I started this
page over 12 years ago for purposes of exploring practical and affordable
methods to get HD stereo-surround sound into compact portable and
totally handsfree HD video remote field rigs.
then the better choices seemed exclusively the 'too-large-for-body-mounting'
3-chip 480-540P miniDVC types starting >$1500, and weighing
at least 3 pounds.
CHOICES USING EXTERNAL CAMERA MIC JACKS
seems real logistical advantage of operating a lightweight compact
still/video or action CAM type camera having at least HD video
with stabilization features
ruggedized Panasonic HD Action CAM models.
two rugged cameras lack audio input. When partnered with an
audio flash recorder comprise a <$600 USD very low cost
HD audio/video field rig.
Sony ActionCam Models Do Have External Stereo Mic Input &
DSM Mic Direct Powering!!!
Original Model AS15 still available
most places for ~$150 USD.
Now own next to latest, which is a just shipped
4K capable model, is the exceptional value HDR-AS100V
shown at right.
Recently employed in the 2-piece rig documenting
the EagleView Bluegrass Family Reunion . (see below).
MOST RECNENT VIDEO RIG DOCUMENTARIES
IN DECENDING CHRONOLOAGICAL ORDER
field tested March 23, 2014. $150 USD Sony Action Camera mounted
to DSM WHB/N
Sony HDR-AS15 Action Camera in 1080/30P mode
records both video & audio using external custom DSM-6S/EL
+WHB/N 2-channel Stereo-Surround mic plugged directly into
the Action Camera.
was shortened into clips using Cyberlink's PowerDirector 10
and converted to .MOV for upload to YouTube.
is as-is out of the camera without any enhancements or modification.
A SUTHERLIN TREASURE HUNT
Published on May 8, 2014
Documented treasure hunt using Sony AS15 ActionCam & Sonic
Studios head worn Stereo-Surround microphone rig.
Sony HDR-AS15 Action Camera in 1080/30P mode
records both video & audio using external custom DSM-6S/EL
+WHB/N 2-channel Stereo-Surround mic plugged directly into
the Action Camera.
IS THE BEST AND LOWEST COSTING VIRTUAL REALITY RIG AVAILABLE
ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, AT LEAST IN MY OPINION
May 25, 2014
Sony HDR-AS15 ActionCamera interval .jpg image
HRTF baffle mic system into Sony PCM-M10 deck
in 48K 24 bit mode.
Bicycling Guitarist at the Roseburg Farmers Market
A good example of using the headworn
2-piece DSM WINDSCREEN MIC + Sony HDR-AS15 action cam
All sounds are clearly recorded and
video is very good with camera in 1080P 60fps mode.
LOCATION: May 31, 2014 Saturday Farmer's
Market, Roseburg Oregon USA
July 15 2014
An example of recording loud bassy concert
music using the Auto Level Control (ALC) on newer Sony
HDR-AS100v action cam.
The headworn camera was later (last
25% segment) mounted on a small tripod a few feet from
my lawn chair to dance a bit. The headworn DSM 6S/EL
WINDSCREEN mic remained directly inputted to camera's
Some types of music work well even with ALC limitations
, this was not one of those times as this example
ROSEBURG JULY 22, 2014;
Another concert at the same venue.
However, this time the headworn DSM
6S/EL WINDSCREEN mic was directly inputted to a Sony
PCM-M10 audio flash deck.
Later camera on-board mic audio was
synched to the higher quality non-ALC (full manual mode)
M10 audio in the video editor.
Although a much less bass-loud concert,
the M10 audio is full 24 bit depth and audibly much
improved over the 16bit depth/ALC mode of the camera's
external mic input, at least in this case.
You need Adobe Flash Player to watch this video.
Download it from Adobe.
lowest cost Point-n-Shoot cameras of smallest size without audio
input are very inexpensive these days, and easy to carry around
using a variety of hands-free low profile methods.
camera having HD stills/video performance was purchased (Lumix DMC-ZS3)
and outfitted with a chest pendent mount for documentary work.
handsfree 'chest 'pendent' quick release mount was fabricated as
capable ZS3 model has very 'good sounding stereo' on-the-camera
mics in a compact size package.
In 2010 this reviewer purchased a then new Model
Lumix brand DMC-FZ100 (later models with improved performance/features:
super zoom sporting an excellent performance 2.5mm stereo mic level
input jack on the left side panel of the camera body.
1080i stereo sound videos were made using my custom Stereo-Surround
mics and uploaded to YouTube into the GuySonicStudios home page.
Like most cameras with external audio jacks, no manual loudness
control with only Auto Level Control system. ALC more or less produces
audible artifacts. How easily these effects are audible depends
on ambient recording conditions and subject being documented.
ALC seems a less common dual mono type. This uses two independent
ALC adjusting for each channel's own level. So for example channels
would be ALC auto equalized if connecting a lapel mic and a wireless
mic with different loudness levels. So for this camera, and in this
case, the dual ALC is most useful with advantages for individual
source mono feeds.
FZ100's ALC audio auto-level is very fast acting to make ALL sounds
more or less the same loudness. In reality, even with having exceptionally
low distortion/noise audio, the ALC works against you when in high
background noise places where it amplifies the noise making it far
ALC works quite well in quieter spaces where all conversations and
sounds of interest are equalized more appropriately in loudness.
This allows the 4FZ microMXR adapter most useful for surround mic
in-camera audio in low noise locations.
example, FZ100's ALC works very well for specific purposes like
conversations in moderately quiet spaces like the YouTube video
ONLY automatic audio recording level (ALC or AUTO) remains a major
shortcoming. One that's as of 2014 typical of most dual purpose
only ALC is slowly changing with manual audio with VU indication
appearing on some existing and announced still camera models.
