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Best value on camera microphone for usable scrap audio?


sondreg
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Hey all, I'm about to grab a new system camera (eva1), but I'm still not sure which microphone to grab to accompany it.

I do a lot of miscellanous work ranging from event coverage, narrative, minidocs, conferences etc. A lot of (event) situations I don't have the option to do a proper audio setup, and end up having to resort on the camera mic a lot. Currently I do not own any microphones, but I usually use a borrowed Sennheiser MKH600 on the camera. I also have access to a storage of different studio mics I use when I have the option so thats no issue. Unfortunately I won't be able to borrow mics for the eva1. I've never been too satisfied with what the MKH600 produces...

I've looked at the MKH 8060 but at the moment it's a little bit too pricy for me. The mics I've eyed are the Røde NTG3, Pannys MC200G (unsure about this one!), or a used MKH 416. My budget is around 300-700$. Am I doing a mistake by disregarding the mkh600?

Any tips/recommendations? Is there some great stereo configuration too I'm missing out on?

Thanks!

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MKE600 is probably the best mic of its category (it is for me).

Sennheiser MKE440, got the right price, good build quality, stereo - but directional, much wider than just a shotgun but not too wide.

I would rather put something like this on a camera than any shotgun mic, even if it was a 8060 or a Schoeps, shotgun mics are not supposed to be mounted on cameras.

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The MKE 600 also seems to be one of the cheapest of the bunch (found a pretty cheap one used too). I do find it a bit hard to believe that it would be the best of the bunch, but I could be very wrong! I might just have to pick one of these up temporarily anyways just for their price. 

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I'm still in audio purgatory.  My experience so far.  Spending TIME experimenting/configuring a $25 Takstar mini-boom and $25 wired lav is better than MONEY spent on an expensive Rode NTG1.  Environmental considerations FAR OUTWEIGH mic quality.  For example, I set up my NTG1 in my office and was getting super audio.  I then went to a friend's, similar sized room, but the audio came out horribly because my friend's room echoed a lot. (Yes, I listened on headphones but didn't hear it).    I didn't have the experience/expertise to either get the mic closer or ditch it for a $25 lav.

Therefore, I'm going to make a counter-intuitive suggestion.  DO NOT GET a good mic first.  Get a Takstar and Lav (or similar) and experiment trying to get good audio with each, writing down your findings, etc.    Learning environment and levels has done the best for me.  AND AND AND, working with post audio processing.  Premiere has some amazing tools now "Essential Audio" that gives one a good idea of what's possible.  

Once you get all that sorted out, then shop for an expensive mic based on what you COULDN'T do with your cheap mics.  That's what I'm doing now.  The problem with an expensive mic is that unless you have all variations (boom, super cardoid, lav, wireless, etc.) you end up forcing whatever good mic you have into situations a cheaper solution would be better for.  Again, I should have ditched the NTG1 for a cheap wired lav at my friend's place.

BTW, the difference between my Takstar and Rode is VERY slight.  I can only hear it because I'm listening for it.  NO NORMAL person would notice a difference if I switched mics during the video.  The bigger difference is the unbalanced mic could be wired up longer and has less risk of interference.  

Well, that's where I'm at!

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I agree on your suggestion of purchasing mics that fit the environment first @maxotics, but I want to know what the best value you can get on an on camera mic. As I said I have access to all kinds of studio mics that I can borrow for situations that need it. 

I will pickup some lavs eventually but simply for reliability (the ones in storage always get borked up or are incompatible with eachother...) 

Currently I am just borrowing a Sennheiser MKH60-1, but I am limited in how long I can borrow it for so I need to get my own.

