Camera & Sound Equipment Recommendations

We are looking for some recommendations on a camera or a microphone option to use with our existing camera options. We are filming scenarios to add into our eCourses. We are currently using an iPad, which is great for close-up capturing of video and audio but once you get further away and need to incorporate more people the audio quality goes down. We would ideally like the microphones to be cordless (if they are lapel mics).

Any recommendations? What do you use?

 

13 Replies
Alexandros Anoyatis

I just purchased a Nikon D5300 with the 18-140mm lens instead of the stock 18-55mm one.

I'm having it delivered tomorrow night, so I don't have any hands-on time with her yet, but the reviews were great and it's capable of shooting 60fps Full HD Video (max duration around 18' i think)...



There's also the newer D5500 model which sells for around 5% more on ebay which has the exact same lens, no GPS compared to the D5300 but a larger battery.

Just my 2c,
Alex

Bob S

 

Hi Sharon,

Since you already have at least one camera recommendation (above), I will address the mics....

Outboard mics are one of the biggest improvements you can make in the quality of your media.  Good on you for considering them.

  • Be sure your camera has dual mini-jack mic inputs at least so you can balance levels. XLRs are even better but only show up on pro-sumer and above models.
  • Lapel mics are awesome for talking heads/conversations. But if you need to mic more than two people, you are going to have to go to an outboard mixer/preamp that  can accept multiple mics. 
  • Wireless vs Wired... the big debate.  My advice is counter to some.  Unless you need wireless, go with wired. For many training videos, your actors are in a fixed/studio type setting. With wired mics, you can get better sound for less money (don't have to pay for xmitter and rcvr functions), less chance for interference, and no dead batteries ever.   All that being said.... if you are filming folks moving around or in front of a group, then yes wireless is required.

Don't skimp on mics as they make a big difference.   Here is where the good cheap ones start.... A pair of the basic Audio Technica systems with cardoid mics are a nice little set up for the money if you need wireless.  

Hope this helps as a starting point for you

Rachel Craig

Hi, Sharon!

There's some good videos and articles on Wistia about what to consider when choosing a microphone for your video recording needs.
Here's one about choosing a microphone. And here's another one about recording audio for business. 

The first link has some good tips about where to place a lav mic, even though Wistia is not fans of lav mics. In fact, if you watch the video, they rag on lav mics quite a bit. But, the written article does cover what's shown in the videos pretty well. They also have comparison videos of what happens when you use external microphones and the microphone that's part of your camera. Pretty cool!

The second link has tips about recording for the gain and  more details and options about microphone suggestions (although @Bob's looks like the best option when it comes to lav mics).

@Bob, I am going to save the lav mics link you added here, too, as these look like an excellent option for our company. Thank you!

-Rachel

Alexandros Anoyatis

I'm no audio expert but, I'd steer away from any on-camera sound recording - nowhere near acceptable sound quality and it's not even funny.

Shotguns might work - Rode mics seem to be pretty popular with DSLR's but when you're looking to mic up more than 1 subject, then things get complicated.

Honestly, I'm facing the same conundrum right now, but I'm steering towards getting a dedicated sound recorder and join audio & video during post production.

So far, getting a Zoom H6 Portable Recorder together with a decent wireless lav mic, seems like a decent solution - definitely flexible with 6ch recording and 4 XLR ports. That Zoom comes with 2 switchable mics, a stereo and an omnidirectional one, a mic shield which doubles as a pop filter, and runs on 4 AA batteries which make it pretty good for indoor/outdoor shooting. Pricey? Probably, but the mics that come with it might strike some other items off your purchase list as well.

One last thing to remember is that it's not the gear that defines quality, but how good you are at handling them. Put me in a Nikon D4 camera and the shot will look worse than a professional photographer's shot in a D5300. The same premise applies to audio as well.

Bob S

For my part, I find working with shotgun mics can be great if...  your talent are "pros" and understand the limitations on movement and head position and/or  you have dedicated boom operator(s) and you have the right recording environment.   Barring any of those things, good lav mics make it way easier to get pretty good sound for the average situation.

Similarly, while it's not rocket science, syncing audio and video correctly in post can be a pain; especially if you have multiple takes / segments as in an executive/expert talking head videos. (Think:  Take the intro from take 12 and the cut over to the middle section of take 5 where the talent was more animated, but use the wrap up from take 3. Don't forget if you have no dedicated sound person you are running both camera, audio recorder and the boom.... try doing that while accurately marking your shot sheet and recording times/notes on the keepers so you can pull together the right clips in post).

