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Shotgun Microphone + Recorder combo
  • Can anyone recommened a good microphone and recorder combination for picking up dialogue both in and out doors. My budget is around £300 and I don't mind syncing sound separately in post. I've been looking at the NTG2 + Zoom/Tascam products but I see there's a lot of issues with pre-amps. I want a shotgun mic as I can just mount it on top of the camera and have the recorder attach to the shoulder rig or in my pocket. I should note I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to sound, I've made the mistake of diving straight in and buying a Zoom H1 after reading the hype and not doing my own proper research. This time around I want to do it properly. I'm happy with the NTG2 but I'm having a hard time trying to find a field recorder to go with it that won't cause me any issues.

    Thanks for any help

  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • The first thing I have to say is, that in that budget, you aren't gonna get preamps that have all-great reviews. Secondly, one mic – and a good mic at that – to pick up dialogue both indoors and out... not really how people can do it (although the Sanken CS3e is said to be close to pulling it off well). People GENERALLY use a shotgun outdoors and avoid them indoors. But if you're low budget indie, I understand your hands are tied.

    The NTG2 and Zoom H4N aren't the worst options. You can get them and use them as rainny day/backup rig – and on higher end productions, then rent what you can.

  • True, I guess there isn't going to be a low cost combo that will work for every application (otherwise everyone would use it lol). I guess my application would mainly be outdoor based and that's why I sort've steered towards Shotgun mics. For indoor dialogue I'd probably stick to Radio mics.

    I understand that £300 isn't the biggest of budgets either, my expectations aren't high I just want to be able to capture clear enough audio outside with people walking by and be approximately no more than a meter from my subject. Do you think the NTG2/H4n combo would be able to achieve this?

    Additionally, would a GH2 cripple the audio or significantly degrade it if it was hooked up directly? (NTG2>H4n>GH2) Of course if this is actually possible? It's not that it matters however as I wouldn't mind syncing in post.

    I appreciate the help @kingmixer

  • There are already a few shotgun/recorder related discussions

    @Hakosuka What camera do you have? The NTG-2 also runs on an AA battery allowing you to use it with devices without +48v phantom power like the GH2 and other cameras. You lose a bit of sensitivity but it works.

    For people on tight budgets, I see lots of creative combinations with audio that many people don't think about. For instance very good electret lavs can be built for as low as $10. You could actually buy 2 cheap but decent mini-recorders (Tascam DR5, Zoom H-1, Olympus LS-3), use one for ambiences and hide one on your subject (or wire up both for a dialogue), which is great to have for your post-mix. These recorders are smaller and lighter than most radio mics and have a range of functions.

    You just have to remember to push all the buttons, which honestly, seems to be one of the main reasons why people shy away from creative solutions with audio. Its so much harder to push 3 buttons than one ;)

    But audio synching comes with the click of a button in Final Cut X or you can use a program like Plural Eyes. Both work magic in most cases.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I've noticed on many forums people having problems with the H4n and NTG2 and that's why I have not really considered it, I will look into the DR100 as it seems to be in a similar price range.

    @MIrrorMan I currently own the Zoom H1 but I assumed that because of the 3.5mm over XLR it would be lower quality. Do you think I could achieve the same quality (or similar) as the DR100/NTG2 if I coupled a mic with a Zoom H1? As for having to click 3 different record buttons that isn't really an option for me unfortunately. At most I just want to click one record for video and one for sound. I use a GH2 by the way.

    Thanks for you help

  • I use a Roland R-26 and have been very happy with it. I also have a Sennheiser ME66. The sound is ok, but can sound a little tinny to my ear. There are lots of tests of these mics on Youtube. I recommend listening to them with good speakers or good headphones. Makes all the difference.

  • As someone already pointed out the use of mics is going to be your bottleneck. I use an Audio Technica 875r. It is more like a cardiod than a very lobar shotgun and works well indoors and okay for outdoors. Try picking up a second hand Juicelink preamp and record directly on your camera. Does a good job on dialogue.

  • @hakosuka since you have an H1, don't get another recorder but a dedicated preamp. You can plug your preamp into the H1 line-in. It makes absolutely no difference in terms of sound quality if the input is 3.5 or XLR. It just means the signal through the 3.5 jack is unbalanced - not a big deal as long as the jack from your preamp to your H1 is under 5 metres.

    If you are recording mainly indoors you don't need a dedicated shotgun mic, you can use a small diagphram cardioid microphone of which there are many to choose from. The Oktava MK012 are pretty cheap and sound very good. An even cheaper option that at first listen sounds fantastic for dialogue is the Suerlux S241. It sells at for just under £74. I will be shooting the first part of a corporate video on Sunday and will be recording dialogue with it for the first time but so far I can tell you it sounds great. It has a flat response with a bump over 10k which adds really nice air to vocals.

