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Audio setup

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Lee Jia Bao
Audio setup
on Oct 31, 2015 at 1:37:06 am

I know this has been asked thousands of times but I'm gonna ask it again. What do you recommend me to get for a good audio setup? I know good's vague but you get it. I currently have no audio equipment at all. Budget is around USD400, but I suspect I will need to spend more. I don't mind syncing audio, but I rather not do it. I'm looking to use this mic on travels and maybe some run and gun work. I have a Nikon D5300, I haven't tried but I believe it's pre amps sucks. So what do you guys advice me to get?


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:21:02 am

Hello Lee, may I suggest that you try seeking out DSLR forums and post your questions there, as this forum is an 'Audio Professionals' forum and do not often use the gear you are looking at so its hard to have an option on that gear.
Yes we can make some informed conclusions but based on our knowledge they may be way above your budget.


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:24:35 am

Alright i'll head there. Thanks.


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Harlan Rumjahn
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 6:39:56 am

Hi Lee,

It is a good question to have. I had that same question many moons ago. The answer is pretty simple for the type of shooting you have in mind. I've discovered this through years of trial and error (and money spent).

I'll leave the details up to you, but to answer your question, you should get 1) a high quality, portable digital audio recorder, and 2) a lavalier microphone that works with a small, high quality, portable digital audio recorder (or a wireless lav system, although these may be less reliable due to range and radio interference).

With those two items and the camera you already have, you will be able to make most run-n-gun, travel projects you can imagine. Of course you may need more lavs or more recorders depending on how many people will be speaking and the sounds you want to record in real time, but that's up to you.

A shotgun mic is good if you're going to have some planned project in which there is pre-planned positioning of talent, camera, and audio--like in making a Hollywood movie. But if it's just you and your gear trying to catch vacations, documentaries and such on the fly, the basic tools are those I suggest above.

You can always use the handheld recorders away from the camera to capture better audio, but always have one at least nearby the camera--probably best if it is attached to it somehow, so you're never with only video without the audio. Audio is so important! Never neglect it please.

Finally, you must have a way to sync the audio and video--every non-linear-editor (NLEs) has this ability.

These basic techniques I've described are most likely what everybody else is going to tell you. Where they differ is on the specific gear they use.

I hope this helps!

P.S. I think your question was appropriate to this forum. I'm not sure why someone suggested you were posting in the wrong forum.


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 7:26:39 am

Thank you for your response! However, I forgot to add, I'm afraid that I'm unable to mic up the talent so I don't think a Lav will work for me. On a side note, what audio recorder do you recommend? I don't have the budget for a sound devices so that's out of the question. I'm looking at the Tascam (DR70D,DR60DII) and the Zooms (H5). I've also heard that Tascam recorders have extremely poor battery life (although I know they can be powered by a battery) and for the zoom side I heard that the pre amps aren't very good.


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Eric Toline
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:02:31 pm

The pre-amps in the Zoom 5 & 6 are more than adequate for the job at hand. Knowing how to set your gain staging will result in great tracks. As an aside the new Zoom F8 has pre-amps that are equal to Sound Devices. An amazing achievement by Zoom.

"I push the RECORD button and hope for the best"


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 12:14:20 pm

Thanks for the response. How does the H5 compare to the Dr60d mk2? And is there somewhere I can learn more about setting the gain?


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Harlan Rumjahn
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 9:03:01 pm

I've done research on both the Zooms and Tascams. I also own a Tascam DR-40, after having done my research on portable audio recorders. The widely popular Zoom H4N has, unfortunately, noisy pre-amps when compared to the Tascam. The Tascam, on the other hand, is sometimes subject to a digital interference in certain environments. I haven't figured that out yet, but it will make your audio unusable.

That being said, the small Tascam has suited me well for many years. You can use it as a type of boom mic if you attach it to the end of a boom pole or, in my case, a painter's pole. The audio is fantastic.

However, my current recommendation is even better (for my purposes) than the Tascam. That recommendation is the Sony PCM-M10. After more research and hands-on experience, the Sony PCM-M10 is, in my humble opinion, the best portable audio recorder in its class. It is as small as a pack of cards (okay, maybe slightly larger).

I cannot stress enough how handy it is to have a recorder that is small, which you can keep with your camera at all times and move it around the environment as needed (to pick up audio at a closer distance) or to attach a lavaliere into it so the talent can carry it around easily. Or, you can use it separately to pick up foley audio for footage you took that either had poor audio capture, or audio that you didn't like and want to redo.

The preamps on the Sony are silent, and it can be plugged directly into your camera.

What's the catch? The catch is that it does not have XLR inputs. But, like I mentioned above, for your purposes you probably won't be needing a XLR-connected mic, such as a shotgun mic. The small, unobtrusive camera package you're wanting will not go too well with a shotgun mic. I've discovered this on my own through experience.

Another possible drawback of the Sony is that the mics are omnidirectional, which so far hasn't posed a problem for me. In fact, I did a side-by-side comparison to the Olympus LS-14, which has cardioid mics, and the Sony still sounds better at close and long distances away, at least to my non-professional ears.