These most recently appearing with choice of VU indication,
and having manual loudness adjustment for versatile in camera
recording of stereo sounds in any environment of virtually any
subject. Like recording the true dynamics of live event performances.
still picture features/quality or handsfree operations is not
so important to you, then choosing a lower priced consumer/prosumer
camcorder offers better chance of finding adequate manual audio
controls and external mic jack features.
few prosumer priced still/video camera models as of 2014 are now
available with full manual audio input features.
for lower cost camcorder for manual camera sound control, or use
the professional choice of adding to your rig a ~$200 USD 24 bit
depth external audio deck (ex. Sony PCM-M10)
connected to your choice of mics. All test videos shown on this
page have audio recorded with DSM Stereo-Surround mics unless
a short video produced while in while wearing the Panasonic
DMC-ZS3 stereo sound still/video camera on the pendent mount. Sound
from the camera's on-bpard mics seems good at least with close sound
FISHPOLE MOUNTED TEST VIDEO
a 24 bit audio recorder + top mounted FZ100 camera.
2010 Vet's Day event
Below is an
example 'pendent-camera' video with BOTH CAMERA MICS & EXTERNAL
STEREO-SURROUND MICS. During playback the tracks alternate every
Can you tell
the camera's mic sound from the external stereo mic?
Wine & Beer Garden camera verses headworn mic comparison test
stereo tracks recorded and now compared.
Made using on-camera mics AND headworn DSM-6S/EH + WHB/N
mic into an audio flash recorder.
with the Henry Estate vender was natural using all handsfree recording
gear. The Panasonic DMC-ZS3 still camera (in AVCHD video mode)
hung freely like a pendent at chest level.
image quality is with newer 1080i/P E/SLR models. GH1/2
models, and newest GH3
have full frame 16/18 mega pixel CMOS sensor, and 4/3 interchangeable
lens format, AND considered the lightest, most portable in their performance/feature
have full optical stabilization, and some with extreme wide to
long 25-310 mm (+12X) and 25-600 (+24X) zoom lens of excellent
precision. Many models now showing on-camera stereo mics (tested
astonishingly good ones on Panasonic ZS3/FZ100 models).
with or without interchangeable lens feature like fixed lens
DMC-ZS3/7 & FZ100 models. Fixed lens advantage is larger
zoom range at lower cost, and almost half smaller and lighter
come with an exceptionally rich set of useful features. Many
professionals and serious amateurs should find these LUMIX models
excellent choices for documentary, rural nature, and creative
minimal addition of cell phone sized PCM-M10 24bit external flash
stereo recorder completes a limited audio quality field rig.
both camera/recorder's onboard stereo mics, but still a good starter
rig that's ready for accessory upgrades.
is, with a dedicated stereo audio recorder, like the suggested
M10, ANY camera model, even without audio, is fine for field
projects limited only by affordable image quality/features,
and practical to pack around with adequate power.
So you can
use any camera if willing to use a dedicated audio flash deck,
and later sync up the stereo audio to the video using an editor.
FOR GETTING EASY AUDIO TO VIDEO SYNC
found there's at least two ways of getting the audio to sync right,
the hard way like trying to lip sync words, and the easy way where
a loud, and very brief filmed event makes aligning the timelines
an audiovisual Sync Clap beginning each session is more than
just a good idea. Actually the clap is more a necessity when
recording simultaneously on two or more nonprofessional recorders.
Best sync tactic I've found is immediately upon starting, perform
a single, loud handclap in full camera view. In other words,
always having at every film session startup a very brief, easily
heard-seen recorded event makes timeline sync editing easy and
PCM-M10 is latest unusually small 24 BIT/96K audio deck with
direct ability for powering any DSM mic.
the M10 excellent, with very low noise audio recording quality.
good companion to fit into the other shirt-pocket providing the
stereo-surround (for video) audio.
longer many good excuses not to afford, or to leave such audio/video
outfits at home.
Second field test of FZ100 mounted on the CameraGUY rig pictured
above left recording stereo-surround using handheld fishpole and
an external audio flash deck.
common interview opportunities are impromptu on-the-spot type encounters.
non-intrusive high quality low profile gear leaving your hands
totally free and natural direct eye contact for candid banter
has advantages not found with handheld microphones and hand holding
or tripod camera mounting.
is an example of headworn SonicStudios.com DSM mics plugged directly
into a small audio flash recorder and a shirt-pocket size Panasonic
DMC-ZS3 in 720P video mode is hung like a pendant with special
custom made camera mount also available from Sonic Studios.
in post edit the camera audio is simply synch and then replaced
with the higher quality flash deck audio.
type of gear and tactics are the future for documentary and interview
JAMES HIP-HOP @ CHARLEY'S BBQ PARTY
An excellent example of how good the Auto Level Control (ALC)
CAN work with some models when recording Rock.
Direct connected Stereo-Surround DSM microphones.
Fishpole/VideoGUY baffled using the PA-FZ1 adapter (into
FZ100) as shown below.
BELOW OF (PROTOTYPE) EXTERNAL STEREO-SURROUND MIC INPUT ADAPTERS
USEFUL WITH A GROWING NUMBER OF STILL + VIDEO CAMERA MODELS
SPORTING EXTERNAL AUDIO INPUT JACKS.
ADAPTER IS THE ORIGINAL PROTOTYPE
AS A 4-CH MIXER
The 4FZ microMXR pictured ABOVE meant for
adhesive Velcro mounting.
The PA-FZ1 runs 2000+ hours using (1)
AA alkaline cell that's common everywhere. This
verses the much smaller 4FZ-microMXR, that's 'easier-to-mount-anywhere,'
but requires less common (1) 20-23mm 3 volt lithium
coin battery. Runtime varies with size/model coin cell
used, and these just adequate for having 150 - 225+
may well consider film sound nearly as important as the visual image.
And documentary/event production is decidedly an in-the-field activity
where everything best carried ready to start working upon arrival.
my personal preference for using the most portable gear available
is likely shared by documentary/news professionals. However, preference
for solely using stereo-surround mics, never mono, is exactly opposite
is having NO STEREO, only multiple channels of mono. And it's
usually easy to very-close or 'effect' mic most subjects.
wisdom tells using a lapel pickup mic or well-aimed shotgun gives
best chance of consistently 'adequate' audio subject capture.
in addition to portable, having a well-configured multi-channel-mono
system is a must, especially for 1-2 person field projects.
