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Sound for DSLRs

I know a couple of people who are going to start shooting web series with the Canon 7D and the Canon 5Dmk II and I’ve been talking to them about sound. One of the big questions when shooting with these cameras is what to do about sound, since neither of them are really built to do great sound like they are built to do great video.

Of course, DSLR champion Philip Bloom has already considered several options:

I have a Sennheiser MK400 mic to go on top of the camera for better sound but it needs to be powered, so if you forget to check that battery you have mute sound. Also the auto gain control on the camera is hideous, if something loud is suddenly heard the AGC crashes the audio down to practically zero then brings it back up again and of course it’s just an on camera mic, so best for b-roll really. I have heard the Rode mono mic is very good. 

philipbloom.co.uk

I’ve also heard the Rode VideoMic Directional Shotgun Mic w/Mount ($149) is a great and economical option for a camera-mounted mic. Bloom also mentions the Beachtek DXA-5D Dual XLR Adapter for DSLR Video which seems to be sold out all around the internet as of writing, but normally retails for $379. Of course other, cheaper Beachtek adaptersthat don’t advertise themselves as specific to the 5D could probably be made to work just as well.

For indie filmmakers, though, the real thought should be how to do double-system, post-sync sound. Bloom also an option here:

The Zoom H4n is a remarkable little device. It records everything from .mp3 48khz to 24bit 96khz. It has built in stereo condenser microphones and two XLR inputs which means you can record 4 channels of audio at the same time. It records onto SD cards and runs on 2AA batteries for about ten hours. It costs about $349. 

The Zoom H4n Portable Digital Recorder is actually $299 on Amazon. This is a good device — I’ve seen professional sound men use it. (For a very thorough rundown of the H4n workflow, see kenstone.net.)

All of the above solutions are really what a cameraman trying to do sound at the same time can get away with. But if you’re making a movie, you should have a dedicated sound recordist, and hopefully a whole team on sound. I recommend a portable kit like the one I used on Natural Victims (with a boom mic added).

And, although I didn’t have great luck with it, you could try using PluralEyes to sync all the takes, or FCP auxTC reader if your sound system has TC (and you’re using Final Cut Pro). Or just do what nearly every movie has done since the advent of sound… use a clapper ($26).

Remember, with the 5DmkII, you’ll want to slow the audio down just a tad, 99.9% speed, or you’ll start slipping out of sync at the end.

NOTA BENE: If you’re shooting with the 5D and posting in Final Cut, note also that Apple just updated their 5DtoFCP import tool.

6 Comments

  1. For Recording sound from more than two mics (Wireless plus boom mic) you could use one of them: http://www.freshdv.com/2010/02/zoom-r16-wow.html
    Looks good.

  2. Nice link, George. That mixer looks awesome except, as some commenters point out, the best sample rate it can do is 44.1, not the 48k that is pro standard.

  3. Yeah, but the h.264 recorded with the DSLR is also far from a pro Standard, isn't it?

    I mean quality vise the Sound would be nearer to standard than the Video recorded.

  4. Yeah, don't get me wrong. The R16 is a great option. The only drawback is the sample rate thing and I'm wondering if a mixer that cheap introduces serious noise… definitely worth testing.

  5. Didn't mean to. But if there is as less noise as various test online say this is a really cool way to get multitrack sound on set.

    And as Matthew points out in the comments at freshdv you can always convert the sound to 48k in post as you convert your video footage to a better codec instantly after importing.

    And for the price so low it's kind of a steal…

  6. I'm going for Nikon D5000 because of low budget and portable minidisc recorder(I will add my own support for XLR microphone) also because of low budget :) It's still better than sound from camera :)

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