But really, you can experiment on your own and find the products that suit your needs best. Just keep in mind the shooting situations you're intending, or else it will be easy to buy all kinds of neato gear, only to find that when you get down to it, you've spent a lot of money on stuff you don't want to be hauling around with you.

One more thing, I'm not sure why you won't be able to mic up your talent, as you said. You really should think about that. I often mic up myself, and if you have a friend you want to include in your videos, it is very easy to hand over the lav, tell him to put it on, then press record. The lav has provided me some of my best audio for my projects. In fact, if I could use one all the time I would. With the lav mic right up close to the person's mouth, the dialogue is very clear even in noisy environments and even with inexpensive lav mics (inexpensive meaning around $150).

I hope this helps!

P.S. I haven't heard of the new Zoom that was mentioned by another member above. I gotta check that out!


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 1, 2015 at 10:53:01 pm

Any small hand held recorders running on just a few AA batteries will use them up quickly trying to generate 48v phantom power.....
Getting 48v from 3 -6v chews up battery life quickly.

As a suggestion get mics that don't need phantom powering either Dynamic or self powered / internal batteries.
Be mindful that the Rode NTG2 which my seem ideal at a first glance can be VERY problematic with hand held recorders because of its VERY low audio output level, which means you need to increase the gain in the pocket recorder often bringing up lots of hissss.


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 2, 2015 at 5:03:29 am

But won't having XLR be not 'future proof' if I ever want to upgrade? And I'm not able to mic up the people as it is going to be a group sometimes say 20 people. Can't possibly do it with a lav.


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Harlan Rumjahn
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 2, 2015 at 11:08:32 pm

It's good to think about future proofing your gear, but also think about the possibility of actually using that in the future. I had the same thought, but ended up never using the XLR connection.

Consider getting a recorder with an XLR connection only if you plan to be using a pro mic, like a shotgun microphone, a lot. Then the recorder might come in handy. But when I bought my DR-40, I found that the ability to use the XLR connection only made the recorder larger, not as compact as I like for my compact run-n-gun package, and I never used the XLR connection.

The times I did use a shotgun I didn't need the XLR connection. I do have the NTG 2 but, as was mentioned above, it is a very weak signal directly into a handheld recorder. For this reason I purchased an extremely good low-noise pre-amplifier which itself has an XLR input. So I run my shotgun mic into the pre-amplifier and the pre-amplifier into the non-XLR handheld recorder.

This set up works, but is kind of larger than I would like. Fortunately, for most of my situations, I don't need to put the whole rig together.

You have to decide if you're going to use a shotgun microphone a lot, or not. If not then I would still go with the smaller, non-XLR recorder because it will keep you lighter/smaller, which is how I understand you want to be.

If you ever in the future need to use the shotgun mic, or other pro mic that requires an XLR connection, you can always buy a pre-amp that accepts the XLR connection, or you can just purchase a hand-held recorder that has one built in. But, as has been mentioned, that set up (XLR connected mic into handheld recorder) may provide too weak a signal for some mics, and it will most likely drain your battery power quickly. My external pre-amp has its own battery supply.

The small recorders with the XLR connections are pretty cheap, so you can buy one in the future. That will be your "future proof." Might as well have the non-XLR recorder if that is what you're going to be using most of the time. But this is just my personal taste.

Hope this helps!

P.S. If you're going to be capturing a crowd of people. Small omnidirectional mic(s) placed in the middle of the crowd would work well (i.e. PCM-M10). Also, you can shoot the crowd with your camera at one time, then at a different time capture the sound of a crowd. You would then go back to your editor and put the two together. No one would know ;) That, in my opinion is often the best way: capturing the audio and video separately, so you have more control over the audio.


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 3, 2015 at 8:30:21 am

On a side note, I'm afraid that I'd forget to press record on the audio recorder, is there any foolproof way to prevent this?

I'll head down to a local store soon to see what will suit me.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 3, 2015 at 9:06:21 am

I think (but don't quote me) the Tascam DR60 has some sort of camera / recorder interface.
http://tascam.com/product/dr-60d/#future

You have just found the first of many problems of DSLR recording and why a lot of people use Video Cameras rather than the video option of a stills camera.


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 3, 2015 at 9:23:53 am

Yes, the pre-amps in a DSLR isn't very good. But well, a dedicated video camera is going to cost a lot more than a DSLR. That's why I went that route.


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 3, 2015 at 10:47:37 pm

Its often thought that DSLR is a lower cost route but by the time you add all the tricks to make it a reasonable setup a dedicated Video camera comes out in front.

Also the post production of a video camera with embedded audio is SO much simpler than a split system.


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Lee Jia Bao
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 4, 2015 at 5:58:55 am

Well for me, I shoot photos too sometimes, so well, I feel that a DSLR is a great hybrid for me


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Craig Alan
Re: Audio setup
on Nov 6, 2015 at 10:25:44 pm

Is the entire mixer as good as SD?

meters
limiter
battery power longevity
ergonomics
headphone amp
quality of recording
media card options

etc

at $1000? that's a major shift in price point.

hell the SD mixer without recorder is close to $2000.

the 663 is $3300

I can eyeball the zoom and the the meters are not as good but 1/3rd the price...

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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