Recently learned all this and more from the following e-mail:
In a message
dated 11/xx/2010 10:11:29 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, firstname.lastname@example.org
Let me first say that I have enjoyed our e-mail and phone relationship.
Your insights have been priceless to me. I am trying to get myself
back into the documentary space in the most contemporary way and
you have provoked new thinking and creative ideas.
everything I did from you with the hope that it would be just
right for me. It is not. I am not using the wonderful technology
you build. This is not your fault. I do not want you to read this
e-mail as though it is. But the fact is, I need a more directed
pointed sound rig that picks up the person in front of the camera,
the person I am interviewing, and hears me in the background only.
The general ambiance sound microphones, both the lavaliere and
the headphones mics, provide too broad a sound for the video work
that I am doing. This is extremely disappointing to me.
the enclosed photographs will show you the rig that I am using.
It has 2 choices. A wireless mic with the lavaliere. And a small
and inexpensive shotgun from Sennheiser. Neither is ideal. And
I am not using your equipment which is disappointing as I said
I do not know
if you would consider this but is there a way to turn the lavaliere
and the headpiece microphones into something more directed, less
ambient, less recording all-around surround sound and more targeted
at what is in front of me? It may be too late for me to bring
this up to you. But to see the equipment sitting on my shelf unused
is a waste.
I look forward
to hearing your thoughts, and I wish you and your family a happy
see the attached photos for my current
fully understand and appreciate your sound capture concerns. Using
a new system I've had personal excellent experience with only
once or twice without satisfaction is good indication of go back
and try this again knowing a bit more. Please give consideration
to the following.
installing new (HSA) hotshoe adapter on the camera by itself,
completely removing your excellently configured (needs shotgun
mic input adapter) discreet channel conventional rig, at least
just the camera, with personally worn, or VideoGUY baffled mic
greatly reduces uneven volume issues of needing post-edit compression
process to be acceptable.
In other words,
each person's volume differences will virtually disappear because
of excellent natural sounding camera AUTO REC loudness compression.
This has effect to flatten all audio levels to sound nearly the
the adapter's 85 cycle bass cut removes annoying very low frequency
electrical motor noises very common in urban settings.
always use the 85 cycle bass cut filter; switch in downward position.
It seems to work very effectively in removing the annoyance of
having clearly recorded low frequency urban 'growl' without eliminating
these sounds, filter allows still 'hearing' its presence, but
in way more agreeable mix with all the other sounds being recorded.
preferring uncompressed audio from flash recorder, for Guerilla
style urban capture, I like using the simpler direct mic into
the camera tactic.
is consistently good sounding, so has good chance for being
more than adequate without post edit compression/filtering.
So advantages of most simple compact 2-piece rig easily outweigh
loss of certain audio qualities, at least for on-the-spot documentary.
motivating for those doing remote location shoots is advantage
of uploading raw video with, at least, good quality audio that's
taken the 2-piece rig out for several short 'local errand' documentary
style tests, found a very good to excellent mix of environmental
sounds and conversation in most cases.
1) Raise the
camera's flash, and then gently slide the adapter onto the shoe,
locking in a place (slightly back) so to not physically contact
a fully deployed flash.
open and hold the cameras input jack cover while gently guiding
the adapter's output plug into the camera's external audio jack.
the plug is fully inserted so the plug bottoms out. Like most
small plugs/jacks these connections are extra delicate and easily
damaged so always handle with care to keep plug free of fingerprint
residues making an eventual bad connection or rough force full
handling that physically stresses stuff to break.
words, in first inserting audio plug into camera, always wipe
the plug with clean cloth/tissue BEFORE inserting into camera.
When first plugging HSA into the camera, make sure plug is initially
aligned straight, and then use gentle slightly rotating motion
lowering the plug safely until fully seated.
in same careful manner, although I'm finding little need to
remove the adapter as I'm now satisfied using it all the time.
Rare seems the need to remove it.
3) Plug the
headworn or VideoGUY baffled mic into the HSA's miniXLR input
(1)AA battery is now ON with the microphone attached, and is
OFF when mic is disconnected.
Do NOT be
concerned with disconnecting mic to save this battery. Adapter
battery lasts for +2000 hours and can remain connected 24/7
for +83 days of continuous use(!) and while then need change,
will still be working the mic.
after removing your DSM mic ministereo plug patch adapter (connected
on the mic's miniXLR output plug) carefully save this adapter
so not to lose track of where placed.
to have this patch cable when desiring to again connect to the
PCM-M10 3.5mm ministereo mic input, AND is subject of #4 below.
4) The M10
output-to-camera-audio-input patch cable already sent is now fully
useful when plugged into HSA 2.5mm input jack. There may be two
different ways of getting audio recorded on the camera with the
A) In one
configuration, the flash recorder's output is solely from the
headworn, baffled DSM mic plugged directly into M10's mic input.
So two (2)
recordings made using flash deck audio into camera audio. I
found camera (video) audio similar in quality to flash deck
audio but camera audio is now an AUTO LEVEL compressed version.
for perspective, camera audio very similar in quality solely
using stereo mic directly into HSA miniXLR mic input. Except
for downsides of AUTO AUDIO LEVEL (a compression-only) mode,
Panasonic's camera audio input is clean/noise-free.
to hear slightly cleaner sound with camera fed flash deck audio,
but so far found improvement is mostly moot at least for nonmusical
version of the VideoGUY baffle without camera quick-release.
the WHB/N stereo-surround mic baffle mounting alignment
B) The HSA/microMXR
ALSO serves as a 4-CH MIXER. This works with any DSM stereo-surround
mic plugged into one of two powered mic jacks, M10's or microMXR's.
aux. jack works when PC-FZ1 patch is connected to the deck's
headphone output jack. So the recorded camera audio becomes
a mix of stereo and/or mono sounds. (NOTE: If M10's menu or
switch is set in MONO and not STEREO, then mono input audio
appears on both deck's L/R channels).
for the camera adapter's mixer mode is having shotgun and/or
wireless lavaliere mono audio combined. This means a 'permanent
record' of up to 3 very different audio perspectives is created
in-camera as ALC compressed sound.
production sounds recorded like this seems unwise. While on-the-fly,
and unmonitored mixes sometimes work, most often not so well.
consider camera has the only record of location surround audio.
