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Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by bobdobalina, Oct 30, 2016.
How directional do you need it to be? I used to own a 416 back when I did more recording work, and it was absolutely outstanding! To get the directional control, you'll have to accept the length.
As a voice over guy who dabbles in video, I can tell you that the Sennheiser 416 is really great. I occasionally pull it from the booth and put it on the video camera. Normally, though, a Rode NTG-2 sits there and it is not a bad shotgun at all.
One thing you do need to know, and I got this from researching awhile back, the shotguns appear to do better on phantom power than with batteries. Of course, this is debated, but it sounds as if the circuits are slightly different in pickup. I just use phantom power and don't even think about putting batteries in.
The other thing that I do on occasion is run the Senn or Rode to a Zoom H4n recorder and don't use the on camera audio at all. I will then mix them in Premiere Pro. Hope some of this helps.
My experience with ME66/64:
I bought the ME66 in 2002 (later added an ME64) to go with a Canon XL1s standard def video camera. I got it instead of the 416 to save $500 because I was tapped out money-wise and as a camera person, didn't think too much about the difference between the 2 mics. 14 years later I still use the ME66. But only as a scratch track or back up mic.
It is my biggest purchasing regret ever.
Only later when I really used superior Schoeps, Sennheiser, and Sanken mics did I realize how tinny the ME66 is. When I prorate out that $500 I saved over the past 14 years. I basically saved $35 a year for a relatively so so mic. When I think of all the mediocre audio I recorded over the years to save $3 a month, I see what a bad decision it was.
That was 4 cameras ago yet the ME mics are still with me due to good German engineering. Be they good or mediocre, mics are truly long-term investments. Knowing this now, I am willing to spend as much on mics as cameras since I know they deliver greater value in the long run.
Given that you are on camera with the mic, (sounds like run and gun) it seems like you could be in all manner of uncontrolled audio environments. Here again, a 416, a Sanken cs3, or Schoeps CMIT 5 will save you whereas the ME66 will fail you (Schoeps CMC641 for indoor audio).
If you rent these mics, side by side them, the ME66 I think will be very disappointing to you. You might even be able to go into an audio vendor and ask to test listen to them. They might well accommodate you. You just can't appreciate the difference until you've done this for yourself. I can't speak for the Rode ntg but if it is in the same price range, it will probably deliver comparably. In audio, you really get what you pay for. A twice as expensive mic is actually twice as good.
I always phantom power shotguns from an h6n. h4n is 2 AA vs. 4 AA for the h6n and dies quickly. There is a 2016 model h4n which has better preamps but I don't know about the battery situation. Don't buy an h4n from before this year, really subpar preamps compared to the h6n, particularly with a good mic. However, I run the h6n off of tenergy battery packs to eliminate this point of failure.
But this brings us to the heart of your question which is portability. I have always found it necessary to use shoulder rigs with all this stuff just to make DSLRs functional. When it comes to good audio outdoors, I find depending on anything less to be playing with fire quality-wise. It can be problematic when trying to use the new smaller gyro-gimbals. But then no onboard shotgun will work on those things anyway. (Mic might have to be mounted to the gyro on a bracket instead) Small Rig makes a line of high quality affordable rig gear.
In summation, with DSLRs you have to compromise somewhere. The choice is where to compromise:
1. A heavy bulky shoulder rig that is painful but allows for a top quality audio recorder, small battery pack and phantom powered superior mic for the best quality footage? However, very expensive. But you can always rent.
2. A small footprint lightweight hand held camera rig that lets you go anywhere fast but with a lesser mic recording to a lesser format inside the camera / an awkward DSLR-H6N-ME66 rig that always delivers ho hum audio and will fail you when put to the test in a bad sound environment.
Consider your shooting style:
What really matters is how far your mic is from your talent.
ME64 is a short shotgun so if you are more than a foot or two from your subject, you won't get good separation of their voice from the room or environment. ME66 is a little better but not much. Their voices will blend into the ambient noise and you will get reverb indoors. Now if you can always shoot within 1 or 2 feet of your subject, the difference between the ME mics and the others disappear. But is this realistic?
If you are 5 ft. away or more, these mics are not much better than your camera mic depending on the ambient noise levels. That is why the directionality of a 416 or the others is so important. Are you and your talent comfortable with you shooting from 2 to 3 ft. away to ensure clean audio? This is why critical work employs boom operators, handheld mics, lavaliers, or stand mounted mics for locked off shots. Proximity is critical to good audio quality. The cheaper or the shorter the shotgun range of the mic, the more quickly they fail as you move further away. So how close are you usually from your subject?
