HurlBlog Sound Guru: Gene Martin

We are so excited to feature our first guest blogger Gene Martin on the HurlBlog. Whenever I am asked about a specialty such as sound, specifically sound with the 5D, I turn to this expert to weigh in with what he feels is the best. Visit Gene’s website to learn more about what he offers at

What I love about Gene is that he is a one man sound mixing machine. He delivers top notch quality audio as the only member of his sound department, so it fits perfectly with our small footprint work-flow. Gene always has a smile and can do attitude that is required to be one of the cowboys with this new technology in the wild, wild West.

Indie Film Sound And The 5D

“Sound is never noticed unless it’s bad.  It can make a beautiful film or meaningful documentary painful to watch.  So, for the Canon 5D you’ll need to make a small investment to enhance your film’s sound.

The 5D records 16-bit 44.1kHz linear PCM audio and you have no real control of the camera’s input levels. Its AGC (Automatic Gain Control) is ok for general b-roll, but it’s going to amplify any loud unwanted sounds (near by lawn mower/wind).  I know there is a firmware hack that changes the settings, but it’s still not the final solution.

First lets avoid spending more money than you need or just buying items that don’t really solve the Canon’s sound issue.  The BeachTek DXA-5D and the JuicedLINK CX231 both add XLR inputs, phantom power and gain control, but just plug into the camera’s 3.5mm input leaving you with the same 16-bit 44.1kHz audio.

Double system is the only true solution for the Canon 5D. Treat it like film. Just like the Red One camera, both can record sound, but any sound recorded on the camera should only be used for reference in post.  It will add a little more time in post, but the result is well worth the time. The most important step in doing double system is a slate.  Whether it be a actual slate, the clap sticks from a slate or even the clap of your hands you just need to ensure the clap is heard by both the onboard camera mic and whatever mic you may be using for your external audio recorder.  In post if you look at the audio waveforms of the camera and your external audio recorder you’ll see a spike in the audio when you clapped your slate/hands. Once the two audio clips are lined up via the spike in audio you’re now synced.

Zoom H4n

Zoom H4n

There are many options for an external audio recorder, but the best solution for the money is the Zoom H4n ($299).  The Zoom H4n can record up to 4 tracks simultaneously via 2 onboard microphones and 2 external inputs via XLR or ¼”. It records WAV audio files from 44.1kHZ 16-bit to 96kHZ 24-bit.  (Typically we would record at 48kHz 24-bit) The Zoom records on SDHC cards up to 32gb, which would give you 15hr and 25min. It also has phantom power if needed and has a headphone jack for monitoring.  If you are using the Zoom’s onboard mic’s for ambient audio recording outdoors you’ll want an additional windscreen.  Rycote and Red Head both offer windscreens for the Zoom H4n that will protect you from unwanted wind noise.

Zoom H4n

Zoom H4n

Tip: If you wanted you can get a y-cable to split the headphone jack and use one side for your headphones and plug the other into the 5D’s 3.5mm input jack.  This will make it easy to sync the audio in post, plus if you play back your files from the camera you’ll have your actual audio (reference only) to listen to while viewing back your shots.

G3 wireless

G3 wireless

As far as what mic’s you’ll need to capture dialogue there is a very large variety.  For the money if you need a wireless system Sennheiser G3 is the way to go.  They come in a kit with everything you’ll need to get started.  As for a boom kit, you can’t go wrong with Rode.  They are very well priced and offer a 10yr warranty on most of their products.  The best boom mic for most dialogue situations would be the Rode NTG-2 or the Rode NTG-3. Both are good microphones and will get the job done, but the NTG-3 is more than twice the money.

Rode VideoMic

Rode VideoMic

If in the end you just want an improvement of the 5D’s onboard mic, again go with Rode.  They have two different options, the Rode VideoMic and the Rode Stereo VideoMic.  Both are battery powered and have a hot shoe mount for easy mounting on the 5D.  Again these are best for improving ambient audio recording or just creating a better reference camera audio track for syncing your audio later. The audio is still controlled under the camera’s AGC.  If you did NEED to record dialogue this way you would want the Rode VideoMic and would need to be fairly close to the subject speaking in a not too loud environment.”

To rent or purchase any of these items please visit or call Toll Free: 1(877) 566-6526

  1. Chris 6 years ago

    Awesome, I’ve been waiting for some real information on sound for an hdslr for a while now being a video novice. Thanks. Chris

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Chris, you are welcome. We will do our best to bring you the very best with my team of experts. Please let us know what else you would like to learn about.

  2. Valentijn 6 years ago

    Hey Shane, I am a fellow Emerson film student and have been using the 7D on several projects (after having attended your session on the 7D and DSLRs last semester). I have been overwhelmed by the amount of options for camera rigs and can’t seem to make a decision on which to go with for a low-budget full feature narrative style documentary shooting this summer in Aruba. You brought a specific rig with you during your session that looked fantastic, is there any particular one that you would recommend to stabilize my shots without losing mobility. I would really appreciate any insight. Thank you in advance for your time.