And if both types of sound are connected together in an on-the-spot-mix,
this mix is permanent. ANY inconsistency in hearing ability,
channel loudness, and made adjustments for what seemed at
the time an appropriate mix may be very much OK, or very much
NOT removing any chance of having surround audio in this one
video. This kind of liability brings up the question: "Do
you feel lucky, do you?" Or the saying: "Don't ruin
today what can be saved for same chance of ruin tomorrow"
BEST CHANCES OF USEFUL IN-CAMERA AUDIO: Suggest safer alternative
is to 'cut' the patch going from deck output to microMXR. Record
surround ONLY into the flash deck. Not permanently mixed into
the camera audio. Afterwards add surround-audio to taste in
edit with camera's 2-monophonic ALC recorded channels.
I am hopeful
with these tactics little or no liability, recording sound having
higher production standards, and all working a very compact rig.
'RICH FIELD' BECOMING THE NEW PRODUCTION SOUND STANDARD?
mix of ambient stereo-surround sound and dry mono mic feeds will
compliment, greatly enhancing the usual way-too-dry 'canned' sounding
mono audio we've come to expect and tolerate in low budget documentary
especially those just getting into video, actually strive in having
canned sounding shotgun/lavaliere audio as a standard acceptable
in most all of today's lower budget media markets, and not wrong
to expect same audio standards encouraged in media production
Some of this
is understandable considering mostly having gear from 60 years
ago technology and the inherent limitations of using conventional
studio type microphones re-purposed for live sound field projects
of all of this is limited documentary style audio rarely recognizing
there is an ambient surround sound unique to every location.
Instead, usual tact is to close-mic primary subjects of interest
taking each single audio subject acoustically out of context
and mixing these artificially together in a mixer or as tracks
in post edit. And the usual result is barely tolerable dry 'canned'
sound where content (words) and not context (location) or sound
qualities is stressed.
I know we
can now do much better and do it easily with a change of what's
getting more important by the day (video sound quality), at
least from a presentation quality perspective.
tact for audio is the 'Rich Field' perspective in live documentary.
This is where the entire 360° 'rich' location sound is considered,
and included in full context with the subjects of primary interest.
a world where documentary style video MUST always include a
working balance of natural surround ambient sound to be considered
having highest production values. Now there's a lot less tolerance
for great looking HD videos having low quality dry-canned sounds.
Especially when compared to newer natural surround-sound productions
like some of us are warming up to start making.
Suggest we upgrade
the art of video sound with where the producer treats the location
audio more like what's usually considered good tact for camera lighting/view
in photography, it's common to be using the available ambient
light (not like in conventional audio where every effort is made
to shut out most all ambient light or in this case, ambient sounds).
Also in photography, the distance and angle of the view verses
the ambient scene is considered, and same consideration should
be given the 'POV' imaging of a surround mic. To zoom in to a
subject and get less of the ambient in relation involves mic-to-subject(s)
to be closer (art of audio staging), same as positioning an acceptable
With mic headworn,
wearer easily hears (listening in surround mode) the real ambient
to subject sound mix. However, with using a remote baffle mic to
close mic distant subjects, recommend headphone monitoring of mix
until personal experience allows for safer mic positioning assumptions.
does allow placements where a person physically could not be positioned.
Like a positioning of a 8-12 inch high (desk type) mic stand just
out of camera view directly between two subjects. Or if no choice
not to be inside camera view, then disguised (maybe with cotton
scrim covering/small folding blind) mostly works to hide a baffled
surround mic, but not interfere with ideal location surround audio
The short of
this is, producers need to consider surround audio as 'rich field'
audio where primary considerations is not only video, but also how
the audio mic is positioned relative to subjects and background
'RICH FIELD' CAPTURE TACTICS
good at this type of audio ultimately takes some practice for
developing a surround hearing awareness. Most find in a short
time good ability for hearing all location sounds affecting the
mic position, and not just what usually gets mentally focused
there're many simultaneous sounds present, and a producer should
be aware by practiced intention, expanding to hear the total
ambient sound, unfocussed on anything in particular. Doing this
as an exercise before setting up, and greatly helps for making
the best mic positioning decisions even if in one of those more
difficult noisy ambient situations.
If recording in a way too noisy ambient, suggest using the baffle
mic on a fishpole held low, maybe just out of camera view. Stereo
mic is positioned between yourself/subject with both left/right
channels equidistance in an 'over-the-shoulder' POV.
if camera is side shot showing two persons, then for example,
left mic channel best positioned closer to position left POV
person by simply rotating the mic baffle same as camera's alignment.
mic sound recorded via microMXR adapter into camera's ALC controlled
image is mostly camera POV except is far right in scenes showing
two seated at table.
SILENT FILM SAVED WITH 'RICH FIELD' BACKGROUND SOUND
films with low visual appeal are greatly helped having interesting
sound bolstering the presentation quality.
second edition of the MOON YouTube Video is still a bit too long,
and likely most view the large moon image detail, slowly tracing
across the black sky, as much less poetic after just a few minutes.
