View Full Version : Do camera mics matter?


BJG
03-09-2009, 06:48 AM
I wanted to ask this because sometimes you can find cameras going for less because they may have problems with sound. But I'm getting the impression that it's commonplace to use something like a portable DAT recorder with separate mics anyway. So for film-making purposes, if the camera's sound-handling is defective in some way, does this matter?

M1chae1
03-09-2009, 10:02 AM
Pretty much all of the productions I've worked on (SD and HD) have a boom plugged directly in the camera. A few times, the directors will choose to go with the onboard mic, but the good directors only use onboard when they have to (during frantic handheld movement)

Most fairly recent cameras have a pretty good onboard mic. If you are close enough to the actors, you will get a good recording.

As far as a separate DAT recorder...I don't have the experience with that.

cibao
03-09-2009, 11:17 AM
As Michael alluded to, the onboard mic isn't as important as having a XLR plug so you can plug in a external mic. The non-XLR mic plug ins are okay too as the second choice.

A DAT recorder isn't a bad route to go, but for me, it's way too advanced. Your editing has to be perfect to get the two to line up, or you have to have timecodes that match. I've never tried it, and really don't ever intend to, though I've shot double camera shots, and used the audio from one camera, but shots from both.

I have always stayed away from the onboard audio mics though. I've never gotten good audio from them. Ever.

Chris

directorik
03-09-2009, 11:18 AM
I wanted to ask this because sometimes you can find cameras going for less because they may have problems with sound. But I'm getting the impression that it's commonplace to use something like a portable DAT recorder with separate mics anyway. So for film-making purposes, if the camera's sound-handling is defective in some way, does this matter?
Yes. If the camera's sound-handling is defective in some way, it matters.
But the issue isn't with the audio recording capabilities of the camera, or
even the mic in the camera. The issue is mic placement.

Most cameras have fine audio recording capabilities. When a good shotgun
mic is plugged into an XLR input and held close to the actors using a boom,
the audio recorded directly into the camera can be very good.

Then come all the variables. Few DV cameras have XLR inputs so you're
working with a "miniplug" and many cameras don't even have a mic input.
But using the miniplug with a good shotgun mic placed close to the actors
is a very viable way to get good audio.

For most no budget shorts being made it isn't commonplace for filmmakers
to use a separate audio recorder. However, using an audio recorder is
commonplace on most other movies.

So if you have found a camera for less because it may have problems with
sound and that's the camera you want to buy, then you will need to spend
more money to get a separate audio recorder like a DAT. Often it's less
expensive to buy a camera with a mic input (even a miniplug) and a good mic,
than a cheaper camera, a good mic and an audio recorder.

DCU3
03-09-2009, 11:33 AM
In the episode where working on now. I have my camera record the sound and I run a shotgun mic on a boom stick into my computer using Cool Edit Pro or Audition. Then I use a clap board and when I import the video into premiere it has its audio attached then I import the audio file I recorded in my computer and line up the clap noise. I then unlink the audio from the video and delete it. Leaving just the video and my recorded sound. On location shots we're going to try a laptop, have not tried it yet, we shoot mainly in my house.

M1chae1
03-09-2009, 02:23 PM
In the episode where working on now. I have my camera record the sound and I run a shotgun mic on a boom stick into my computer using Cool Edit Pro or Audition. Then I use a clap board and when I import the video into premiere it has its audio attached then I import the audio file I recorded in my computer and line up the clap noise. I then unlink the audio from the video and delete it. Leaving just the video and my recorded sound. On location shots we're going to try a laptop, have not tried it yet, we shoot mainly in my house.

This is the standard way for film--separate device, using a clapper for sound matching.

However, most--if not all--indie productions I've worked on don't use a clapper. If they do, they are using it for what's written on them (scene, take, etc), not for sound match. Veteran directors I know don't use a clapper at all. Bare in mind, my examples are all to do with digital, not film.

M1chae1
03-09-2009, 02:28 PM
I have always stayed away from the onboard audio mics though. I've never gotten good audio from them. Ever.

Chris

This probably has to do with positioning. Recent technology provides pretty darn good recording with onboard mics. The reason people get bad recordings from them are because they are too far away--which let's face it, the majority of shots are going to be out of the proper booming range.

The position of the mic should always be as close to frame as possible. Unless you're getting nat sound or a scratch track, you'll want to place the boom as close as possible.

I boom all the time, but sometimes the director will choose to go onboard if it's a tricky move, and there have been a lot of times where the onboard choice has provided adequate sound.

Also remember, many indie companies skimp on sound design...which is one of the most important steps of post. A good sound designer can fix almost anything.

DCU3
03-09-2009, 02:37 PM
This is the standard way for film--separate device, using a clapper for sound matching.

However, most--if not all--indie productions I've worked on don't use a clapper. If they do, they are using it for what's written on them (scene, take, etc), not for sound match. Veteran directors I know don't use a clapper at all. Bare in mind, my examples are all to do with digital, not film.

We use a mini dv camera. An older one at that. I just noticed a lot of surface noise when plugged the mic into the camera. So I decided to input directly into my computer and the quality seems better.

directorik
03-09-2009, 02:38 PM
This probably has to do with positioning. Recent technology provides pretty darn good recording with onboard mics. The reason people get bad recordings from them are because they are too far away--
You are exactly right, M1chae1. Most built in camera mics are quite good.
But unless it's very close to the actors the auto gain kicks in and you get
less signal to noise ratio. Even if one shuts off the auto gain, the volume
must be raised - again recording more noise and less signal.

This is a common misunderstanding. Many new movie makers think
the mic itself is bad, or (as in BJG's case) the camera's sound handling
might be defective. But if the mic is close to the actors and the input
volume adjusted then you will get more signal and less noise.

indietalk
03-10-2009, 03:19 AM
The mic is on the camera for convenience (for consumers, not pros), the optimal position for the mic will not be where the camera is 99.9% of the time, and you don't want to sacrifice your image by positioning the camera for sound.

amtriska
03-23-2009, 02:47 AM
A lot of the problem is the camera noise. For tapeless cameras, this might not be a problem (though you're still going to have sound quality and positioning issues) but for a DV camera it's going to matter if the mic's right up against the camera. That buzzing noise is an amateur giveaway.