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DSLR Mic Test

By Thomas Popp

In the world of production sound, there are specific microphones that we use on a day to day basis to help capture sound the best way possible. Understanding the characteristics of the microphones you own, and therefore knowing their strengths and limitations, is invaluable information used for achieving a great sound track for your production.

In this blog post I will go over three basic choices for capturing sound on your DSLR camera. First, we will start off with the microphone that is physically built into the camera, then venture into the alternate option of connecting an external microphone via the hot shoe mount on the top of the camera and last, but not least, we will discuss my favorite way of capturing sound, (and, most likely, the best option for your production).
 

 

On Board Camera Microphone

In my opinion, these microphones are to be used as a last resort or only as a courtesy/reference when your footage does not consist of a lot of dialogue. Best uses are for ambience tracks that coincide with your B-Roll shots or possibly an on the fly interview in a noisy location. If you go this route, make sure that there is some type of wind protection on top of the pin holes that protect the diaphragm of the microphone inside the camera. Here is a quick demonstration on what you need and how to set up wind protection on your camera’s internal microphone.

Other Camera Microphones

Now we’re getting somewhere! These types of microphones are built to make capturing sound on your DSLR camera so much better and easier than the (previously stated) alternative. They plug into the microphone input on the side of your camera and bypass the circuitry of the internal microphone all-together. Almost all of these “baby” microphones require powering (usually one single AAA or 9V battery) and slide right into the hot shoe mount of your camera.

One of the greatest features of these external microphones is the incorporation of a shockmount that helps to reduce or nearly eliminate the handling noise present from merely holding the camera. Some shock mounts work better than others, but they all pretty much do the same thing. It is also fun to watch them wiggle back and forth when you’re bored!

Because these microphones use their own circuitry, they work better than the internal microphones that exist on cameras. They will generally sound much cleaner, which introduces a lower noise floor to your recordings, as well as more warmth in the voices being recorded due to the larger microphone size. I highly recommend that you have one of these in your camera case at all times. It is a cheap way to get better sound on your projects. Don’t forget to buy batteries!
 

Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Video Camera Shotgun Microphone

Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Video Camera Shotgun Microphone


Rode VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Suspension System

Rode VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Suspension System


 
Finally, we get to the age old question and third option:

Should I just hire a Sound Guy?

The simple answer is…ready for it?

YES.

Sound guys are a valuable asset to your production. They offer peace mind allowing you to focus on your own job operating the camera instead of dealing with sound.

Wouldn’t that be nice to have one less thing to worry about?

Generally, sound guys will bring their own equipment. Think of how different – and better – a $2000 microphone on the end of a boom pole sounds when it is strategically placed near the source of the audio, versus how your internal or baby external camera microphone will sound!

The biggest difference between the three stated options is which one can provide the greatest sense of perspective in your recorded sound track. Perspective is key in audio; it is what allows the viewer to literally perceive that they are present in the room, or setting, of what they are watching. Depending upon the position and framing of the camera, the sound can change drastically, and it is supposed to! So, instead of praying your shotgun mic will pick up dialogue from 20 feet away, or wondering if the interview you are shooting facing a noisy street will sound ok in post-production, see what your local sound guy can do for you!
 

 
Buy the Canon 5D MK III:
B&Hamazon.comeBayAdorama

Buy the Sennheiser MKE 400 Compact Video Camera Shotgun Microphone:
B&Hamazon.comeBayAdorama

Buy the Rode VideoMic with Rycote Lyre Suspension System:
B&Hamazon.comeBayAdorama

Buy the Rycote Overcover:
B&HeBayAdorama

Thomas Popp has a degree in Recording Arts and Sciences and has worked on many well-known television shows, movies, commercials, and music videos. He is also a representative for the popular audio equipment company, Zaxcom, Inc. With his love for sound and his knack for teaching, he has lectured many students about the theories and techniques of production sound, which also includes traveling to China to teach a masters class on Digital Wireless Technology.

Thomas’ love for teaching was fully launched in 2013 with VideoMantis.com. Their first endeavor is the production of the e-book, Down to the Wire, which has over 150 pages of information and video step-by-step instructions on how to capture better sound on your next project. Learn more at www.downtothewirebook.com.

Author: Thomas Popp

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14 Comments

  1. Great to see….I mean HEAR the difference on these mics. I have always used the 1st generation Rode with my 7Ds, great value and sound. Good to see the new Rycote Lyre shock mount, hoping it’s available to upgrade my existing mic.

    I’m happy to see you push the most important mic of all…the one that comes with a sound recordist. I’m at the point in my career where an experienced sound recordist isn’t an option on the jobs with which I’m involved. I’ve worked on too many productions ruined by bad sound because the sound department was non-existent or an after thought.

