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best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder

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Davida Hewlett
best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 5, 2013 at 8:52:51 pm

Dear Forum,

I came across this fantastic forum and hoping someone may be able to help me.
I am coming to the US to record a series of conversations between myself and several elderly leading figures in their discipline. I would like these conversations to be informal, and somewhat spontaneous - allowing me to think on my feet and pose questions, talk about my own work etc - an organic conversation.
The conversations are 3 hours per day x 3 days.
I have bought a good quality point and shoot camcorder as I am on my own and cannot think about manual focus etc. I will just need to put it on a tripod and leave it. The camcorder is a Panasonic HC -X920.
I make videos with Imovie (learing Final Cut) but I am not a technical person. I think I will employ a professional editor to edit the videos after. These videos are personal but will also be shown at galleries and museums possibly.
My question is about sound. I have been reading about the different types of microphones, and must admit I am getting confused.
I don't have much time to get acquainted with the equipment and I will not be able to do much monitoring as I want to focus on the conversation. I would like to have a good quality sound but don't want to spend much more than $350.00 if possible.
We will be sitting I am sure most of the time, but could possibly move to another part of the house occasionally or outside. There will not be people around though, and it is in a quiet domestic (in a forest) location.
I own a Sony ECMMS907.CE7 microphone I bought years ago and a Sony MiniDisk recorder which work together. The editor I know suggested possibly using that as back up in addition to the camcorder and external mic. Is this a good idea?
I have read the posts about clip on mics and the difficulties of having two into one input i.e. unreliable. I am very reliant on the technology working correctly (once in a lifetime opportunity) but am limited by budget and am on my own.
Any suggestions about which mic to buy would be hugely appreciated!!!
THANK YOU!


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Richard Crowley
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 5, 2013 at 9:23:51 pm

Does your camera have a microphone input connector? If not, then you will need to use a separate sound recorder.

I would use a "shaver" digital audio recorder and a couple of decent wired clip-on lav mics. You do not have the budget for even 1/2 of ONE decent wireless microphone kit.

Strong recommendation AGAINST recording audio to ANY compressed format (MP3, ATRAC, etc.) so that eliminates the MD recorder.


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Davida Hewlett
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 5, 2013 at 9:30:13 pm

Thanks so much. Yes camera does have mic input. Ok will look into shaver mics. Yeah I know I haven't budgeted much. I could stretch to a bit more - but will only use it this once.
Thanks again.


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Craig Alan
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 6, 2013 at 3:49:01 am

If you are only going to use it this once, I would spend that $350 on renting better gear and/or getting a student who knows audio and can bring their own gear to help you out. Audio will be the key to this project and it will be really hard to do it alone. I would also get a camera operator. Video can get real boring real fast if you have one stagnant shot and fair sound at best. It seems like you have a really interesting project and the key to getting it seen is good production. There are a lot of skilled film students now a days. $350 won't pay for a pro with gear or I would suggest that.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Camcorders: Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV30/40, Sony Z7U, VX2000, PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Davida Hewlett
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 5, 2013 at 9:58:23 pm

Thanks so much. Yes camera does have mic input. Ok will look into shaver mics. Yeah I know I haven't budgeted much. I could stretch to a bit more - but will only use it this once.
Thanks again.

Oh....just one more thing - you mention using a couple of clip on mics - I was just wondering how you thought I should use these please? i.e. I read you lose sound quality by putting both mics through an adaptor into one input?! What do you recommend?


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Richard Crowley
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 5, 2013 at 11:48:16 pm

If the camera has a mic input, you could use something like a Beachtek DXA-2 or even MCC-2 adapters for your camera, and eliminate the extra work and expense of a separate audio recorder.

http://www.beachtek.com/products/camcorders/dxa-2t/
http://www.beachtek.com/products/camcorders/mcc-2/

All modern camcorders have "stereo" (read: "2-channel") audio recording. It is simply a matter of plugging each separate microphone into a separate channel. That is one of the functions of the Beachtek adapters. They provide separate mic input jacks for each channel. You are NOT combining the audio into "one input". You have TWO inputs.

If I had a camera with a mic input and your low audio budget, I would rather buy two halfway-decent clip-on mics and record them directly to the camera vs. using a separate audio recorder. Getting the mic closer to your subject(s) will make a MUCH bigger improvement than using a separate recorder.


