Seeking recommendations for a decent video microphone

SVQuant

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I have been volunteered to record a series of home music concerts and am looking to get improved sounds quality beyond the on-camera sound on my E-M1 (and I know this is not the best camera for video, but it is what I have and it is what will have to work). Looking for a couple of things here:
  1. What am I looking for when evaluating video microphones (specs wise)? Mono or Stereo
  2. Recommendations for a decent quality microphone at a reasonable price (I am thinking $150 with a stretch of $200)
  3. Any tips on how to maximize sound quality with this set up.
I will not have time for any post work, so the video will pretty much be delivered as is to the hosts and will eventually end up for private viewing on YouTube.

As always, all help is highly appreciated.
 

Stanga

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I could make a list, and so could many others, but it would be of very little use to you. And the simple reason is that different mics have different area of recording properties. i.e. omni directional etc.
Your best bet is to look on Yotube and pay attention to the demonstrations that show the sort of results you are looking for in terms of area coverage. I use a different kind of mic at a wedding or party compared to what I use when recording wildlife outdoors.
 

junkyardsparkle

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I'm not up to speed on products currently being sold specifically for video use, but very generally: if the audio is a priority, as with music recording etc, then you'll probably be better off with a cheap microphone that you can position optimally than with an expensive one stuck on the camera. It's hard to say anything simple about such a large topic, but if you can go with a positionable mic, there's plenty of information out there about how to best use it. If you can't, well... maybe try to figure room acoustics into your choice of camera position, I guess? :D
 

wjiang

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What ever you do get an external recorder with a proper pre-amp. Do not plug into the E-M1 because that has a terrible pre-amp (I have an E-M1 and learned the hard way).

If it's external you can get it closer to the source which is the best way to get good sound.
If it's a solo performer a mono one is probably okay but stereo definitely gives a better ambience.

You can hardly go wrong as a start with something like a Zoom H1 (which is stereo).
 

junkyardsparkle

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You can hardly go wrong as a start with something like a Zoom H1 (which is stereo).
I would tend to agree (I'm not a huge fan of X/Y stereo, but that's a pretty subjective, maybe even esoteric point), however, it sounds like OP doesn't want to have to do any post-muxing. Otherwise, a freely positionable stand-alone recorder is a versatile thing to have if the focus is on the audio (the last one I owned was a Roland R-1, just to give an idea of how long it's been for me).

My only experience so far with completely un-synced audio+video sources wasn't too bad... I split-and-nudged the audio at two silent points (roughly thirds) over the course of 1.5 hours to get near-perfect sync beginning-to-end. Not a lot of post work, but still more than none.
 

cdmicha

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You can hardly go wrong as a start with something like a Zoom H1 (which is stereo).
The H1 also has headphone out- so you *could* run that into the mic input on your camera, if you've got the levels set right. I'm not sure how much of a delay there might be, you might have to test that- but if it works, would give you pretty good audio without having to sync later. The only real issue with the H1 (it's a great recording device, especially for the price), is that any small little bump is quite loud in the recording.

When I record for sound, I usually run external mics (placed close to performers) through a tascam DR-60D, then bring the audio into the camera, and it works quite well, but this set up is out of your budget. However, there is a DR-40, that appears to sort of combine the two- it's got the built in mics like the H1, but also has 2 multi input jacks and can record all 4 channels simultaneously. It might be worth a look, and would give you options to expand later.

A shotgun mic would be the simplest solution, it just might not be the best sounding one, depending on your needs.
 

dirtdevil

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I use a Tascam DR40 attached on top of my camera. And then I synchronize the audio track from the Tascam over the video (and erase the audio track from the video). When I use Sony Vegas for my video editing, I use the plugin called "Plural Eyes" which puts my audio track exactly parallel to the audio of the video track (and once it's synchronized you can then get rid of the audio track coming from your videos).

If you cannot afford time for post-production, take a look at the Tascam TM-2X.

It seems like it records directly into your camera and it captures stereo ambiant sound, unlike a shotgun microphone.
 