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58 minutes ago, sondreg said:

but I want to know what the best value you can get on an on camera mic

I've listened to tons of tests on YouTube with mics, imagine you have too.  I can never hear a significant difference--especially after post.  Again, there is a difference in noise floor, but my guess more to do with going balanced.  If that's true, then go with the cheapest mic you can find on your version of Craigslist.  I understand what you're trying to do.  It's what I did with the Rode.  It distracted me in a bad way ;)  Any mic you get is going to have a trade-off of some sort, and the more expensive, the more esoteric those trade-offs are.  My view is if you don't know EXACTLY why you want something, based on your own experience, you end up going through a bit of gear....not that that is a bad thing ;)  

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I disagree with @maxotics. What sound post production? Do you do a "sound correction" in the sense you do a "color correction? In what way?

my experience tells me that most low to middle productions do not even have a proper sound engineer to do sound post.

I would advise most to try to get the most appropriate sound during production, post is almost a lost cause, especially if you are not highly educated and experience in sound. Image you can see, sound not so much.

I also disagree with @zerocool22, 416 is a standard in boom operators and sound men, a mic in camera is a whole different world. I would say that 416 is highly inappropriate for camera use, most of its sound qualities and benefits for a booman is lost in camera placement. Also, not experienced boom ops fail miserably with this mic, that is why they prefer "lesser" mics, because they cover their innabilities.

I would suggest shorter directional with wider patterns, Sanken has a few very good ones.

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18 hours ago, maxotics said:

I understand what you're trying to do.  It's what I did with the Rode.  It distracted me in a bad way ;)  Any mic you get is going to have a trade-off of some sort, and the more expensive, the more esoteric those trade-offs are.  My view is if you don't know EXACTLY why you want something, based on your own experience, you end up going through a bit of gear....not that that is a bad thing ;)  

You are 100% correct on this! I guess it IS hard to put words on what you really want to achieve with a microphone. I have not been specific enough and apologize for this. I'll try to explain what I mean with an extremely biased example. No processing on either mic, don't mind the poor lighting.

The c535 is about 40cm away from the source (to stay out of frame on other cameras). The mke600 is about 230cm away. Obviously in a situation like this i'd mic up regardless, so it's not exactly a fair comparison. But the mke600 is pretty unusable here because of the amount of background noise it picks up. (I could probably have found a better & more relevant example..)

What I'm trying to figure out is how the alternative mics would fare in terms of rendering cleaner background noise, & if going with more directional mics is a bad idea. The goal would be to have more usable b-roll audio (for ambience) .

I'm mostly curious about what on-camera stereo configurations there are, and if they are any good compared to a singlechannel mic like the mke600. But I can see them being a hassle when it comes to occupying both XLR inputs.

Currently going to be testing the MKH60-1 for a week (which is way over my budget), just waiting for the sun to shine.

I'm currently leaning towards the MC200G from Panasonic because of the size and cost. I'll have to listen to more test recordings when I have the time :) 

 

I don't remember which mic I used here: (at 2:22), I assume it's a MKE600 but I can't remember. I'd like to hear what opinion you guys might have for which on-cam mic would've fit the situation better. (There's meant to be a lot of noise in the background here though, but discard that thought).

EDIT: come to think of it I think the mic used there is one of sonys ECM series mics.

10 minutes ago, Shirozina said:

+1 and make sure you get the camera as close as possible to the subject. Off axis sound on these mic's ( all shotguns) is not nice as is any room reverb. Make sure you get the 48v and not the T power  416.

Couldn't agree more! Been doing a couple of podcasts with C747's and when the subject moves, even just a little bit, it sounds horrible!

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To be clear - unless you can get the 416 close and on axis then it's going to be 'sub -optimal' to say the least. If you are building up a sound capture system the 416 is a good investment. If you can hire an assistant you can get it off the  camera and on a boom pole over or under the subject out of frame. Shotguns are close distance tools like macro lenses - they are not like telephoto lenses where you can stand back and focus in on the sound.

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2 hours ago, Kisaha said:

I disagree with @maxotics. What sound post production? Do you do a "sound correction" in the sense you do a "color correction? In what way?