I added a live campground music session of Vivid Curve group's
performance of "world turning." Good sounding 'studio
made music' is a sound choice, but past experiences have me convinced
the better choice is having natural sounding 'feel.'
other words, 'Rich Field' natural surround may have just saved
ultimate way-too-slow no-action MOON flick, with at least 'inspiring'
or even meditative 'moments,' and chance for few more fans.
second edition has one editing flaw of audio up too loud to slightly
clip the ending percussion making me go back to editing this one
THE ARCHIVED SECTION ---------------------------- DATED BUT STILL USEFUL
(what was true 13
years ago, and likely still relevant)
all professional, prosumer, and a few consumer grade portable video
cameras have external mic input jacks. The larger professional cameras
are usually not supplied with mics, but most users usually shoe-mount
an external mic of some kind. The smaller video 'camcorders' usually
include internal or externally mounted mics.
fact is, most all camera mounted microphones, whether selected by
the user or included with the camera, record moderately OK to mostly
not OK at all video sound. Even if the external mic used is of high
quality, the 'too-close-to-the-camera' mounting makes any mic highly
susceptible to also recording clearly audible camera handling/zoom
motor noise that is distracting during quieter moments. Camera noise
is too easily mechanically conducted
from the 'camera-to-mic' mounting AND directly through the air into
the mic. Using an external microphone of sufficient quality working
at a greater (> 12 inch) distance detached mechanically from
the camera usually solves mechanical/acoustic vibration noise issues.
The newer 'solid state' cameras that use flash card storage are
inherently quieter with having NO noisy motors moving tape or
spinning mechanical components, but zoom lens operation may be
audible to camera mounted mics.
introduction of handheld 'STEREO AUDIO' cameras raised expectations
with the promise of more satisfying REALISTIC sound with the video,
but this in reality has not been the case, especially true with the
camcorders that include internal stereo mics. Even the external mounted
stereo mics record disappointing low quality (stereo) sound that is
not much better than the earlier mono-sound cameras. The advent of
MiniDV 3CCD professional quality cameras with extraordinary video
has made more important than ever the need for equally breathtaking
microphone recorded sound.
short of it is that we have raised our expectations of what quality
stereo sound with digital video should be about (i.e., the commercial
release of surround-sound feature films) only to find that microphones
as supplied by the camera or common microphone suppliers can't even
come close to providing. The video quality is now better than ever,
but the (now 'CD Quality' digital) audio still mostly sucks big
Sonic Studios has the only really practical solution with HRTF baffled
DSM stereo microphones that easily record 'Lucas-quality' stereo-surround
sound with virtually any stereo sound camera that has an *external
mic input jack!
EXTERNAL MIC jack is a mostly supplied feature on camcorders
to connect a higher quality external stereo microphone to the
camera; auto-disconnecting the internal camera mic when present.
best cameras for this purpose also allow Full MANUAL REC Level setting
options. Manual record level is found only on very few camcorders
until last few years. Canon Model XL-series & GL-2, Sony TRV900
& PD-150, and Panasonic *AG-EZ30
were first of the earlier available models, and recent 3 CCD top-of-the-line
prosumer models were the few allowing partial and/or full manual MIC
input level control of the audio (most recent models with manual audio
now have VU metering indication) for recording full 'dynamic' of live
sound in clean controllable manner.
many years of digital stereo-sound camcorder research, the Panasonic
3CCD 'prosumer' models seem the most consistent for getting
exceptional video and audio quality that will not disappoint
the most discriminating video-audiophile and/or professional
videographer who must often work in demanding field environments
with a minimum of equipment.
makes of higher-end camcorders seem to at least limit the
ability to record the full 20-20,000 cycle audio bandwidth
expected of cameras boasting of having 16bit/48K better than
'CD quality' audio. Instead, these makes offer mostly 70-to-less
than 15,000 cycles bandwidth through the external MIC jack
the LINE level inputs of these cameras usually do offer better
or even full 'CD' quality 20-20,000 cycle bandwidth, the LINE
input is consistently OFF LIMITS while in camera mode;
quality LINE level audio recording is only available in VCR
a handful of +$2000
priced smaller prosumer models have appeared in last couple
years allowing LINE audio input recording with camera recording
system shown (at left) is just one of several stereo microphone/camera systems
possible using the DSM microphone.
DSM-6S/H model mic was
chosen for versatility recording a wide variety of subjects. The three sectioned
Fishpole can extent from <5 foot to >10 foot height and allows a low
weight (about 8 pounds), all terrain, and camera-stable carrying platform.
FISHPOLE VIDEOGRAPHIC RECORDING SYSTEM
Studios VideoStick(TM) shown is a prototype and good example of
a complete Real-time 3-D Surround-Stereo-Sound videographic system.
The 'walking stick' platform
is all-terrain practical for rural/nature (functions as a hiking stick) and
urban filming projects.
The 3 telescoping section
fishpole boom and mic/attenuation cord lengths allows both microphone and
camera about 1-2 meter distance or height adjustment.
The top telescoping section
is outfitted with a bicycle handlebar type soft-foam grip just below the LiteGUY
baffle for comfortable shortened stick handling and stationary grip. When
extended, the mic and camera are capable of unobstructed 'periscope' type
views over crowd heights, recording full stereo-surround sound at the camera
External mic (system)
directly into camera's MIC or if using mic+preamp, use LINE input
Live camera video+stereo-surround
sound camera recording. (camera not supplied) Alternative is using
dedicated deck for post-edit'
addition of audio to video time-line.
or Post Sound Check of Audio Sound & Imaging Quality
Camera Stabilizer for under 2 pound weight Camcorders
NO longer available; less needed as many cameras now have effective
optical stabilization, but if running older camera or require extra-smooth
handling, maybe build your own, or ask a handy friend to make similar
stabilizer for you)
are photos of a field tested prototype . This version works very well
and is very compact for working crowded spaces.
SONIC-CAMII has a slightly longer adjustable axis arm for increased
YOUR OWN SONIC-CAM
to construct with having a little helpful
knowledge or mechanical feel for weight/balance physics.
fully encourage any who might like to make YOUR OWN PERSONAL camera
stabilizer. Easy to find parts comprise of weighted mic stand, camera
mount, bicycle handle, or any suitable components of your own choosing.