The Lavalier option:
While I always like to have a camera mounted shotgun, I use it as backup, and to make sure I have a good scratch track for audio syncing since it is seldom close enough to get quality audio. However, you might consider using Sanken Cos 11 lavalier mics coupled with Lectro, Sony, or Sennheiser transmitters and an h6n with receivers. You can wear a shoulder bag with the recorder/receivers in it and then headphone monitor. Then your camera is lightweight and you can move quickly if that is your style.
This is a very freeing option for a cameraman but unless you are using lectrosonic gear, wireless systems can really fall prey to bad RF interference. This is hit or miss.
Lectros are super expensive to buy and not cheap to rent. Sennheiser transmitters are more affordable. Sonys are in between price-wise but soundpeople I know think well of them.
Sanken Cos 11 lavs for truly clean audio in any environment. Expensive to buy but cheap to rent. Combine it with a long shotgun like the 416, Sanken cS3 or Schoeps CMIT on a shoulder rig. Or get a boom operator so you don't have to worry about operating sound if possible.
I know the comfort of operating with all this stuff sucks and it will cost a LOT up front. If the quality of this particular work you are doing is more vital to you than comfort, you won't regret it. If you shoot a lot it will be worth it long term financially. If it isn't worth the expense and backache, go with the ME66, not the ME64 and get in as close as you can to your subject. Back it up with a lavalier if you can. H6n or 2016 h4n recorder is highly recommended.
Hope this helps. Good luck with your work!
Not great at all on battery. I generally shoot static video with little movement so I have the luxury, or necessity, to have both the camera and H4n plugged in to line power.
If phantom power is the only concern, how about adding a pre-amp like the Sound Devices MM-1 between the mic and the camera? When I had my full recording setup, my camera provided phantom power, but I used the Sound Devices 302 for the much better pre-amp, easier level control and better monitoring. They are not cheap, but you get what you pay for in terms of audio quality.
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And that reminds me of something important: When it comes to certain audio equipment such as speakers and mics, they tend to hold their value, unlike cameras, computers, storage, etc. which depreciate very quickly. Therefore, when purchasing such equipment, I either buy really cheap (to experiment, to find out what I really need) or I pay what it takes to ensure I will be perfectly happy with the equipment for a long time. In between is the area of middle-of-the-road pricing and performance that seems to have the biggest chance to disappoint in the long run.
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Just, wow! Thank you all very much for
all of the insightful advice. I appreciate it!
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Consider me convinced. Honestly, this sounds analogous to not cameras, but camera lenses. Cameras - esp. in the digital era - depreciate like crazy. But lenses usually fair better. The best lenses depreciate a little at first, then retain their values for a remarkable long time. It sounds like mics (and gauging by used prices) give even better long-term value.
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Thank you for taking the time to offer such a thorough overview. The K6 + ME64 etc. is out. I'm really thinking now that I will make a commitment to improve my understanding of audio recording before I make any deep investments. I'm also going to explore phantom power options. Considering the modest investment needed, I think I will begin by picking up an H6n, a decent pair of headphones, and then look into borrow or renting the 416, a Sanken CS3, and possibly a Sennheiser 8060. This seems like a good way to start nearer to the top without sinking too much cha-ching in straight away, then decide from their. If I end up needing to compromise, at least this way I'll bettter understand what I'm compromising. Again, I very much appreciate the advice!
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BeechFlyer has a great suggestion with Sound Devices. Anything they make has top notch preamps; all the more important, the better the mic. Though be careful with DSLR input, even if you have a great preamp, some cameras may compress the final audio inside them, hence an external recorder is generally preferable but an ergonomic pain to mount.
Sound Devices also has the MixPre D which you can bottom mount to a DSLR with a bracket. I don't know what the mounting solution for the MM1 is. But the MixPre D is twice the price though it has 2 inputs.
Renting vs. Buying
As owner-operators, it's always fun to buy. But renting can be better for your cash flow while simultaneously allowing you to always have the optimal tool kit for each shoot; something you can't really do if you commit to just one mic. Just as different shooting situations demand different lenses, different audio situations may call for different mics as well. Maybe a 416 outdoors in one case, maybe a Schoeps indoors in another situation.
The rental vendors can also be a great resource for understanding the gear, learning your options, and choosing the best tool for your upcoming shoots.
