What type of dslr microphone should I get?

Discussion in 'Video' started by john_e|2, Jun 4, 2014.

  1. I'm going to test out my 1dx video feature at a dance recital coming up.
    What type of external microphone should I get for this type of event? I'm looking at Rode stereo videomic pro, but don't really know if I should get this type or shotgun style or what. Don't know much about audio, just know the internal mic is not what I want to use.
  2. What are you recording? Meaning, are you looking to record foot noise (like tap dancing) from the stage, or a live orchestra in the pit? And where will you be as you do this, relative to the source(s) of the sound you want to record?

    A microphone is chosen, among other things, because of its pickup pattern. The longer the shotgun, the more narrow the pattern. It's not about "magnifying" the sound it's pointed at, but about rejecting sounds from the side. In the case of shooting from the audience at a performance, you might be looking to avoid recording your own breathing, or the sounds of people shifting in their seats.

    But if you're trying to record the music that accompanies the dance, then it's that source of sound you need to consider. And if it's stationary, even as you pan the camera back and forth to follow action on the stage, a too-directional mic mounted on your camera will have the music appearing to change in volume as the mic is moved about (and, if it's a stereo mic, the sound might appear to wander from left to right).

    You're right that the internal mic is to be avoided in most cases. But the chose of mic with a wider cardioid patter vs. the more narrow pattern of a longer shotgun mic - that's really a function of your shooting circumstances. I frequently use a Sennheiser rig that allows me to change the "front" half of the mic from a short omni to a mid-range shotgun, to a long shotgun as I see fit. But sometimes I'll just use the internal camera mic (for reference), and then use a portable digital recorder - like a Zoom H4N - places up near the stage. That latter option means synchronizing the remotely recorded audio with the video later, in post.
  3. John, your question is very general akin to asking what camera/lens to use under the same circumstances. In the same way, audio recording will depend on the microphone location, sound source (live or recorded), venue acoustics, ambient noise level, etc..
    It will be difficult to make recommendations without more detail, but considering the caliber of your existing gear and possible future use without investing heavily into audio or learning the discipline, you might consider the Zoom H6 recorder which offers interchangeable microphone elements (X-Y, Mid-Side, included, shotgun optional) or external microphones via available XLR inputs.
    If the audio is prerecorded, you can also ask for a direct house feed which you can record simultaneously with the live recording on separate tracks which you can mix in post; a whole lot of features for $399 which can be mounted on its own mic stand - set it (carefully) and forget it.
    My suggestion is based on a dance recital in which the video recording of the dancer's movements is the primary concern and audio is arguably secondary. However, used properly, the Zoom H6 will also perform admirably if it was a classical music recital where audio is everything.
  4. As Matt indicated, try keeping the mic away from the camera, which means it should be on it's own support or someone holding it. If you get really particular, the mic should have it's own mount, which further isolates even handling noise. This way you can avoid bumps or any noise that you may create while operating the camera. Getting a good mic that's hooked up to quality recorder such as Zoom or Fostex, etc. will give you great results....I'm assuming someone will monitor and adjust the sound levels.
    If you are serious about quality mics (w/o distortion)...there are only few manuf that can claim that. Sennheiser has been making mics for variety of applications and for quite a long time = v. reliable. You might be able to pick up a used Senn 416 (medium shotgun & quite robust) that's been widely used in documentaries and in on-camera interviews. I should add that students used it (@SFSU) and over the years they didn't destroy it....and that counts for something :>).
    You could also check the specs of AKG, Audio-Technica, Shoeps, Neumann and see what works for you.
    I'm just adding....Matt and Michael pretty much covered the important stuff.
  5. It's a dance recital, Ballet, hip hop, Jazz and Tap.
    I'll be in the balcony in the isle with people sitting next to me and behind me. I need to be able to pick up the music and the applause but am worried about the ambient noise and chatter from people in the audience close to me. There are four speakers on the stage facing the audience that are equally spaced apart. if a shotgun mic works like a telephoto lens i'm worried it won't pick up the music and applause well enough. I'm planning to put the mic on a stand off the camera.
  6. Are you there in an official capacity of any sort, or just as a member of the audience?