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dirtdevil

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I can say with experience that a Rode VideoMicro (which doesn't have its own preamp) is pretty average with the E-M1's preamp. Levels are not great and the noise floor is noticeable.
Shotgun microphones are made to isolate and record a person, not the ambiant sound.
 

pwol

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I have a "Rode VideoMic Pro with Rycote Lyre Shockmount" that I only used once, I'll sell it for a great price if you're interested. It was an impulse buy on a sale / I was supposed to use it for a fishing trip but those plans fell through. I have no use or need for it.

edit: nvm, a shotgun mic probably isnt the best for your needs.
 
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masayoshi

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Is it in living room, or small hall? It really depends on the venue, but stereo mic with X/Y (preferably ORTF) configuration would give you the best sound spacing when listened via stereo speakers. If you don't have time/money for post sync'ing etc, the placing of the camera/mic will determine the final quality as @junkyardsparkle pointed out. My suggestion is to go the rehearsal ahead of time and test record. Sometimes, the venue without audience has too much resonance/reverb, but with audience, sound is usually dampened. You should also consider shock mount for the camera, because vibration (claps, steps, etc) will definitely ruin the recording. There are some cheap DIY solutions if you are interested, such as these
 

SVQuant

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Thanks everyone for your responses and recommendations. Really helpful in thinking this through.

I have a little bit more information than I had when I posted last night, so to answer some of questions people asked:
  1. The concerts will be in a living room which was built with acoustics in mind. I have attended concerts here (but not recorded any) and the sound quality is quite good.
  2. There will be mixer and it may be possible to tap the output.
  3. There may be an independent high quality audio. I recorded a concert two weekends ago and was told later that the audio guy forgot to record and my video soundtrack was the only one available. Hence the need for a better mic. If there is a better audio recording someone other than me will do the mixing.
I can say with experience that a Rode VideoMicro (which doesn't have its own preamp) is pretty average with the E-M1's preamp. Levels are not great and the noise floor is noticeable.
Thanks for helping rule this one out. I was looking at it last night.

Is it in living room, or small hall? It really depends on the venue, but stereo mic with X/Y (preferably ORTF) configuration would give you the best sound spacing when listened via stereo speakers. If you don't have time/money for post sync'ing etc, the placing of the camera/mic will determine the final quality as @junkyardsparkle pointed out. My suggestion is to go the rehearsal ahead of time and test record. Sometimes, the venue without audience has too much resonance/reverb, but with audience, sound is usually dampened. You should also consider shock mount for the camera, because vibration (claps, steps, etc) will definitely ruin the recording. There are some cheap DIY solutions if you are interested, such as these
Thanks this is very useful. I will try to get to the rehearsal (it is on a Friday, so some challenges there) and look at the test recordings to get some learning.

I will look at the Tascam TM-2X, SMX-10 and the Zoom H1 and try to get one over this weekend to paly with.
 

Steven

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I use a Tascam DR40 attached on top of my camera. And then I synchronize the audio track from the Tascam over the video (and erase the audio track from the video). When I use Sony Vegas for my video editing, I use the plugin called "Plural Eyes" which puts my audio track exactly parallel to the audio of the video track (and once it's synchronized you can then get rid of the audio track coming from your videos).

If you cannot afford time for post-production, take a look at the Tascam TM-2X.

It seems like it records directly into your camera and it captures stereo ambiant sound, unlike a shotgun microphone.
I use that small Tascam 2X with EM5II. It’s very small and pretty good. Not much low end for rock, but nice for vocals. I hope you know about the amazing hidden video feature on EM1, the zoom in/zoom out during filming using a function button. Great with bright primes in dim spaces, like having two lenses on at same time.
 

junkyardsparkle

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The concerts will be in a living room which was built with acoustics in mind. I have attended concerts here (but not recorded any) and the sound quality is quite good.
It's surprising what you'll hear later in a recording made from the same place your ears were... things your brain kindly ignored to provide you an enjoyable musical experience. Stuff like nearby people moving in their seats and making little noises, other more ambient sounds, and particularly the room reflections. We're really good at "listening through" that last one, even when overly aware enough to be slightly irritated by the other ones. ;)

This stuff has been kind of a running analogy for me through recent years as I've tried to get better at "seeing" a scene the way a camera is going to see it.
 