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Al Bergstein
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 6, 2013 at 3:09:42 pm

Davida, you didn't mention budget on this. It's a shame that given the unique situation you are recording, you didn't spend the money that you spent on the Panny on someone who has the equipment to do the job right for you. But that's water under the bridge now. Having done a lot of interviews solo, I can tell you it's very hard to do right, and takes a lot of practice to avoid all sorts of pitfalls.

I have an earlier model of the camera you have, and it performs very well, but again, it is rather complicated if you don't take the time to practice. Autofocus mode might focus on something you don't want to focus on, so I would try and put your interview subject in the center of your frame if you aren't going to manually focus (which I would recommend, as you have a lot of Depth of Field with that camera). Be cautious of your lighting also, try and get it coming over your shoulder, not behind the subject.

The least complicated way to do what you want is to get a microphone boom, buy a decent mic that is somewhat cardiod, and boom it above the both of you, just out of camera range. But it isn't great for when you are walking around (G).

As to mics, there are a huge range of choices today. Since you want two people mic'ed, I'd likely look to either a separate recorder, placed close to both of you, and marry the sound up in post, using the camera sound as a backup. If you go the route of the Beachtek, you might try this:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/962864-REG/MCC-2_2-Channel_Audio_Adap....
I can't vouch that it will work for your camera, but you might try it) It allows for two 3.5 jack mics to be plugged in simultaneously.

An idea that is worth exploring is perhaps using a Sony ICD-SX712 Digital Flash Voice Recorder close to the interviewees, and spread the mics on it out in a fan. I use this recorder a lot, mainly for meetings, but it does a very good job of recording, without putting a mic right on the person. It's also very portalbe. and it has a mic in so you could put a lav on your talent and go right into the sony. You also could use the Zoom H1, but I'm unclear if it's got the capacity for long recordings, as you are saying you might do. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/699403-REG/Zoom_H1_H1_Ultra_Portable_...
Tascam's DR40 and DR5 are also great recorders for under $200.

You can now buy a lav from Rode and use it with an iPhone, which is a great way to go, just be sure to put the phone in airplane mode prior to recording, and put it on a belt loop or pocket actually on the interviewee. I've found the quality of recording on my iphone to be astonishingly good, even without a lav attached. It's all about placement of the mic. And it seems a lot of people have smartphones. I've not tried using an Android phone, but I bet it's fine. Key is finding a lav that works with them. Not all do.

Lavilier mics are cheap and usually ok in the low end. I avoid Azden as they are cheaply made. But you might buy two and throw one out if they fail. They also can be very tinny sounding. You could get one lav and put it on the interviewee and run it into the recorder, and one into the camcorder. I usually use a lav on my Panasonic TM900 when I do an interview that I don't want to take my professional gear along to (meaning I'm traveling and something good comes up to record). Also buy an extension cord for the lav. I carry two coiled extensions and while not a great idea, they always have worked with no interference. Again, having everyone turn off their cell phones prior to recording will help avoid cell phone hunting interference from the phones.

I use a http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/217486-REG/Sennheiser_ME4_ME4_Lavalie... for my Panny or my DSLRs. It is good quality and relatively inexpensive. I didn't know if it would work when I bought it, but it's been great.

Your camera also has a headphones jack. I would make sure to test the setup before recording with your headphones on. Even cheap ipod phones are better than nothing.

So there you have it. A crash course in trying to DIY in the field.

Al


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Davida Hewlett
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 6, 2013 at 4:04:51 pm

Thank you so much! That is incredibly helpful!
I ve read your email a couple of times and going to digest it and do some research on your suggestions.
I think the separate voice recorder a good idea and lots of trying out.

I bought this dictaphone for recording some informal chats a few months ago. Wish I had spent more originally.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sony-ICD-PX312-Digital-voice-recorder/dp/B004SO9604...

Yes, budget - I don't really want to spend more than $400.00 as I won't use it after this project - as important as it is?!

Yes, heard the zoom is good. I saw both of these:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoom-H4n-Bonus-16GB-Tripod/dp/B001RBY2CI/ref=sr_1_c...

and

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoom-Handy-Recorder-Card-Wavelab/dp/B005CQ2ZY6/ref=...

Any thoughts on these? Do you think the first one will be too complicated for me?
I don't want to blow the whole thing because I miss something - I'll be concentrating on the conversation etc.

Also, I don't have an iphone but do have a Samsung smart phone. Do you think I need one for this.