  • @hakosuka using the mini-jack over the xlr will not lower the quality so much as just lower the signal level and add some noise (but try it and see yourself).

    As the others have said, think about investing in a decent preamp. My Sound Devices MixPre was the best audio investment I ever made. It brings out the full potential of any microphone.

  • Sorry, mirrorman, but that is false information. A mini-jack in no way lowers a signal level nor does it add noise.

  • Actually the signal on balanced lines is hotter than unbalanced. (+4dB with balanced -10dB with unbalanced). This is why you need to run it through a transformer rather than just a plug adapter to make to go from balanced to unbalanced without producing noise. That being said the only signal advantage you get by using xlr is radio signal shielding for long cable runs. (Using properly matched gear of course.) I personally have had good success going from a juicedLink preamp to a DR-05 on unbalanced 3.5 mm line. No discernible noise added.

  • Another advantage to xlr would be a more secure connection that goes in and stays in all the way – it won't disconnect on you as easily.

  • True, signals running through XLR's are usually hotter because the devices they're attached to are putting out pro levels (+4) but a signal's nominal level does not get attenuated when passing through a cable with a mini-jack termination. Transformer adapters are for impedence matching, a necessity, for example, if you are attempting to interface a microphone through anything other than a dedicated microphone preamp. Taking the +4 XLR output of a preamp and sticking a mini-jack adapter to connect to the H1's line-in will result in zero additional noise. Just the levels will have to be lowered.

  • @spacewig yes, you're right. I should have explained that more clearly. I was referring to the general use of battery/mini-jack vs phantom/XLR with the NTG-2. From my experience the output signal when using the battery and an XLR>mini-jack cable is lower and noisier than when I go via XLR to a good preamp. With a lower signal its normal to turn up the gain on the recorder which possibly introduces more noise. You're explanation is technically better though.

  • @spacewig, could you tell us more about your experience with the superlux s241 as a dialogue microphone. Also, if possible, post some clips!

  • So it seems that a logical idea would be to build from my H1. Could anyone recommend a good pre amp that would work with an H1 but also be affordable, the one's I've been recommended are well over £300 for the pre amp alone and I'd still need to get a microphone on top of that. Would the preamp allow me to use XLR? Or would I need a 3.5mm mic?

    Thanks again guys!

  • Any particular advantage to using a pre-amp instead of an all-in-one solution like the Tascam DR-100mkii? It already has a good pre-amp. From what I can gather, you'll be hard pressed to find a recording situation in which the self noise of most any mic plus the Tascam is not swamped by environmental noise.

  • @duckpark My experience has been a brief one, long enough to make sure the unit was functional + about 30 minutes of a/b'ing against the Oktava's 012. It sounds very good to my ears for dialogue. The real test will be in real world situations. I was going to shoot this Sunday but that was put off to April 7 as the location is in the path of a major parade that will be occurring at the same time. However, I will be shooting another product presentation on the 24th and would be happy to pm you snippets so long as they are strictly for scrutinizing sound quality.

    @balazer I've used the DR100 mkii and I can assure you it is not as quiet as a dedicated mic pre. I wish it was as it would be a much cheaper and leaner solution than having to deal with multiple devices, batteries, cables, etc. But you realize how important clean gain is when you're trying to get rid of white-noise in post... I am curious if anyone has tried and compared the Olympus LS-100 to other popular portable recorders?

  • @balazer The advantage shows up when you need to add gain to the signal as with lower sensitivity mics. The preamp of a dr100 will add noise that will be noticeable at higher gain bumps. The guy from JuicedLink did a video showing an "extreme" example of using a dynamic mic to record with. Using a variety of equip he showed that recorders like the dr100 and the h4n do add noise particularly in this extreme case. The caveat here is that you can get perfectly acceptable sound out of them with hotter mics. As I mentioned in previous post I use a preamp straight into the camera for very low noise sound, which for me is more than adequate for the dialogue I am recording.

  • @spacewig I am curious as how those dialogue recordings with the Superlux S241 came out. I have not been able to find a single test/sample of the microphone used for dialogue on the internet.

  • They came out great. They cover the full audio spectrum, with a bump in the air region which you can attenuate in post, and are as low-noise as the Sennheiser 416. For interviews and dialogue in a controlled environment I really see no reason to use pricier gear, especially if you have a limited budget. I posted a sample in the S241 thread. If you'd like some more raw files send me a PM. .