’s just say once you shoot with one you will not want to go without it. A good mixer and the right mike for the right production is on par with using professional lights compared to whatever lights happen to be overhead. Can you shoot without it? Sure. But a decent prosumer level cam starts at about $3000. At that price point you have pretty good ergonomics and lots of features and an incredible image compared to what we all had few years ago. Audio – not so different. Bad sound renders more shots unusable than bad video (visuals) by far. The manufacturers are putting the largest portion of their research, development, and quality control on the visual side of things. Audio is just as important. It’s an audiovisual medium. As end users, we need to even this out if we want quality product.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Vic Noseworthy
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 3, 2012 at 11:31:54 pm

Thanks, Craig. Good info, and I appreciate it! I especially like the SD MixPre-D box. I know exactly what you mean when you say that tech specs are only part of the equation. I've gone from a camcorder that had real buttons to touch screen... and, all I can say is "Yuck"! So, I appreciated that SD has made their equipment very "hands on".
Anyways, it's all good to know. Thank you again!
Vic


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Al Bergstein
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 4, 2012 at 4:49:38 pm

While all these are great posts, I'll add my .02.

I have a lot of great mics for use in the field and studio, for my Panasonic TM900, I've taken to using a Sennheiser ME-2 Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier Microphone for Use with the Evolution Wireless Series Transmitters. This mic plugs directly into my camera, I have an extension for it so I can run it to the talent, and it works just great. While I thought it was only for their wireless units the guy at our local video store in Seattle (Glazer's) told me they had good success with them, and sure enough, it's great. Not cheap, but not high priced either. Add a 10' extension cable.

I have used this successfully with a Zoom, etc.

I too recommend that you save up to get a field recorder, like a Zoom or other high quality recorder (since the Zoom doesn't have true line in, if I had to do it over I'd now get the Marantz 661
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/594741-REG/Marantz_PMD661_PMD661_Prof...

and the Mixpre-D
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/764543-REG/Sound_Devices_MIXPRE_D_Mix...

These tools (while limited to 2 XLR inputs) can get you a good basic sound, without knowing your actual needs beyond what you have stated.

By the way, I really like the Panasonic camera, and have added the Panny wide angle lens attachment. This is my 'go to' camera when I don't want to lug the 7D or XF305. In other words, not my professional setup.

Al


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Craig Alan
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 4, 2012 at 11:39:18 pm

Really? You can use the Sennheiser G2/G3 compatible lavs directly into the mini-port of the camera? If so I like the countryman lavs for that system a bit more but yeah should be quite usable. However, you do need to provide phantom power, right? His Canon cannot provide that though the mixpre-d can. What did you use for the 10 ft extension? A female/female adapter plug plus the cable or female to male cable? Have you tried it going to an xlr input?

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Eric Toline
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 5, 2012 at 3:23:20 am

Lav mics do not use "phantom" power which is 48v. They use a power source of about 3volts which most consumer cameras provide at the 3.5mm mic in jack.

Eric


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Al Bergstein
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 5, 2012 at 4:06:33 am

right. I agree with that. I'm going to post the photos of what I have tomorrow. No phantom was needed. I just plugged it in.Some lavs appear to need phantom, some don't. Go to B&H.

Al


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Craig Alan
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:28:35 pm

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/217474-REG/Sennheiser_ME2_ME2_Lavalie...

says Phantom Power Provided by Wireless Transmitter

but I guess that is what you describe since everyone says it works.

so do you have a link for extension cable and mini female to xlr cable that will allow me to use mine wired to different cams? if xlr what to use for power?

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Al Bergstein
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Mar 8, 2012 at 1:34:02 am

Craig, these are not XLR based mics. They have 1/8th in jacks on them. I wanted to make sure that I had said the right mic, because there are no labels on this mic. But what I quoted is what the receipt from Glazer's said. So I'm pretty sure this is what it is (G). If you look at the illustration, you'll see that there is no XLR on this mic.

The extension cables are simply 1/8th in jack extensions, female (which plugs into the male jack end of the cable) to male. They should be available on B&H as well as any major vendor. Mine was coiled, which I like.

Al


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Andrés Martín
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Feb 16, 2014 at 10:01:05 pm

Hi, I'm new here.
I also have a Panasonic TM-900, and i wanted to buy this microphone http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1012003-REG/rode_videomic_go_videomic...
It says it needs 2.5V from the audio input jack. Do you know if this camera can provide that?

Thank you very much


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Ty Ford
Re: How to get good sound on a consumer camcorder? Mic recommendations?
on Feb 16, 2014 at 11:46:52 pm

Hello Andres and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

I can't tell if the camera has that ability, and I'm guessing you haven't found it to either.

So, they are either bad at marketing specs or the camera doesn't have that feature.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Cow Audio Forum Leader

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide
Ty Ford Blog: Ty Ford's Blog


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