NOT naming any such product offering as a SONIC-CAM
Call or E-mail anytime with questions about video mic systems suitable for
cameras record both picture and sound. Camera picture quality
and features supporting video processing comprise over 95% of
such, at least in recent past, many noticed very little attention-to-audio
quality/features on most semi-pro/full pro mini-cameras. My experience
is with Panasonic brand being the exception, caring more about audio
quality than most making similar camera products.
to keep up with latest camcorder models for knowing audio quality/features.
Current trend shows newest models with needed audio quality/features
appearing at far lower prices. Two (now a bit dated) e-mail discussions
below cover some basics.
right are just a few www.taperssection.com discussion links pointing
to recent topics. Much more available about audio for video interests
on this and other discussion sites
a message dated 12/21/00 9:07:03 AM Pacific Standard Time, peter@r x x x
Subj: microphones for documentary video
12/21/00 9:07:03 AM Pacific Standard Time
From: peter@rx xxx xx xe.net
(peter s x x n)
spent some time at your web site recently, and I'm very
impressed with what I've learned. I'm considering buying a
set of DSM mikes in the new year (once santa claus has passed
by...) for radio work. but i also have a few questions
about how suitable they might be for the sort of video work
I'm beginning to do. (I'm a print journalist who recently
lost his way, so you'll have to forgive the complete novice
I'm starting to make observational, post-verite documentaries
using a lightweight Panasonic camcorder - the same one discussed
on your surround sound page. I want to be able to work completely
independently, i.e. taking both the picture and the sound
myself. And I want to be able to move, follow people around,
and pick up what they may be saying in an environment that
can change rapidly, get noisy, get quiet, whatever; and I
also want to be able to pick up their voice clearly even when
I'm filming what they're doing with their hands, or I'm looking
over their shoulders to see what they're seeing... ok, so
i know this is utopian to think i can do all that with a camcorder
and one fixed microphone. But it seems to me there are a number
of possible solutions which might help me maximise the amount
of usable material i get, without having to hire a sound technician.
using the internal stereo mike, i get sound which sounds very
good through headphones or loudspeakers, and allows me to
pick out individual sounds and place them very clearly, but
doesn't sound so good on a TV set, and - to my ears - doesnt
always mix well to mono. and since most TV is still mono,
at least for low-budget documentary, then this is a problem.
on the other hand, mounting a shot gun mike on the camera,
or on a pod, seems to me like it might make me lose more of
the action than i would really like. (I've not yet had time
to try this out in practice). so here are two kinds of solution
I've imagined: feel free to shoot them down in flames:
does the distinctness of individual sounds, their concrete
location in a simulated 'space', in stereo/binaural, also
mean that there are simple ways of isolating those sounds
in the mix and removing those that are unwanted? or is the
result just as difficult to manipulate as mono sound taken
with an omni mike - or even more difficult, if you are using
two omnis? and should i see any improvement in this respect,
using DSMs? or is stereo per se a bad solution for hand-held
camera work where the camera man is moving all the time? if
the stereo were easier to edit than mono, then maybe the cam
mike, or better a pair of DSMs, could provide a replacement
for both the mikes in the leacock solution below. But I'm
not clear whether, in this context, stereo/binaural sound
contains more information in a usable form than one or two
well-positioned mono mikes, or less.
In (deep) theory and in limited practice, a
complex mathematical (HRTF algorithm) editing processor can
be used to spatially 'place' monophonic sounds within surround
ambient audio; mostly done for commercial multitrack sound
films these days. Reversing the process (pulling HRTF encoded
sound source elements out to a mono-multitrack mix) is only
very slightly possible with the best available digital
this will not work as the models for the HRTF effect is
still far too complex and varies greatly with each individual
microphone system. DSM recordings are very different than
Binaural type (ear mic) recordings by having a nicer sounding
mix to mono edit, much better mono than MS stereo mic and
generally better quality sound than mono friendly coincident
mics and stereo recording within an uncontrolled ambient
situation is generally NOT a good idea. Reason is, most
stereo microphones do not record sound as we would hear
it and 'react' differently to sounds in frequency, amplitude,
and direction. This makes mic placement with each type of
stereo mic far too critical for documentary work.
stereo mics are only (professionally) practical within a
controlled environment with careful sound checks by experienced
is why so much video is done using Cardioid and Shotgun
directional mics. Yes, you mostly get cheesy and thin sounding
audio, but at least it's consistent and useable. The real
bad news for lone outdoors documentary work is the really
effective windscreens for these type mics are very large;
can be over twice the size of a small 3-CCD camera!
contrast, DSM mics ARE A GOOD idea for documentary work
as the recording turns out exactly the way it was heard. No
critical microphone placement limitations; what you hear is
what you record. As a bonus, the Headworn DSM's allow the
simultaneous recording of high quality INTERVIEW and/or NARRATION
audio with the scenes ambient sounds. AND if this is not enough,
the easily headworn DSM + WHB/N windscreen is effective in
60 MPH winds!
richard leacock's solution is to get a friend of his to make
him a mike which can be mounted on the camera and consists
of a hypercardiod wired to the right channel and a semi-cardiod
wired to the left. that way, in editing, he can choose which
sound track works best for each shot.
could sonic make such a mike for me? and if so what would
it cost? and could it be made as camera-mounted, or using
the WHB windscreen head band, with one mike on each side of
dual Directional Cardioid / Shotgun Mono mic scheme
seems a good solution for difficult filming where the background
noise level is aggressive and/or 'over the top' of the primary
subjects. These types of mics can be practical until outdoors
where the oversized windscreens are needed. Then, the size
of the microphone is likely too cumbersome for camera mount;
a second sound person is usually needed to fishpole-operate
this type of microphone in windy locations. (More below
about using camera mounted mics)
special camera mounted switch box might be handy where one
or more microphones may be selected for input to the camera's
external mic jack. Then choosing the dual mono directional
mics or headworn DSM stereo mic output is quick with a flip
of a switch.