Thanks again. Your advice was invaluable! Really helpful about light/ position etc. Needed a crash course. Thanks again!


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Al Bergstein
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 6, 2013 at 5:14:21 pm

Thanks. No I would not rely on the Dictaphone unit.

Zoom makes ok gear, but personally I would never buy one again. I had one and it failed after two years. I found that in the price range, Tascam or Sony are much better products by and large. Note that one of the reviews talks about the tripod mount breaking off. It likely would get you through though. Sound quality is usually quite good on Zoom.

A Smart Phone lav mic might be a good investment for your phone, and there are very good cheap recording programs for iPhone, and I assume Android. I personally use Rode's own software, which is based on Fire, if I remember right.

I have gotten a lot of work from people like yourself who had important things to shoot and record, thought they could do it themselves, and quickly realized that what separates any pro from an amateur is that people that make their livings doing these things invest in the right tools, and learn how to do it so they don't miss the shot they are getting paid to get. Where I live, I would have been glad to shoot and process such a shoot for the less than the price you paid for the camera and what you expect to pay for the rest of the gear. In our backwater here in the Pacific NW, I routinely shoot and hand over interviews like this for about $500. for a half day shooting and quick handoff of raw footage. I bet you could find a pro willing to do the same (or an eager student) for that or less.

It's not to say that you shouldn't take the time and invest the money in having the right tools. Heck you already spent a lot on the camera, and it's a great little camera! Many pros have them, there is a very active Forum on DVinfo on this camera with over 1000 posts (!). It's biggest shortcoming is that it's not great in low light.

Spending the time and money to buy a good recorder (they are ridiculously cheap these days), and practicing how to use it before going into a once in a lifetime opportunity is really a great investment. I personally think all high school students ought to be taught how to do this properly, because it's so important to business marketing these days.

Anyway, good luck, and send us an update when you are done with the project. We'd love to see how it turned out!

Al


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Bill Davis
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 6, 2013 at 7:11:28 pm

Radical suggestion here.

Bur a pair of Zoom H1 recorders. $99 ea.

Make sure your interviewees wear shirts or jackets with breast pockets.

Start the recorders. The interviewee wears one in his exterior breast pocket.

In that position, it should be fine for voice recording. Or you can combine it with a simple wired lav and rig that. Your call.

You hold yours like a microphone and monitor it for handling and/or wind noise. You can then use your recorder/mic in classic interview style moving from your voice to his as needed like a news interviewer. But when walking or informally chatting across a table, his mic will have the superior recording position.

Buy a mono earbud and listen to your mic - then hope that his recorder will be even better.

If the recorders are visible on camera, so what?

FWIW.

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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Al Bergstein
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:59:58 pm

That's not a bad idea....

Al


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Davida Hewlett
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 7, 2013 at 11:11:03 am

Thank you!


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Ty Ford
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 7, 2013 at 2:57:57 am

Hello Davida and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

You are about to learn that audio is not plug and play.

If you're expectations are as low as your budget for audio gear, you will be OK.

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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Davida Hewlett
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 7, 2013 at 11:16:06 am

Well, that's not very nice or very helpful.
We can't be experts on every subject - that's why I asked here.
I am just trying to do the best I can with the money I have. Some of the conversations are taking place over a 6 week period, or else I would have been able to hire an expert to look after the sound for me.


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Ty Ford
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 7, 2013 at 5:20:17 pm

Dear Davida,

Sometimes the truth is not nice. Your attempt to "kill the messenger" is duly noted.

You won't be using manual focus, looking through the viewfinder or monitoring the audio.

Any one of those approaches, by itself, can result in a train wreck.

Good Luck and please let us know how it turns out.

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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Craig Alan
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 8, 2013 at 3:31:14 pm

Read my advice again. There are some great film students all over the world right now that if they feel the right project would help their development they would do it for a shoestring. Put together your crew. Content is king and you've got that.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Camcorders: Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV30/40, Sony Z7U, 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: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 9, 2013 at 5:20:20 am

This kind of posting easily leads to misinterpretation. Hope my post was not misconstrued. We wish you the best of luck. And let us see how things came out.

Al


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Davida Hewlett
Re: best microphone for interview / conversation recorded on camcorder
on Aug 9, 2013 at 7:08:16 am

No, no. Thank you so much for the great, generous help. Just taking it all in and trying to find the best way forward.


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