If all you are capturing is super short stand alone segments, in a treated space/environment, with single actor that's experienced.... great.   But for many of us, the video gear/studio needs to do be able to do far more than that, and often with little/no experienced crew.  That's why I still usually recommend a camcorder with external mic inputs and lav mics for most situations.... good at most things, easy, and consistent results.

Glenn Feit

As a former professional audio for video person, I recommend a camera with XLR connections unless you are adept at syncing audio recorded to a separate recorder with picture.  Apple's Final Cut Pro X makes it easy but not as easy as having the audio automatically synced.

I'm currently using a Canon Xa 10 and Sennheiser lavalier (lapel) mics and a Sennheiser shotgun. I echo Tim and Bob's comments.  For the money, Rode's are great.

Make sure to learn about gain settings.  If possible, shoot a test run and listen back.  Although software can fix almost anything, a distorted signal recorded cleanly is still a distorted signal and you're stuck with it.  Remember that the lav mics can distort even though the camera says the levels are fine.  Solution- turn down the gain on the transmitter, then bring up the gain on the camera input.

The most common mistake I'm asked to try and fix is when the camera operator hasn't set the switches related to gain on the camera correctly (mic/line).  If the switch say "mic" it's expecting to see a very low signal and as a result will bump up the level.  Line position is expecting to see a louder signal and therefore drops the level.  Make sure you know what level is coming out of your lav's wireless receiver (can be line level) to the camera and set the switch on the camera accordingly.  If you're using wired mics, it's always going to be "mic" position unless you're running thru a mixer before the camera.  Then it's "Line" position unless the mixer has a switch on the output (some say "MIC", some say "-30").

Lav mic tips:  If you want to hide them under clothes, bend a paper clip to make a cage around the mic capsule so that clothes slide over it smoothly.  Tape the wire from the capsule to the transmitter to the clothes but leave a "service loop" so the capsule isn't pulled from position during normal movement.  If lav micing two people who are sitting side-by-side, position the mics on the sides they're going to be turning towards.  Seems obvious, but...  Always change to fresh batteries before a shoot if going wireless.

I always use a boom/shotgun mic and lavs.  Lavs may pick up clothes rustle so having the boom mic as backup is a good strategy.  Assign the boom mic to one input and the lav mic to the other.  Always wear headphones or earbuds while shooting to monitor the audio.  Wireless can pick up strange noises/interference.  You don't want to find out in the editing bay.  Have the output of the camera assign the lav mic to one side and the shotgun boom mic to the other.  If the sound doesn't appear in the middle you'll know immediately which mic is picking up a stronger signal.

 In many cases, an inexpensive tripod based mic stand with an extendable arm can hold the boom mic in a useable stationary position so you don't need someone to hold it (unless "talent" is in motion).  Make sure to position one of the legs of the tripod base under the extended arm so it doesn't tip over.

BTW, if you do want to record to an external audio recorder, I can't say enough good things about the Zoom HN4 or 6.  Outstanding sound quality for the price!

 

Good luck!

Jane Maduke

I've just purchased a set of Sennheiser Wireless mics: ew 100 G3. I haven't used them much; just testing so far, but the quality is excellent. They're pricey though! I really believe in quality sound. I also recommend anything Wistia. They have a great team and their stuff is so fun and easy to watch. They set a high standard. Best of luck! 

Patrick Sullivan

I also recommend the Sennheiser wireless lavs.  rock solid microphones for both studio and field production.  i would also recommend a separate  recording device if you are using a DSLR camera.  Use an on camera mic and record audio with the video and use the external device with the lav mics.  It can  make it easier to synch up in post production and it also acts as a back up.  both the camera and external device should have VU meters so you can check levels while recording.  Also a good pair of headphones - over ear or "can" type to block out room audio - to monitor the audio while recording, 

good luck!

eric mongrain

hello everyone  I will throw in some more information.  I am not a video guy or an audio guy, but had to learn very quickly how to create video from storyboarding to post production.   We originally started with created videos in our elearning and have now started creating safety training videos.  You will never get a good consensus of what to use or what to buy since there are so many different type of mics and cameras.  Everyone is going to say get what you need and are comfortable with.  I know that is hard since you probably did not use any of this equipment before.  Here is what I used and am using at this time.

I started with  a kodak playtouch (not made anymore) Full HD as well as VGA  external mic port is a must and it has a 3.5mm   I was able to use two pro 88w-r35 Audio-Technica wireless mics with a splitter going into the camera.  this worked ok.  Camera was ok but did not have manual focus and audio was low even when messing with the gain.  

I then went to a ATD.org training class on how to use video with elearning.  This class help a lot on understanding storyboarding and basic editing.  I received a Aiptek full HD hand held camera (not made anymore) that I still use.  This camera also has a 3.5mm external mic plug.  Audio was better with this setup.

