Gear update…mikes

Mikes

One of my favorite resource books for teaching video is

    Single-Camera Video Production

by Robert B. Musburger (Focal Press). I have the second edition…better remind myself to update it to the 2005 book. It has very clear explanations of how stuff works. Was giving my beginning broadcasting class an overview of stuff that goes with cameras this past week and used the comparison between human senses and cameras/mikes. I know this is probably a bit out of date, but I’m sure human senses are still winning. According to Musburger,

The human eye can focus from nearly the end of the nose to infinity instantaneously. The eye can adjust to light variations quickly and can pick out images in light varying over a thousand times from the lightest to the darkest.
The human ear can hear sounds varying in loudness from 0 decibels to over 160 decibels.

In comparison the camera (in this 1999 edition) can only reproduced light variations at a 30:1 ratio and the best mikes reproduced sounds no louder than 60 decibels. And speaking of mikes (finally she gets to the point)…that’s the focus in the post.

Cameras come and go. Other gear can last a lifetime. I had a mike when I worked at KOVR that I swear dated back to the days of newsreels. An ElectroVoice…really couldn’t tell the model due to the dings and scratches. It was heavy and looked as if it were used in hand to hand combat…and it wouldn’t die. Now that’s a mike for you. After I left news I went out and bought myself its little sister (or great-granddaughter) which I plan to pass it on to my grandkids.

So let’s look at microphones. There are some basics you’ll need to know. If you harken back to an earlier post you can get an idea of the three general types of mikes and when to use them.

Here are some mikes that have caught my eye for one reason or another…let’s start with shotguns (a term that in one sense makes sense – you are shooting with it…but in the sense that a shotgun sprays a scene it is totally inaccurate…these puppies are unidirectional and very focused). Remember, one of my requirements is that I can attach equipment to the camera…not the camera to the equipment (keep it smaller than the camera).

Sennheiser MKE400
Sennheiser shotgun mikes were a standard in news….rugged and capable of reaching out and pulling in sound. With today’s small VJ camcorders it is a wise addition…it actually fits and doesn’t protrude into the field of view. At total length of about 5 inches including mount, this should nicely fit the profile of your camera and Sennheiser’s superior sound sure beats your built-in mike. Can mount onto your camera’s shoe and comes with a short coiled cable to plug into your mike input. Uses an AAA battery and runs around $200…and for only about $50 more you can pick up the furball windbreaker.

Clip-on mike
AudiopTechnica ATR35 – a small clip-on mike with a twenty foot cord, giving you plenty of room to back up and wander. Problem is, as with most consumer mikes, is it has a mono plug so you’ll need to pick up an inexpensive adapter for a few bucks and you’ll record to both channels.

In addition to the above, there are some standards in the industry. The ElectroVoice 635 stick mike. XLR connector…so you’ll need adapters or a special cable to drop it down to the mini-jack size for your camera. Lasts a lifetime for around $120. Sennheiser ME66/K6 shotgun….with the better models you purchase both the power module and mike capsule. The power module can take a variety of capsules, depending on your need. Cost is around $400 but that’s just the beginning…you’ll need a shock mount, wind screen, and more. Problem with both of these mikes is they overpower my HV20 in size, although they work nicely with the older JVC DV300.

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