DanS

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If you are going to feed audio directly into the camera you don't just want a mic, you want a mic and a pre-amp. This allows you turn the gain in the camera all the way down, and then use the external pre-amp to get good clean gain.

here are some reviews to get you started.
Caleb doesn't do deep dives into gear, but he gives a lot of good overview.

preamps.


mics


I'm currently using an Azden smx-30 (shotgun & stereo mic in one), and a Rode Rodelink feeding into a Saramonic SR-PAX2 preamp and then into my gh5. This setup allows me to get the noise floor down to a little past -70db.
 

Michael Meissner

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Not knowing anything about the venue, instruments, and how you plan to shoot it makes it impossible to give you explicit advice, but in general, the closer you get your mics to the source, the exponentially better your recording will sound.
I'm out of my depth here, but you might want to look at wireless microphones if you want to get the microphone close to the source, but not the camera. Obviously it depends on the venue what type of microphone to get, and how close you can get the microphone.


This makes an on camera mic setup pretty worthless unless you are gonna stick the camera on a tripod, using a lens with a wide enough field of view to get it close enough for a decent recording... and just leave it there. And consider that in highest quality video mode you will be limited to scenes of 22 minutes or shorter. That means stopping and restarting the recording if the concert is longer (at what could be a very inappropriate time).
If you are willing to run unofficial firmware, you can bypass the 22 minute limit (note, I haven't updated my E-m1 mark I with this firmware):
 

masayoshi

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I'm not going beyond the OP wants, or is able to do/afford, so I'm just dropping potential 'failures' you may face in this type of recording (small venue, one man operation). Of course, I experienced all of them myself, when I was doing this type of audio/video recordings a lot.
1. Line feed from FOH or house mixer was too hot, and all the sound recording to the recorder was clipped (distorted). Fortunately, gain setting of my on-camera mic was reasonably low, so I can raise the gain in post using clean limiter plugins.
2. I chose wrong gain for the external recorder, and the loudest part was clipped for most of the part. This was unrepairable.
3. Somebody kicked mic stand during the quietest part of the performance, and it ruined the recording, and I didn't have back up mics.
4. Video was cut short due to the 'recording time limitation' and no back up video was available.
5. Recording stopped due to 'sensor overheat' (you can guess the brand name).
6. Video stopped because the battery was running low.
7. SD card became full during the performance.
8. Video/audio rig was unattended for nearly an hour, and the focus was wrong all the way throughout the concert. Focus was setup/fixed during the rehearsal, but the all the performers performed a few feet behind, because somebody added another row of chairs for audience.
9. Somebody turned off/on the light during the concert, and that ruined the exposure all the way (for the unattended cams).
10. Power source was so dirty, and there were significant 60Hz hum in the audio, even I had $10K mic/preamp sets.

If you prepare for all the possible scenarios for failure, you may want to just focus on the video....well, good luck!
 

ToxicTabasco

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In addition to a external mic, one of the best ways to get better audio is use a DAW or Digital Audio Workstation. Their are free ones out there. And there are very powerful ones pros use for under a hundred bucks with USB interface like the Presonus AudioBox USB that comes with a full feature DAW called Sutido One.

What the DAW is, is a digital audio editing software. It's much like a video editing software but designed for editing wav or mp3 files. It allows you to edit audio music track, and voice, and sound, and mix these audio tracks for the best sound quality. In other words blend them together to match and sound balanced.

Studio One DAW is easy to use, just like video editing software. It uses the same waveform like your video editing, and does more for EQ, audio levels, and other FX so you can have adequate volume through the video without spikes of volume, or weak volume and low dynamics. You can also EQ out harsh highs, and thin or cut boomy bass frequencies, for a balanced sound.

Thus, having a mic is your first step to recording good audio. The second step is using, a DAW to produce/render the best audio for your video. Congratulations on seeking better sound.
 

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