I disagree with me too ;)  Like @sondreg I find this whole area maddening.  Why is it so difficult?  I'm going to theorize so maybe some experts here can set me straight.

The difference between audio and video is that an audio (image) decreases in amplitude exponentially as the microphone moves back from the subject.  This is different from the video (image) where the light intensity stays basically the same wherever you put the camera (moving lights a different story of course).  Therefore, any changes in distance from subject to mic will greatly affect the mic's ability to pick up a clean signal (exposure).

All mics do have ISO 100s, in a sense, that there is an optimum distance/sound strength, where they record it without noise.  That optimal strength is something like 1 volt, or some amplitude from the mic.  Like cameras, one can get a great sound if the mic is placed at just the right place to pick up the sound.  A small voice might need the mic 5 inches away, a large voice, 10 inches.  

However, except in a studio environment, with people who have some understanding of how mics work, it is impossible to get the mic's maximum quality output.  Therefore, the recorder has two options 1. Electronically amplify the signal from the mic; 2. Digitally amplify the signal coming from the mic (which is what I call post).  

Add to that, pick the mic with the best trade-off in pick-up pattern, or easy of use (lav), etc.

Add to that, that the "small" voice above my scream a lot, and the "large" voice may keep a constant level, so in the first you might choose no-clipping over normal sound quality, or allow clipping to get better normal quality.  In the large voice you can focus it just right, but then maybe you're worried they may move their face, 

Etc, etc, etc.

Ironically, getting a good image exposure is child's play compared to using, setting-up, adjusting and post processing audio :)  I now understand why so many professionals on this forum say "get a sound person" if you possibly can.  

Anyway, because of all that, even though I don't like it, I've found post-processing to be a life-saver in improving the crap I ended up recording ;) (because I didn't get a sound person)!  So far, I've been pathetic setting up any mic.  But I'm taking my own advice, and doing a lot of experimentation in that area.

I can now distill my limited advice-from-experience to this: Better to set up a cheap mic well, then set up the best mic badly.  The more post you have to do, the more you have failed.

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24 minutes ago, maxotics said:

The difference between audio and video is that an audio (image) decreases in amplitude exponentially as the microphone moves back from the subject. 

This is in fact also very true in video! It's called inverse square law :). Try placing a subject 5 inches away from a light, then try 10 inches way. You'll find that intensity is exponentionally lower aswell. However since we don't close-light subjects like we do audio it doesn't really matter. You won't get a dramatic amplitude difference if you place the mic some-ways away from the subject (not too far ofcourse!) Then a new problem arises and that is reverberation will come into effect if the distance is too far. 

About the 'right placement' of the mic has more to do with the way sound radiates. Where lower frequencies will often have a wider angle (up to 360 degrees), and higher frequencies are more dialled in. Placing the mic outside these radiuses will decrease the amplitude in the corresponding frequency area (a natural EQ you might say). Less directive mics negate this effect to some extent. Take the flute for example:

Flute.thumb.jpg.cf8eedc46f3c6db93556850d78957734.jpg

The chart shows where the different frequencies would travel, and we can tell that we'd get the 'richest' sound from placing the mic facing the subjects head. Different instruments and sound sources share different characteristics. I might be wrong about something here so don't quote me on this!

Obviously things are going to sound good if you mic it correctly with microphones of fitting characteristics & acceptable noise floors, regardless of the microphone you are using. 

 

However this doesn't have a lot to do with on-camera mics, with camera terms I suppose you could say that this subject is more about the ISO, shutter speed and aperture. In post you can very easily adjust exposure. And to quote @Kisaha, color-correcting audio is not something people usually do. What I'm trying to figure out is what microphone has the 'best color tonality' for your money as an on-cam mic. You can ofcourse do EQ and compressors to make speech or instruments sound better, but this doesn't fix the "color science" a microphone might have.