Compare the costs of X years of renting vs. buying now. If the costs will equal out in a handful of years, it's a no brainer to buy. If it will take you ten or fifteen years to equal the rental costs, then you may decide its not worth tying up your cash in, although the quality of these mics is such that they will last that long and perform for the duration. (I think this is true of German mics, but not necessarily all mics)
Beware of Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It's the enemy of common sense! If you shoot frequently and regularly it's always cheaper to buy. But if you shoot sporadically, renting may well be cheaper in both the short and long run. But do the rental days-per year math. The cost-benefit trade off usually becomes very clear.
For general audio info, check out JWsoundgroup.net., REDuser.net, and bloggers like Ty Ford. You can also find mic comparison tests on YouTube, the same way you can find camera and lens tests.
Update: I ended up buying a Zoom H6. My ears are telling me to save for a Sanken CS3e. Meanwhile, a $100 NTG-2 has entered my life.
I like the H6. Although, it did freeze up on me once already during playback, which required removing the batteries to reboot. Maybe it didn't like the brand (Sony) of SDXC card I used?
Now, also looking into the SD Mixpre-D and 302. Neither looks like a replacement for the other, but I can't afford both! I will buy one or the other, used.
I still wish for a shorter shotgun mic for DSLR work. I'm hoping to try a Sanken CS-1 as that mic is only 181mm long.
Thanks everyone above!
Catonfire had good advice on this. An on-camera mic -- no matter how directional -- is often of limited value. It is not like an acoustic telescope, whereby it produces good results from a long distance.
The main value of a shotgun mic is NOT the pickup, but rather the ability to position the rejection nulls toward noise sources. How can you position those while it's strapped to a camera and the camera must be pointed toward the subject? You often cannot.
That is why trained boom operators often position the shotgun below the subject pointed up or above the subject pointed down or beside the subject pointing inward. They have evaluated ambient conditions are are pointing the *broadside* of the shotgun toward those unwanted sounds.
Many shotgun mics have a rear pickup lobe so if it's mounted on the camera and pointed straight at the subject, it will also pick up things directly behind the camera.
My documentary group uses a wide range of on-camera shotgun mics, but not because this produces adequate sound for an interview, rather it's better than the built-in camera mic. We use the Rode VideoMic Pro, Sennheiser MKE 400, and and the new Sennheiser MKE 440.
However we obtain the main sound for interviews using a lav, boom-operated shotgun or a field recorder. We also just got a Tascam DR-10L, which looks like a small wireless lav but is a recorder. This is useful in cases where there are wireless connectivity issues, or there is not an available camera for a wireless receiver or we just want an additional audio source: http://tascam.com/product/dr-10l/
Although we have many Sennheiser G3 wireless lav kits, we also use some less-expensive Sony Bluetooth wireless mics. These are sometimes better for quick walk-up interviews since we don't have to "plumb" the lav wiring through the subjects clothing: http://a.co/2MS5uaY
For those with a Sony camera, the ECMW1M is nice because it fits on the Sony hot shoe and does not require battery power or a 1/8" connection on the camera end: http://a.co/fYwSgtK
That is amazingly helpful, thank you!
As a former stills only person, I wish I had taken advantage of video and audio resources back at school. I have that fish out of water feeling, but with help I will get there...
There are some really good books out there to help as you are getting your feet wet. One that helped me a lot when I started was "Producing Great Sound for Film and Video" by Jay Rose.
Rent those fancy mics and recorders when you can. http://www.nagraaudio.com/nagra-seven/
Just picked up a copy. Lots of knowledge in there. Looks good so far. Thanks for the tip.
Out of curiosity, are you using those three on camera mics interchangeably, or are you using the (stereo) MKE 440 specifically for ambient recordings, maybe to compliment a boom mic or lav?
Yes these mics are used for ambient or scratch audio. We normally use a Sennheiser G3 lav or a Rode boom-operated shotgun for main audio, usually to a Tascam field recorder. For very quick walk-up interviews (using Sony cameras) we use the Sony ECMW1MW Bluetooth mic. For non-Sony cameras we use the similar Sony ECM-AW4. We have many cameras in my doc group so the hot shoe mics are used according to the camera operator's preference. The MKE400 is small, the VideoMic Pro has a little better sound but uses a 9v battery with a shorter life, the MKE 440 has a little better sound than either and good battery life on AAA but it's bigger so takes up more space in the case.
No camera shotgun mic, no matter how good, can usually equal the sound of even a mediocre lav or boom-operated shotgun.
B&H had a special for $200 for the MKE 440--I bought one. But, don't worry, I've come around full swing and am ironing out how best to use either a lav or boom mic as needed. I took the plunge for a MixPre-D, and a boom. Now I just need to find a competent accomplice.
Amen to that. Nothing is better than getting the mic close to the source.