    Thanks for sharing your info with us all.

    Cheers.

    Bob Demers

    Post a Reply
    • Absolutely Bob!

      Even if the Lyre shock mount isn’t available for an upgrade, I highly recommend getting this microphone and using the older one as a backup! There is definitely a noticeable difference!

      Post a Reply
  2. I find it interesting that you don’t mention the Shure VP83F which not only is an excellent on- camera mic but with built in flash recording allows the microphone to be used off camera if necessary.

    I have compared all the other units and the Shure quality and sound is audibly better and with the the built in flash recording as backup, it’s a win-win for the DSLR shooter.

    There is also the use of short shotgun mics that you can plug into juiced link or Beachtek units or field recorders, also Shur makes a device called the FP3 or the higher end unit, the UR3 that plugs into any XLR microphone and makes it wireless. .

    Also in the wireless realm, Shure also has a low priced FP system and if you want to really up your game, look at their UR5 receiver coupled with a UR1 or UR1 m. Micro body pack and your audio will never be the same. The VP83F is also available at B&H and the wireless units can be found at high end audio companies. Good audio is the backbone of your.production.

    While almost always best to bring an audio engineer, there are times when you will need to be the “audio guy” starting with the right tools will help. Learn to listen, just as you have learned to see light and framing, audio is about hearing.

    Almost all manufacturers have ood information on their sites or in the case of Shure, if you’re struggling, as I have, I called their service department and yep, real people.

    While I own the other mics, I have found the Shure equipment to be rugged, reliable and with excellent audio quality.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi, Stuart!

      Thank you very much for your comment and recommendations.

      Shure is definitely a leader in sound quality, and I apologize for not demonstrating this specific microphone in this blog post. As with all things in life, there are many options to purchase. I myself am not personally familiar with this model and left it out only because it does more than these other models (and is therefore an unfair comparison). After reading your blog posting, I have purchased this mic and will be making another blog posting about it, so people can listen to this item as well!

      There are many different options for recording audio. The Beachtek or Juiced Link boxes are definitely another way to step up the game. Once again, I decided not to include these because I am specifically making other blogs to demonstrate the different options of these devices. This specific blog post is geared more towards the beginner who is looking for a much simpler setup that will still achieve good results, as well as educate them on the fact there are more options out there in the field. I also know that depending on the gig, sometimes it is much simpler to slap a microphone on top of the DSLR instead of connecting phantom powered microphones as well as transformer boxes like the ones stated in your comment.

      I do have to thank you; I ABSOLUTELY agree with you in terms of camera operators needing to take a higher participation in how their sound tracks are being recorded. As a “Sound Guy,”vI used to get frustrated when sending wireless feeds to cameras as my primary audio (instead of recording dual sound) because the camera operator wouldn’t or couldn’t want to monitor the audio.

      With that being said, I also know how difficult it is to consciously focus on both picture and sound at the same time! The moments I have picked up a camera to produce the videos located here at Hurlbut Visuals as well as on VideoMantis.com, I have subconsciously placed audio as a lesser priority because I am so focused on all the other things that cinematographers must focus on.

      Think about the times a sound guy has said there was a plane that went through a take that you didn’t hear. It doesn’t mean the plane didn’t happen, it just means that you tuned it out. This is a valuable lesson for any person that picks up a camera to know – always stay alert!

      Post a Reply
  3. Informative video, thank you. I’d like to see a comparison of the Rode VideoMic and the Rode VideoMic Pro.

    Thanks

    Post a Reply
  4. What camera do you recommend as best entry level DSLR? Thanks.

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Josh,

      Good Question! As with every purchase, there is a lot of variables that will go into getting yourself the best product for your budget and skill level.

      I know that a lot of the camera operators that I work with trust and love their Canon 5D Mark 3 DSLRs. They are extremely versatile, and will not let you down!

      Post a Reply
  5. Hello!!! Can you tell about sound recording in cinematography? How to record the sound on cinema stage?

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Evgeniy!

      Thanks for your question. I will be making a basic blog posting for your question very soon! Stay tuned!

      Post a Reply
  6. Will the quality of the sound be effected, in case if we are using a extendable cable and recording videos at about 3 mtrs distance.

    Seek your assistance

    Post a Reply
    • Hi Nadar, thanks for the question!

      If you are referring to XLR cables and just having to extend the microphones out farther, then you should be fine. There are two different types of audio cables – balanced and unbalanced. XLR cables are generally wired in a balanced mode (unless if made for specific applications). This means you can use extremely long XLR runs without having problems with electrical and RF interference on these cables.

      Look up unbalanced vs. balanced on google to learn more!

      Post a Reply

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