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Valentijn, are you talking about the handheld rig that I brought or the man cam rig. Did you sign up to my website? Last months newsletter had all the camera configurations in it. Check it out, and tell me which one you liked, I prefer the studio handheld rig myself for stabilization.

  3. Sam Phibbs 6 years ago

    Hey Shane is there any way to get the old newsletters? I signed up and got the most recent but would love to get my hands on the older ones! Your blog kicks major ass!

  4. Federico 6 years ago

    Great audio news shane! But I would like to ask to you something, I’ve found some grainy noisy in my 5dmkII video and I don’t understand what it is. I could see it in the h264 file but also if I convert the file in prores 422 nothing change. I’ve uploaded a video on vimeo it’s very short, but if you watch it on full screen you could see the grainy noise that I was saiyng, there’s lot of it in the out of focus zone, I was shooting at 1/50 at 200 iso, the native file is very very worst respect at the vimeo convertion. You think it’s a convertion problem, a 5d problem or do I make something wrong?

    thanks for the help I really don’t understand what to do!

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Federico, I took a look at your video the difference between 160 and 200 ISO is not that bad. But I always shoot 160,320,640,1250. These are the cleanest ISO’s. I think there is something going on in your conversion. The Highlight tone priority is worthless. I disable that thing the minute I get my cameras. Also make sure your auto light optimizer is disabled as well. Both of these increase noise. I will have the head of post at Bandito Jacob Rosenberg take a look and give you some feedback. We will get it worked out. Beautiful shot though, I was not looking at the noise, I loved the image.

  5. Sam Phibbs 6 years ago

    Hey Frederico dont shoot at ISO 200 instead shoot at 160, 320, 640, 1250, 2500 etc. These are the least noisy ISOs. Also HTP adds alot of noise/vert banding in the darker areas.

  6. Federico 6 years ago

    thanks sam! I’ve shoted down the HTP, I didn’t know this fact about different kind of noisy ISO. Now I’ve shooted the same image as before without the htp at 160 ISO the noise is much lesser but I always see it too much…I think I got some problem in the convertion or i don’t know! I’m kind of new in the hd video world!

  7. Joseantonio 6 years ago

    Just wanted to mention PluralEyes software is great for syncing sound from the onboard camera mic and whatever mic you may be using for your external audio recorder. No slate or clap needed. Amazing time saver. Works wonders for multi-camera editing. Free trial and demo videos @

    Shane, can I get a copy of the newsletter that goes into ISO detail. Thanks for this wonderful resource that is your blog.

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Joseantonio, I will send it off tomorrow. Thank you

  8. Federico 6 years ago

    Shane thanks for the compliments! can’t wait to show you something more on the canon vimeo contest!

    For the problem I’ve disabled the alo. It’s already better but I think is quiet far away from what I know the 5d can do!!

    And also thank you for listening in your blog to your reader, I found this thing so awesome!

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Federico, I cannot wait to see what you guys are going to cook up. Very exciting. I have a link that I would love for you to look at to see if you can tell me how they did it. I would love you insight on it. check it out

  9. Sam Phibbs 6 years ago

    Hey Shane,

    Thanks for hooking me up with the old newsletters! Much appreciated. I had a look at the link that you sent me and it is stop frame animation and I would say that the guy would have stood on top of the other guy. The bit that really sells it is the sound and how they probably would have recorded sound and probably vision a guy doing similar tricks on a skateboard to sync with the stop motion.

  10. Federico 6 years ago

    yeah is definitely a stop animation, they made it photo by photo…quite long and hard for the guys on the ground!

    • Author
      Shane 6 years ago

      Federico, but look at the shadow on the ground, it is hardly moving so they had to be doing each of those sequences in 1 hour. I really need all of your help on this. Thoughts

  11. Bill Strehl 6 years ago

    I looked at the skateboard video and it looks like there are times where the feet are floating above the human skateboard. Is it possible to have painted a custom made skateboard green and pulled a key then inserted the human skateboard?

  12. Bill Strehl 6 years ago

    Check out the feet at :17 to see what I mean.

  13. Federico 6 years ago

    if you look at the beginig (0.03-0.05) the shadow on the building move very fast and also at the end the sky move to fast like in a time lapse, the scene with the shadow on the ground are very short and I think the sound it’s very confusing and make it much more faster than it is in reality.

    It reminds me the work of BLU i don’t know if you know him

    P.S He got a strange rigs for is camera(0.07 down on the right there’s a shadow) it can be a steady? so he never loose the exact point of view from the shot before….

  14. Dan 6 years ago

    I’m curious. I’ve heard a lot about the Zoom H4n, but what other recorders are people using with these cameras?

  15. Jonas 3 years ago

    Thank you Gene for this write up. What would a great mic be for indoors, still a shotgun microphone, im thinking in terms of room reflections. Or still use a shot gun mic and just get in closer? Is the zoom still what’s recommended?

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