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Shootout of the Mini Shotguns
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Shootout of the Mini Shotguns!

If you're shooting video with a DSLR, chances are you're going to want a small shotgun mic in your kit. With all the choices on the market it's hard to know which one is right for you.

Chad Johnson has solved this problem for you – Shootout of the Mini Shotguns!

Shootout of the Mini Shotguns! from Chad Johnson on Vimeo.

For me, the number one factor in choosing a mic is how it sounds. My experience is that I can fix all kinds of problems in post production by taking out things I don't want in the audio but it's hard to put in what wasn't there in the first place.

For my ear, the RØDE mics sound the best. And, in my experience with both mics, they are well made, reliable and easy to work with.

I know there are some situations where the off-axis rejection of a shotgun mic is the most important factor. In my experience those situations call for a high end professional shotgun operated by an experienced sound recordist. That's not the same as mounting a shotgun on your DSLR and hitting the record button.

So, have a listen to Chad's shoot out and decide for yourself. Then take a moment to leave a comment and let me know what you think.

-a-

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{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Billy Haynes says:

    Awesome audio coverage & comparisons. I’m on limited budget and limited time for learning curves etc. and a first digital audio video project upcoming, a Reality TV pilot shooting mostly “wild,” unscripted, unplanned footage. Question 1, you use DSLR as the camera source on all Indy Mogul & goodaudiotracks.com reviews. Would bridge cameras like my Lumix Z 200 be equivalent audio-wise via its on board audio input and its built-in camera mics? Question 2: To simplify, economize and capture good audio, I’m thinking two-system audio & video might be best way to go under the circumstances and using simple hand clap for syncing monologue/dialogue scenes using a shotgun and lavaliere mics into an H1 or H4 Zoom and turning off built-in camera mic and not even using ext. mic jack on Lumix. Otherwise, I’m using single system picture and sound…and with low end editing (I Movie) I’m not sure I can mute the audio when necessary. I am the crew, only me. Shooting locations indoors and out, on the road, in the field, in the office and in the home. The pilot is about a wrecker service business. I’ve got a month to buy, prep, practice. Then a five day shoot. Your site has been life saver so far. Help!

    • adriel says:

      Billy,
      I haven’t used the Lumix Z200 so I can’t say anything about the audio. The biggest question is whether you have level control or if the camera is locked into auto-level. If it has level control and some kind of audio meters then it should be okay. If not, then the audio will only be useful as a reference track.

      Either way I highly recommend dual audio recording as you describe it. Except I would not turn off the camera audio. As I mentioned in another response to you, more than once the reference audio from the camera was the only usable audio I got from a shoot. And it’s necessary to sync up your second audio track in post.

      BTW – here’s a link to a pdf from Apple about sound in iMovie http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/iMovieLesson6.pdf. Part way down the page they show how to mute any of the audio tracks so that’s handled.

      One of the things I work on when I’m running solo is a work flow that makes sure I get the best footage from the shoot. I have to choose the set, direct the lights, get the mics and audio working, lens up and adjust the camera, and that’s all just to get ready. Then I have to keep checking all of those while working with the talent. It’s like the circus performers juggling plates on a bunch of sticks in the air. You have to keep all of them moving.

      The way I do it is to follow exactly the same pattern every time from start to finish. I practice the pattern to make sure everything is working – cables, clips, stands, batteries – all the little things that can go wrong and make for a bad shoot. I have written check lists – just like a pilot doing a pre-flight check – to make sure I don’t forget anything. The more I do that the less I have to put attention on it and the easier things go.

      Thanks for stopping by, let me know if you have further questions.
      -a-

      • Billy Haynes says:

        Thanks again Adriel. You’ve inspiring me to “jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down,” (Ray Bradbury) Your recent council was already in the back of my mind: to use the camera sound for rough tracking and syncing no matter what.

        Still I’m confused. Can I or should I run one sound system that ends at the Zoom (the Zoom not going into the camera) and another system that ends at the camera either via on-camera mics or shoe mounted shotgun.

        I intend to have a lav or two, a shotgun, a Zoom (either an H4 or H1 preferring the smaller/I own both) and the on-camera stereo mic. With only this gear, I assume you would advise using the shotgun shoe-mounted into the camera and by-pass on-camera stereo mics. Or would you use both shotgun and lav into the Zoom and use the on-camera mics for rough tracking and syncing?

        Also one video I watched via your site, said the H-1 Zoom would accommodate two sound sources. It is stereo, two-channel. However it has only one input and only one input volume control. Thus and so, a problem. I assume a Y cable would enable two mic sources. But one volume control? Dah ?

        Other than audio issues, can you point me toward camera video issues? My 200 page Lumix DMC-FZ200 manual is very video limited. I’m a grab shooter with extensive still photography background and 16 mm film background from ages ago.

        This Reality TV pilot project I’m about to tackle requires me boning up on video as well as audio. I would prefer to use no lights. Can I up my ISO to whatever is needed in all situations. Grain etc has never bothered me. Just cpture the image. Since it must be broadcast quality, I assume it has to be AVCHD, not MP4. My camera does video at 60 fps, not 24 or 30. I need to be reading/viewing video tech info the way your site has dealt with audio tech. info/problem solving. I can find no books on audio or video issues.

