Wednesday, February 04, 2009

HD Video Deserves Great Audio, Too!

Wired Online had an interesting story a few weeks back on the quality gulf between HD video and the audio that often accompanies it.  For the past few years our attention has been focused on delivering stunning video.  Audio has lagged behind a bit.   That’s changing a bit with a new standard for Blue-ray audio.

Film Crew It’s a good reminder for all video producers.  Audio is often the last thing we’re concerned about when we head out on a shoot.  And, just as often, we’re frustrated in post production, dealing with background noise, or filter out hum.

Getting good audio for video isn’t particularly difficult, but it does require some care, and making sure you have the right gear.  The microphone on your camera probably won’t cut it. 

shufp24 Getting external audio into your camera is getting easier.  Lots of affordable cameras include XLR connectors for microphones these days, and many provide phantom power, as well.  If you camera has that feature, you’re in luck. 

If not, you’ll want to think about a battery powered mixer.  For years, the standard was the Shure FP-24.  It’s a two input mixer, powered by AA batteries, but it’s been discontinued by Shure for some strange reason.  You can still find them around, both new and used.  Shure does have three channel version, but be prepared.  It’s real money! Around $1200.00.

sennheiser_hd202_headphones Don’t forget about a way to monitor your sound.  You should be monitoring your audio all of the time!  Invest in some good headphones.  They should have pretty good isolation.  I’ve used a set of in-ear earphones.  I like them particularly on long shoots where traditional headphones give me a headache.

Next on your list should be a good shotgun microphone.  What is a shotgun?  Simply put, it’s a very narrow pattern cardioid microphone.   It’s a microphone that has VERY high off axis rejection of sound.  So, you lose a lot of ambient noise, and get more of your subject.  What it can NOT do is “reach out” to your subject.  So, it’s not that you can expect to be 20 feet from your subject and expect close mic sound.  But, you’ll be amazed at what you can do.

Shotgun Mic I’ve used several, but my favorite in terms of value for performance is probably the Audio Technica AT8035.   You can usually find it for about $200 online.  You’ll be amazed at how little handling noise you’ll get. I do find it has a little presence peak at 8 or 10K, but it’s not usually a problem.   For a slightly smaller and lower cost option you could also look at the Audio Technica AT875R.  Along with the shotgun, you may want to consider a fish pole boom and a substantial wind screen.  Shotguns definitely pick up the wind.

You’ll also want a lavaliere microphone.  Start with a wired one, like the Audio Technica AT803.  It’s pretty affordable, and you a great option for interviews and talking heads.

Mr-90 At some point, you’ll want to think about wireless for your field production needs.  The pros actually use wireless mics, as well as wireless links between a field mixer and the camera.  Lectrosonics makes some great gear if you have the budget! 

If you’re look for a lower price point, check out the Mipro MR-90.  You can use any of their transmitters with this tiny receiver that’s designed for use with a camcorder.  It’s a nice little unit with good audio quality.

The bottom line is that getting good audio for your field video isn’t difficult.  With just a little bit of care and planning you can be certain your audio will be right on par with that fantastic HD video you capture.

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