 

It's just really confusing when theres a million options to choose from & they are all similarly priced. Again on-camera mics is not something I've experimented enough with, I've always borrowed the mke600 and went with it, but as I find myself using the audio from it on a lot of projects (and I need to purchase my own mic) I'd like to know that I'm not spending too much when "Mic-X" does the same job for a 100 bucks cheaper

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Lots of 'news gathering' video setups have a 416 on the camera. It's been used for years and it sounds 'right'. When you hear it against a cheaper mic in an ideal setup you will instantly be able to tell it's better. It will suit your purposes and be a good investment. A camera mounted mic is not ideal  / really bad idea for good sound capture  but for a one man operation you don't have much choice. Also be aware that shotgun mics are very sensitive to wind / air movements so also budget for a good wind shield. Even moving a 416 about in still air can cause rumble. There are lots of good sound repair  / noise reduction tools in NLE's these days but it's a lot of extra work when editing - a lot of extra work! When you add it all up in cost and time it's just better to pay a sound recordist to work with you and ensure you have good clean audio.  The fact that you are making a significant investment in a camera for this job suggests this is a serious project so skimping on audio may be unwise.....

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10 minutes ago, Shirozina said:

The fact that you are making a significant investment in a camera for this job suggests this is a serious project so skimping on audio may be unwise.....

As mentioned I have access to a wide selection of mics for projects that need it, I just don't have access to an on camera mic, and there are ofcourse a lot of times I do work alone. As far as I understand the 416 is probably the best choice in terms of having a mic for multiple purposes (to put on a boom etc.) which might be the best idea for the long run. I'll keep my eyes open for a good deal on craigslist.

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@maxotics "Better to set up a cheap mic well, then set up the best mic badly.  The more post you have to do, the more you have failed." Definitely. 100%. But if you do not have the right tool for the job, nor the knowledge, then you have failed miserably, and most of the times, bad sound is NOT fixable, that is why there is a lot of ADR happening in huge productions - but similarly, the ADR budget is huge too, so they made it just right.

It is not so simple to do a "sound workflow" description with the terms you used (your "post" explanation was completely wrong, by the way!), unfortunately it is more complicated than that, reflections are a huge part of what we do, and you need specific knowledge of physics (acoustics) plus experience, while a child can understand an image is to his liking, or not, sound is working also subconsciously and with no clear "image" of its presence. It is not irrelevant that US government accused Cuba that attacked US embassy employs in Havana with sonic "weapons", or that music is creating emotions and responses in just a few seconds.

Also, if you remember the film "The Artist" (2011) which is a modern silent film classic, the most powerful scene in the film, is the dream sequence, that we have, SOUND!

I explained a few things with the simple way I could in my previous posts, I even proposed some equipment, if anyone want to go the shotgun route on a camera (I wouldn't), can't go wrong with the MKE600, seriously, a 416 on a camera is just a waste of a -potentially- good microphone. I will say again, that MKE440 is a very interesting mic for these kind of uses.

Also, http://www.sankenmicrophones.com/production/shotguns/cms-10/

http://www.sanken-mic.com/upload/pdf/en/cs-1e_rev2.pdf

My opinion, just choose one of the 600 or 440, and forget about it, you can not do a lot more pointing a mic to a general direction that some action occurs. It is like having a 50-100mm lens pointing at a tree, and you are waiting to catch some squirrel footage. Yes, you will, if there are any squirrels, but it is just luck, not ability.

As of the ENG using 416, in those situations they just need to get some sound, anything, on a war or a fire or an emergency you need to catch some sound, and 416 is one of the sturdiest mics ever built, also, it is industry standard since the 70's, they just do not know any better I guess!

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26 minutes ago, Kisaha said:

(your "post" explanation was completely wrong, by the way

As in I shouldn't have said "amplify" which is, thinking about it, incorrect?  Or something else? 

Also, interesting that you bring up ADR.  I notice a lot more of it and it's not all good, no matter how good it sounds ;)  Because you lose something of the real emotion that was in the scene.  All the more reason to get good sound in the first place.

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