I have now graduated to the following setup:

2 Audio technical wireless mics  88w-r35's 3.5mm

connected to a Beachtek DXA-SLR MINI PRO HDSLR Audio Adapter  this one is discontinued but there are others on the market.  I connect both my wireless mics and use this for gain and better audio.

finally a cannon vixia hf G20 with a 3.5mm external mic outlet that connects the beachtech to the camera. 

As I said earlier everyone starts out differently and uses different gear.  Some like camcorders some like DSLR Cameras.  It is just what you can afford and how comfortable you are with the different gear. 

I have two sites that I go on religiously to ask questions and to build equipment.  Frugalfilmmaker.com and dslrfilmnoob.com 

 

Roger Blanchard

Lav mics are great but you can run into them rubbing up against clothes, after years of this I finally broke down and I picked up a Tascam DR-44WL Portable Recorder with WiFi & connected it to shotgun mic on a Boom Pole. I have someone point it at the talent at a 45% angle out of the frame. Works great, a little bit of room noise which just seems very natural but you never have to worry about that ruffled noise from a lav mic and the voices come in clear. Our VIPs are really animated and they give a more natural performance if you let them move around a bit. Lav mics seems to stifle that. You can have the mic connected to your camera (depending on the camera) so the audio syncs to the video or you can connect it directly to a portable recorder and sync up latter. Buy a Shock-Mount for the shotgun mic to help eliminate the sound of someone handling the Boom Pole it’s a little thing but helps your sound guy when moving around… some people use gloves and a harness but I produce small 2 minute videos so it’s not a huge problem. For very long videos you can even hook up the shotgun to a tripod boom combo and just leave it in place. A windshield is also a must if you are shooting outside.

I would stay away from DLSR cameras as now you can get mirriorless cameras that have the same video quality  (full HD and 4K) but are smaller in size and can be cheaper and easier to use. They come with many type of lenses as well. The Panasonic GH4 is what I been using its great and there are a lot of accessories for shooting video. I mostly use a mono-pod so that I can get steadier shots. Our photographer just bought a Sony Alpha a7S mirriorless camera and loves it. It as a full sensor for great quality and it takes fantastic videos under low light conditions, which is nice for when you don’t want to carry a huge lighting kit. It’s harder to use than my GH4 (maybe that just me) not a fan of the controls or screen but the quality is a bit better. 

Lots of options so I would suggest figure out what type of video you shoot the most and then go from there.  Start to build a Kit around that.  How many people do you have helping, the type of environment your shooting in and the talent are important factors to consider. If you do a lot of quick run and gun type of videos you would want something very portable like the Sony Alpha a7S with maybe a stabilizer. If its more of a studio situation and you do not have to move around much you could get away with a video camcorder like the Canon XF100 and a lighting kit, with a lav or shotgun set up. You could even use your iPad and mount it on a tripod and then spend the money on a good sound recording device and a basic lighting kit. Audio always gets ignored but it elevates an OK video project to professional level production. Just my opinion but I’ve been doing this for a while. I hope that helps

Henrik Clausen

Microphones is a situation where one size just doesn't fit all... Everyone's mileage will vary.

My favourite setups are:

Røde VideoMic Pro on my DSLR camera. Great for work in the field where anything may happen - the craziest thing I've done was filming a speech given under watercannons with a crazed mob seeking to attack the speaker. The result was good, very audible.

Zoom H2N standalone audio recorder. It does stereo and surround with a professional X-Y configuration of the microphones. Excellent for recording multiple persons like a discussion panel, useful in a lot of situations. At the end of the day, this simple and robust device has given me more usable results than anything else.

Zoom H4N standalone and connectable audio recorder. The same audio quality as H2N, but more complex, and uses more battery power (can be a problem in the field). Ingoing XLR and jack sockets let you connect directly to a PA system, but watch the recording level - if it messes up, you get clipping. If the level is right, the results are stellar.

Sennheiser G3 wireless. Expensive and tricky to configure - but once set up, you have a choice of lav and handheld microphones that lets you record single persons in all kinds of situations, and have the audio wired directly into your camera.

Then, at the more pragmatic end of things:

Røde SmartLav for easy recording with smartphones. It's not entirely the crystal clear audio of high end solutions, but it is extremely easy to use (that translates into reliability in live situations) and it's cheap.

Sennheiser SC260 USB headset - for recording our subject matter experts, primarily. This noise-cancelling headset eliminates moderate background noise and room acustics, for a consistently decent result. It sounds a bit muffled compared to the professional-level microphones, but the ease of use and noise elimination makes it a workhorse for situations where ultimate sound quality is not important.