Audio 101 – Back to Basics PLUS 10 Tips to Better Audio

Audio 101 – Back to Basics PLUS 10 Tips to Better Audio

In the DVeStore we’re seeing a lot of folks making the right choice and stepping up to better quality audio gear. Think about it, you just spent thousands on a high quality camera that produces a truly exquisite picture. Next you show a few people the great project you’re working on. They say, “It looks great, but I’m having a hard time following the story because I can barely hear anyone.” You knew it, but secretly hoped no one would call you on it. It’s a tough lesson to learn when you go back to review the footage from the day’s shoot to find bad audio Sometimes it sounds hollow and you think, “I’ll just bring up the levels in post.” But when you do bring up the levels, up comes the ambient level of the room- the hum of the refrigerator, the reverberant echo, the slight wind outdoors, or even just the air conditioning and it just sounds, well, plain bad. You want, you need that “Hollywood caliber sound.” Here’s a few steps to get you going in the right direction.

You’ll first need to concentrate on focusing the mic on the subject. The closer the mic gets to the sound source, the better. (There are exceptions, like shotguns that have a certain minimum distance for the best sound.) Think of the mic as a flashlight illuminating the subject. Now think, every time I can halve the distance I can double the sound level. Read that again. It’s crucial to understand that getting the mic as close as you possibly can to the subject is the best way to achieve the results you’re after.

Two microphone types which will help tremendously are the clip on lapel mic, also known as the lavalier and the long and skinny mic you see dipping into the camera frame on feature films called the shotgun mic.

First we’ll talk about the lavalier. We’ve been recommending the Sennheiser Wireless Evolution G2 series. We like it so much, we use it in our own productions. Priced at $499 they are a remarkable value when you consider what you are getting. 1440 UHF Frequencies, backlit LCD readout, rugged metal construction, shoe mountable receiver, VU meters and a host of adjustable options. This kind of quality and feature set was unavailable a few years ago at anything under several thousand dollars. Technology progressing is a wonderful thing! The results of the G2 system are just fantastic. We’re very pleased with the capabilities. Every month the Sennheiser Wireless is often the most popular selling item in the DVeStore. I have had many folks call me just to say how much they love this microphone system. For those that like additional technical support, there’s even an 8 minute video we created that walks you through the entire system without having to ever pick-up the manual.

Next up, the DVcreator Location Sound Package 1 with directional shotgun mic includes everything you need to get great sound. While the lavalier is great for sheer convenience and wide shots, a well placed shotgun mic will always provide better and fuller sound than a lavalier.

The DVcreator Location Sound package includes a 10’ boom pole for getting the mic overhead and close to the action. To place the mic on the end of the pole, a RODE SM3 shockmount screws on and uses a series of silicon suspension bands to hold the mic. This set-up helps isolate the mic from the pole keeping vibrations and handling noise at bay. This same SM3 shockmount also has a convenient shoe mount for attaching the mic to your camera’s shoe for those times when you would prefer an on-camera shotgun. Also included in the package is the K-TEK fuzzy. This is a slip-on wind muff with foam that is covered with long hair. The fuzzy will take extreme wind hits and still provide good clean sound.

At the heart of the system is a RODE NTG-2 shotgun mic. The shotgun mic has ports on the sides which hear, then reject background sound arriving from the sides. RODE has been producing high quality microphone in Australia and is one of the top manufacturers in the world. We tested this NTG-2 versus mics costing 2-3 times as much and were pleasantly surprised with the results. This is the best bang for the buck shotgun mic on the planet.

Also included in the package are the cables you’ll need to connect the mic to the camera. There are two Audio Technica premium cables, a 20’ and a 1.5’ XLR cable. If your camera does not have the XLR style plug connections that you find on pro audio gear, you can get the popular BeachTek audio adapter to convert the XLR to 1/8” miniplug.

Now that we have gone over the basics and discussed what you’ll need for great sound, here are a few additional tips:

1. Always wear closed-ear headphones to monitor your audio at all times. Models such as the Sennheiser HD-280 Pro’s or the Sony MD7506’s are industry standard.

2. Always record thirty seconds of test audio and play it back before rolling any serious takes.

3. Point shotgun mics towards the sternum for more consistent results.

4. When using wireless, perform an AutoScan to find free channels that are not in use.

5. “Prosumer” cameras generally have noisy preamps. A mixer or outboard preamp produces much cleaner sound. Use line level input if possible on cameras such as the Canon XL series and Sony FX1. The BeachTek DXA-10 XLR preamp works great with cameras that have line level in and offers phantom power.

6. For VO (voice over) use a high quality large diaphram condenser mic. A Presonus Inspire 1394 box allows for XLR to “FireWire’ right into the computer.

7. Use Dr. Scholl’s non-allergenic Mole Skin for adhering lavs directly to the skin when concealing a mic under clothing. Fold the Mole Skin over the mic creating a mini tunnel.

8. If shooting a wedding or scene with two people with a single lav mic, try placing the mic lower than usual on the groom. This way the distance will be approximately the same between the groom and bride for more consistent audio and less adjusting in post.

9. If possible, back up your audio to a mini disc or similar small portable digital recorder such as the Edirol R-09 or M-Audio Microtrack.

10. For monitoring your audio in the studio get a pair of high quality studio monitors and some sound isolating foam Auralex “Mo-Pads” about $40 bucks for the pair. Learn more about audio by reading the articles on this page.

2 Comments

  1. Alexander 11 years ago

    Hi, everybody!
    I’m using the RODE-NTG-2 for interviews, with the Panasonic DVX100Bp, ajusted to AUDIO Input 2 Terminal. AUDIO Switches on camera both on “Input 2” plus “Fanthom Power ON”. But sometimes a voice is not too clear while surrounding noises are to strong…
    What is the best combination of the channels to prevent it?

    Thank you for any advice

  2. Serren 9 years ago

    The quality of the info is what keeps me on this site, thanks!

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