could i approximate this solution by using a set of headworn
DSMs, coupled with a camera-mounted mono shot gun, and
take the DSM sound, either via DAT, or direct, into the camcorder's
left channel, and the shot gun into the right? this would
give me the added advantage of having a full stereo sound
track on DAT which could be sync-ed up where useful, where
the subject deserved it; but might be less appropriate than
using the semi-cardiod for a mono soundtrack.
main concerns are to get a genuine choice of useful sound
tracks which will provide me with workable sound, requiring
a minimum of extra effort in post, in as wide a variety
of situations as possible, while using handheld camera and
LOTS of movement to record spontaneous, unstaged and unpredictable
human events, including but not confined to speech.
it's a tall order, i know! but I'm so impressed with you guys,
i somehow think you may know the answer to my problem... looking
forward to hearing from you whenever you get time to reply:
good wishes and a very happy Xmas:
s(xxxxx)n brussels, belgium
appreciate your concerns and thank you for taking the time
to outline the scope of your project in such detail.
work seems oriented to documentary journalism where virtually
every situation is unique.
working with your Video camera is going to be challenging
enough, the ability to simultaneously record at least usable
mono, if not full stereo audio, will vary with ambient conditions
surrounding the POV. Directional microphones may be most
useful when one person's (or a tight grouping of individual's)
vocalizations are the main object AND the ambient is way
too aggressively loud to clearly hear what's being said
at some distance. Here directional microphones will attenuate
side sounds to greater or lesser degree.
there is a price in overall audio quality that's paid for
this exclusiveness. This is something you seem well aware
of , wanting better sound when practical to record it. Mounting
a shotgun or Super-Cardioid mic on the camera will allow
for consistent (low-fidelity) audio to be clearly recorded
in these situations.
the DSM headworn microphone, you will record everything
as you or the person wearing the DSM is hearing it; exactly.
That means that if you are the sole worker of the camera
and audio recording process, and if you can hear the subject(s)
within the surrounding ambient clearly enough, then using
the DSM for recording the audio will give you an exact surround-sound
stereo recording of your 'heard' perceptions. Nothing more
very low frequency sounds, that are prevalent in all urban
settings, will generally sound much louder in a full frequency
bandwidth audio recording than you may have realized during
the shoot. This is mainly because we filter these sounds out
of our perceptions in daily life. A bush person, one who rarely
if ever hears such industrial age activity, would be most
conscious of all the rumbling caused by our mechanical devices
(motorized air/road vehicles, air conditioning systems, etc).
a High-Pass 85 - 150 cycle (A.K.A. bass filter) with the
DSM microphone will attenuate these ambient sounds to be
recorded in a manner more to our normal experienced perceptions.
there are times when the recording full bandwidth audio
is more realistic to the end product and most desirable.
You will have to determine what elements are most important
to any particular shoot and use audio filtering (during
a shoot) appropriately. Audio excessive low frequency bandwidth
in a recording can also be corrected in Post Edit process,
but if the camera's Auto REC Level feature was used and
the bass frequency content audibly modulated the background
sounds, then fixing this in post is likely not going to
work well; better to have filtered reduced some of the bass
frequencies a bit before the camera ALC gets it.
complicate matters more, the DSM model chosen to work best
with the EZ30 in automatic ALC mode may be different from
if using this same camera in Manual REC audio mode. This is
because the ALC has a much wider (soft to loud signal) range
than the manual attenuation settings allow. Using a DSM-6S/H
microphone will work for soft to moderately loud (motor car
street traffic) ONLY in the AUTO level setting.
this same model microphone in the lowest -20 dB Manual audio
setting will cause the audio to overload as a noisy hot
rod sounding vehicle passes closely by your position. Therefore,
as you suspect, it is not ideal or practical in all situations
for doing audio recording with using just the camera.
an external DAT recorder may be needed to gain adequate
control of the audio recording process knowing the camera's
abilities and limitations.
Sony PCM-M1 (or TCD-D100) seems the best suited for this and
I have an attenuation cable that will feed the DAT's line
output directly into the external mic input of the camera
(when desired) so that the camera's excellent sounding Manual
20 dB attenuation setting correlates closely with the VU reading
range on the DAT.
this you can control the audio recording level on both the
camera and also make a DAT audio tape recording.
you use the DAT deck is optional; this is a very versatile
system. If you desire having both devices recording the same
DSM mic'd audio or decide not to record on audio tape, use
the DAT deck for camera only audio recording control with
attenuation cable external mic input to the camera (in ALC
or 20 dB ATTEN). Or you can just record DSM mic sound on the
DAT with NO connection to the camera; a directional microphone
may be operating while mounted on the camera, so that two
versions of the video audio (one directional mic'd Mono on
the camera, the other DSM surround DAT stereo) is made available.
minimum equipment approach is the camera and only the DSM
+ WHB microphone powered by the PA-6LC2 (with optional
Bass Cut switch)as the external camera microphone.
An optional directional or shotgun type microphone might also
be readied (useful as camera mounted) for using at appropriate
times during non-windy shoots where a noisy background is
unsuitable for ambient stereo recordings.
advantages of surround stereo is that all sounds within
the ambient are recorded with most of the directional information
recorded 'as heard live'. If you intend to produce a version
that's a mix to mono, then most of the pyscho-acoustical
directional information is lost (all sounds tend again to
be 'piled' on top of others), but the audio may still be
superior to than of typical mono mic'd audio. It would depend
on how much POV off-axis sound is competing with the main
audio editing including using frequency band filters and
compression techniques can help suppress distracting noise
and bring remaining audio elements closer together; avoiding
the need for doing this is (of course) best.
a bit about your shot's ambient environment beforehand will
help in determining what mic(s) and tactics are needed to
insure useful audio is recorded under worst case conditions.