        Thanks again…and thanks for the I-Movie edit link. That solved a big problem. I just discovered my 14 year-old grandson, a movie-maker, has a stripped down version of Final Cut Pro…and uses it. Gramps is way behind his grandson video-wise.

        • adriel says:

          Billy,
          One system ending at the camera or two independent systems? – You can go either way. The benefit of two independent systems is redundancy – if one mic/recorder has a problem the other will be available even if it’s not as good. The benefit of one system ending at the camera is that you may not have to sync sound in post if the camera track is good enough. Try both and see which works best for you.

          If you do go with a single system ending at the camera you’ll want to pick up a splitter that allows you to plugin headphones while sending the recorder output to the camera. They make them with a 1/8″ mini male for the camera that has a pad to drop the level from headphone to mic so the camera track is clean.

          Shotgun mics mounted on the camera are a recipe for bad audio. They are too far from the talent, too much affected by camera movement, and pickup all kinds of sound from handling the camera itself. The only time this makes sense is if you’re trying to use the camera for a backup track. Even then, get a small stand and mount the shotgun as close as you can to the talent, run an extender cable to the camera. Closer is always better.

          Running two sound sources into an H1 can be done with a splitter cable or a mixer. The cable is cheaper but – as you noted – you only get one level control. A mixer will let you set each mic for optimum level. Plus you’ll have another headphone output for monitoring.

          As for how to use your Lumix, it’s the same with any camera. Shoot a bunch of practice footage, take it all the way through post, write down what works and stick to a proven formula for your gear.

          As for shooting with no lights, digital noise is not the same as grain. Grain is analog and can be pleasing in certain circumstances. Digital noise is rarely pleasing and it gets worse as you go through post production. I highly recommend small battery operated LED lights to mount on the camera or clip on anything around you. There are tons on the market and any of them will be an improvement in low light situations. You can find ways to make them less obvious, to enhance existing lighting. But if you’re needing “broadcast quality” you’re going to need enough light.

          As for AVCHD vs MP4, you will need to try both to see what iMovie will work with. Not all AVCHD formats will work on this tool – same for FCP. Even it you can get it to work you’ll be better off transcoding to a format that is not as highly compressed. Highly compressed video has to be decompressed on the fly when editing, takes a ton of processing power and makes real time preview a pain. You can use ClipWrap or MPEGStreamClip to transcode from AVCHD to .mov files. Again, you’ll need to test this on your system to see what works best.

          The 60fps issue will not be a problem – you’ll need to try clips in 60p, 60i and 720p to see which work best for you. You’ll need lots of card storage either way.

          My best advice is create a setting similar to the one you’ll be shooting in. Shoot test clips and make notes about what the setting are for mics, recorders, camera, etc. Take your test clips into edit, transcode, cut, add sound, add music, add titles, etc. Export and publish to whatever you’ll be using for distribution. Then review the final product against competitive projects. Keep going around this loop until you’re satisfied that you’re getting the most from your gear. You’ll know what works and how to get there fast and reliably.

          Much better to practice now than when you’re on a real set.

          Hope this helps,
          -a-

          • Billy Haynes says:

            You’ve been more than helpful again. Based on our communique, I’ve decided the only way to pitch this deal is for me to write, storyboard and direct and to get an experienced videographer and me assist him. The videographer brings reliable gear and has already logged the practice with a track record.
            I finally received some information from the guy who’s life this is about and who is funding the pilot. I was pleasantly surprised to find it interesting, this normal guy who has never tasted alcohol, smoked or done drugs, an unorthodox, self-made West Texas “good ole boy.”
            There is a network television producer in San Antonio who claims she can get a decent pilot out there to some syndicated viewers. As a writer and movie aficionado who has never seen a Reality TV show. But I think this wacky one-of-a-kind story might fly.
            What needs to occur is to send an edited pilot to the San Antonio producer and her come back with, “Send me the next episode, turn-key.” Would you care to get involved, Adriel ?
            I have taken far too much of your time and knowledge, free gratis. Your replies have been concise and thorough. Thank you so much.

          • adriel says:

            Billy,
            I agree with your plan – stick to what you know and do best. Find others with the expertise you need. The learning curve is way too long on most technology to practice on a real project. You can sometimes find decent people in film and media schools looking to get a credit on a project.

            Thank you for the offer, sounds like an interesting project. Unfortunately, my calendar is packed. I wish you all the best. Please let me know when it’s online.
            -a-

          • Billy Haynes says:

            Advice from my brother: “One simple solution, a shotgun mic on a pole with a soundman. He points the mic wherever the sound source is, back and forth moving about, in close. That will cover it.
            But if it is decided to be a one-man crew, brother and I decided the following will probably get the audio in the ballpark. The project guy sent me some home movie footage filmed with your average family camcorder from 2004. The sound was quite audible. My brother says, “That being so, an H-1 zoom with the cross mics, hot shoe mounted and with stabilizer (Indy Mogul) will be such an improvement that it should be fine, especially as a pilot. It’s just a pilot, he says. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

            Thanks for the lighting tip. You’re right. Should have them in case they’re needed, a simple hot shoe mount.

          • Biily Haynes says:

            I tried to order some stuff from DSLR Film Noob. I find it discouraging when a site or contact is nye impossible to make….certainly no chance of phone any longer to make sure you are buying the right stuff…but even online. Noob could not be contacted; it appeared they had some one-of-a-kind gear I wanted…though much of their info had dates years old. Dumb

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