    If you are there officially, the first option is to work with the sound engineer for the show and make a direct connection to the sound system. Depending on where the sound board is located (often the back of the auditorium) you might be able to drop a cable from your location in the balcony down to the sound board or go wireless. (There are transmitters that plug into the XLR connection on the end of a professional non-wireless microphone and turn it into a wireless mic. The receive on the camera end is the same as a normal wireless mic receiver.)

    The next best bet is to put your microphone as close as possible to one of the speakers. One quick and dirty trick I've learned from TV crews I work with is to gaffer tape a tieclip mic to the speaker. Again, it can be cable or wireless. Is there an additional speaker in the balcony that would be easier to get to than those down on the stage?

    Don't worry about picking up applause even if plugged directly into the sound system. Applause is usually loud enough that even the mikes on stage will pick it up. (Unless the main system is just canned music and there are no microphones.)

    Finally, and this could work even if you're there just as a spectator... Get a "short shotgun" mic and a clamp that lets you clamp it to the railing of the balcony. Point it as best you can to one of the speakers.

    In all of these scenarios, use headphones to be able to hear what you're getting.

    As others have noted, you generally want a microphone as close to the subject as possible. Most of the mics being sold as "dslr microphones" are silly toys that slide into the camera hotshoe. They aren't close enough to the subject to be of much use and pick up camera noises. If you want to see how to do sound quickly and simply, turn on the TV tonight and watch the news. You will see a couple of types of microphones in use. For a reporter doing a standup or putting a mic in the face of someone they are interviewing, 90 percent of those mics will be an Electrovoice RE50 ($200) or an Electrovoice 635A ($100). They have been around for decades and are hockey pucks. For sitdown interviews you will see tieclip mics. Sony makes professional ones for about $150 and up, or RadioShack sells OK ones for about $30. TV news cameras always have a short shotgun mic mounted on top to gather ambient sound but it's really their better-than-nothing backup mic for situations where they can't get a mic closer. you'll also see shotguns and short shotguns on a boom pole sometimes, but that requires a second person and again is not as good as getting a mic right in someone's face.
  7. Official capacity: the sound engineer is a jerk and won't allow anyone to connect to his system. he threw a hissy fit when he overheard me informing the dance company owner that the videographer had the equipment and knowledge to tie into the sound system.
    The company owner wants the actual sound from the show to get the applause and to pick up the sound from the dancers, especially the tap dancers. we used the built in mic on the video camera last year and it worked well enough so they were happy but I'd like to try to provide something better this year. This year I'm taking my 1dx in addition to the pro video camera the videographer will use.
    I'm looking at the mic Michael Chang recommended from BH http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/967366-REG/zoom_h6_handy_audio_recorder.html
    So If I go with the mic that Michael recommended I could set it on stage near a speaker and pick up the music, applause and the sound from the dancers. the sound won't be distorted if the mic is so close to the speaker?
  8. The Zoom unit can probably record better quality sound than your camera, and the idea of putting it up on stage by a speaker is good. But keep in mind that it's a recorder, not a microphone. Its built in microphones are better than the built in microphone on your camera, but it ideally should still be used with an external microphone (two if you actually want to record real stereo but that's icing on the cake).

    Using a separate recorder also means you have to sync the sound to the picture afterward. There are automated systems for helping with that these days but in a situation like this where you don't have lip movements to match to words I imagine it would be trickier than usual.

    I could see using a wireless mike on stage by the speaker. You would get the same advantages of putting the Zoom there but by recording into your camera you wouldn't have to deal with syncing up afterward.

    This is probably entirely a moot point, but if the sound engineer is being paid, he should do whatever the people paying him tell him to do. Maybe the approach is not to ask to be allowed to "plug into" his gear, maybe you could ask him to "give you a feed" from his board. Emphasize that he's the sound expert, let him know what the organizers want, let him use his expertise to come up with it and provide the connection he is comfortable with that can go into your camera.

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