Sound Recording Components for Video/Audio Recording
(list: ~$2000) Panasonic smallest mini-PRO 3-CCD camcorder;
records HD video to SDHC flash care; very good to excellent
external MIC audio quality/adequate audio features;
might test OK to directly power DSM mic making world's
smallest 2-piece High Definition video/stereo-surround
let me know if this makes sense, or at least enough to ask
Subject: Is there a shotgun mic that sounds as good as a lavalier mic?
wondering if you can get close to the sound quality of a lavalier
with a good shotgun mic? I do a lot of interviews with people
feet away from the camera and always in quiet settings... Sick
tangling up the mic cable, noise from my wireless mic, etc...
What is a
good shotgun mic? Anything worthwhile in the $250 price range?
Re: Is there a shotgun mic that sounds as good as a lavalier
From: "Doug Graham" <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 23:56:12 -0400
that one mike is 'better' than the other, it's proximity to
sound source. You can get a lav right up close. A shotgun with
element will sound even better...provided you can get IT up
This is why movie sound crews use shotguns mounted on booms.
mounted microphone at 6-8 feet from the talent just isn't going
sound real great.
not obvious, there is a way to get the sound you need with relatively
inexpensive mic'g equipment that's easy to use even when working
solo on a documentary.
approach to live video mic'g that is not discussed enough
is recording the audio exactly (no better or worse than) the
way it sounds to the camera person; a shotgun or single point
stereo microphone (at any cost) cannot easily accomplish this
YOU HEAR IT? If we recall, clearly hearing and understanding vocalizations
at 6-10 foot distance in a quiet environment is usually effortless
for most people. There is a microphone system that will
record sound easily and consistently in this manner. In other
words, recording the ambient room sound (exactly like you hear
it) in surround-sound stereo way is quite acceptable, if not
a very desirable way to record live audio during the filming.
an ambient 3-D stereo mic'g method works very well in most
documentary projects, budget film projects, and even amateur
productions with just a low cost camcorder especially if desiring
virtual reality type quality stereo sound.
an ambient stereo microphone that records only what you are
hearing at the camera position is going to provide more consistent
results than trying any Lavaliere or Shotgun mic approach
that never records exactly what you can easily hear at the
time. (NOTE: not all ambient stereo mics will do this; more
on this later.) This is because some ambient stereo mics incorporate
a reception pattern that replicates our own hearing reception
pattern. Room ambiance (the dreaded echoes) from being at
a moderate distance are much less a problem when the mic reception
pattern is modeled much like our own stereophonic hearing;
the recording is then a 'coherent record' of the live ambient
Will it work all the time? If you can hear the subject reasonably well from the
operating distance, then the recorded sound will be at least
as good as you heard it during the take. Even a person working
solo, can be operating the camera while doing a one-on-one spoken
interview, AND clearly record any and all vocal responses.
done this type of mic'g for many projects over a 15 year period
using a handheld camera (at chest level or on mono-pod)
inside of moving vehicles, indoors, and outdoors. Audio has
never been much of a problem with vocal recording using this
type of microphone.
AT THE DUMP I recall a worst case situation when filming an interview
in a landfill with the 50 ton crusher dozier operating full
tilt at only 30 meters distance!
I remembered barely being able to hear the shouted vocal responses
at 1.5 meter distance during the filming and the exact same
audio resulting on the recorded audio track; no worse or better
than the original live impressions. I did have the good sense
to use a low frequency filter (high pass) mic option that
allowed to make the best of a very bad audio situation. The
mega dozier sound was way over-the-top for sure, but
you could still hear what was being shouted clearly enough!
IS HRTF AMBIENT STEREO? The ambient stereo mic pattern is called HRTF= head related
transfer function, but NOTE: not all HRTF are the same as
there are several HRTF reception patterned mic versions. Some
also include the ear reception pattern mechanism; this is called
type (a Sonic Studios made DSM mic), avoids the playback compatibility
problems with ear-mic patterns for solely using just the human
head's reception pattern (includes head-neck-shoulders-and
torso to a much lesser degree), for producing Dolby Pro Logic
compatible surround sound 2-ch stereo recording that still
sounds remarkably good on mono playback equipment.
contrast, playback of Binaural HRTF pattern mics (played on
other than headphones playback) causes anomalies that are
worsened still with mono playback equipment. Read more about
this at: http://www.sonicstudios.com/multitrk.htm
YOUR HEAD WITH AUDIO Being part of a microphone pattern involves that the
camera person be personally headwearing this mic (on eyeglasses
or windscreen headband), use an assistant to be wearing the
mic, or (stop needing a person as part of a mic pattern) place
the two mic pickups on a stand or boom with the LiteGUY HRTF
mic baffle that replicates (dummy head style) the same accurate
HRTF ambient stereo reception pattern. See (and hear) at: http://www.sonicstudios.com/liteguy.htm
videographers that start working with a DSM type HRTF stereo
mic find that it works much easier and with consistently better
sound quality than any known lapel or shotgun based recording
AUDIO, BIGGER APPLAUSE In my experience, natural ambient surround stereo sound is
most often the better recorded sound that directly communicates
the experience of being there POV with the video. In other words,
the audio perception is much more in sync with the video image
careful consideration of the usual video mic suggestions,
perhaps more of you should start using the (DSM
type) ambient stereo (POV video) mic for those 1-2 person-run
documentary type projects.
are quite good that you won't bother to look back as camcorder
microphone audio gets much easier, and you also notice the
viewer's interest and smile has greatly increased!
in Sound & Music Recording,
Sonic Studios(tm)..."Making Audio History With DSM(tm) Microphones"
Since 1986: The First Choice of Sound Recording Professionals"
Specializing in Patented HRTF Surround Stereo Microphone Technology
for Speech, Film, Music, Sound Design/EFX
TEL: 541-459-8839 /\ FAX: 541-459-8842 /\
USA Free: 1-877-347-6642
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Informative WEB SITE: http://
A better wish... "A bit of knowledge
coupled to a great deal of wisdom"