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  1. #1
    New Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    North Carolina

    Trying to decide what mic to buy

    I am a high school student trying to start a film making class. So far it is going well and we have a decent video camera. But our sound comes out horrible. We are asking the school for some money to purchase a new microphone and it is my job to pick out what type. We mostly do promotional videos around the school so we would need it to pick up the band concert, sporting event, and dance concerts etc. But we also do a lot of interviews with students so it needs to be multi-functional. The other problem is our budget is very limited.
    Any Ideas?

  2. #2
    Yep. You say the sound is "horrible." Good sound is, more than anything else, a matter of technique. If you go back and listen to the unsatisfactory productions you've done, you should be able to identify exactly what's wrong in each case - overloaded? Too much ambient noise? Levels vary all over the place? Interviewer and interviewee sound completely different, and at completely different levels? A one-on-one close-up interview sounds like it's being conducted inside a marble washroom? Conversation gets drowned out by wind noise? Once you've done that, it should be possible to figure out what you should have done to get the sound you were hoping for. It might even be worth going back and doing a segment over, even though nobody is going to see it, just to see if you've got the problem figured out.

    A significant part of technique, of course, is choosing the right mic. Having the right mic for a particular application is more important than having a good mic. With the wide range of stuff you do, you need several, and if your budget is constrained, that means cheap mics.

    The mikes must also match the camera input, at least until you get the money together to add a small mixer to the system. What is the camera input like? Does it provide phantom power? If so, can you shut it off?

    For interviewing, a hand-held cardioid mic is best. Also buy a foam windscreen to put on it. You can get a dynamic for $30 that's good enough for speech. Train your interviewers to wrap the cord once around the hand that's holding the mic, to isolate physical noise caused by cord movement. The actual sound of the mic, that is, the fidelity, isn't very important for speech - think of how ratty a telephone sounds, but most telephones are perfectly clear. What's important is that the mic is directional enough to exclude interfering noises, and has a good enough windscreen to keep wind noise from causing a rumble.

    For music, only condenser mics are acceptable. Choose one that is not intended as a vocal mic. Vocal mics have deliberate peaks in their response that you don't want when recording band or choir. Decent ones are available for under $100.

    I don't know if Guitar Center still offers this, but a while back I picked up a package consisting of a pencil mic, a side-on cannister mic, a carrying case, and a preamp for $100. Other big music stores may have something similar.

    For recording a single speaking person, a cheapo condenser lapel mic works fine. The cheapest have internal batteries, meaning you probably have to be able to shut off the phantom power coming from the camera. Some of these can be had for $25. Don't just clip the mic to the person's clothing; clip the cord a few inches from the mic too.

    Next: are you getting raspy distortion? It's possible that the mic is overloading the input of the camera. You may need an in-line attenuator, which is a whole 'nother can of worms we don't need to get into now.

    Does the camera have automatic level control or automatic gain control? Some of those are pretty clumsy. Hopefully you can shut that function off and ride gain manually.

    Oh - dang, I should have said this earlier, this is really important - you do have headphones, don't you? You are listening to the sound as you're recording it, right? If not, you might as well be aiming the camera wearing a blindfold.

  3. #3
    Quote: karl eilers
    View Post
    I don't know if Guitar Center still offers this, but a while back I picked up a package consisting of a pencil mic, a side-on cannister mic, a carrying case, and a preamp for $100. Other big music stores may have something similar.
    That sounds intriguing... do you know the make and/or model?
    Eric Adler (tonsofpcs) Chat at:
    Follow me on twitter: @videosupport @eric_adler

  4. #4
    MXL 990 can mike and 991 pencil mike. The can mike has the better blast filter, making it best for speech; the pencil mic has flatter response and is more than fine for recording, say, a high school choir. Both are large diaphragm; the pencil is nearly an inch and the can mic a little larger. God bless cheapo Chinese condenser mic element makers, they've put almost-studio-grade mics within financial reach of everybody. For school use, the best thing about these mics is that if they get broken, it's no great financial loss.

    The preamp is an Audio Buddy from M-Audio. 2 channels that share only the box and power supply. Each channel has balanced XLR mic input with phantom power, unbalanced 1/4" line input, gain control, clip indicator, and balanced 1/4" line level output.

    Now that monetary exchange rates have shifted, this package may cost a little more, but it's still a great deal.

    BTW, the mics do not come with shock mounts - just clips. If you need shock mounts, you're on your own.


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