Run-and-gun Audio Solutions

Hey fellow filmmakers,

I'd like some advice from the experienced run-and-gun field news/documentary folks among you...
In most of my run-and-gun field cases, I have had time to or use a handheld or get a lav on my interviewee. But I've also been in situations when I don't have the time or the situation didn't otherwise allow me to capture the audio I needed from a lav or handheld.
Therefore, I'm looking for a lightweight, very compact way to get quality audio from a DSLR-mounted shotgun microphone for run-and-gun documentary single audio-video operator situations where I don't have time to put a lavalier on the interviewee, don't have my handheld handy, & don't have a boom operator. Or for just simple high-quality redundancy in case another mic fails in the field for whatever reason. I also want to avoid having to use the poor DSLR pre-amps.
Yes, I am aware that camera-mounted audio is inferior to booms, lavs, & handhelds. These solutions would be for secondary field audio emergency or redundancy that provides better-than-onboard DSLR mics or their pre-amps.
About my budget, I'm aiming for the class of XLR shotgun microphones in the $130 (Sony Microphone ECM-XM1) to $350 (Panasonic AG-MC200G) range.
I cannot currently afford the "professional broadcast quality class" at this stage. I define this range as the $380 Rode NTG4+ to the $2,200 Schoeps CMIT5U. Someday maybe though. :)

I'm currently looking at 3 solutions for camera-mounted shotgun mics:

1. The integrated microphone-recorder option: as far as compact with multi-functionality, I like the looks of these new integrated shotgun mics with built-in audio recorders. I'm looking at the Tascam DR-10SG & the Saramonic VMIC Recorder Super-Cardioid Video Microphone, but can't find many reviews on them; but the reviews I have heard of these mics sound decent.
Does anyone have experience or thoughts on these two mic-recorders?

2. Put together my own mic-recorder option: As far as high quality in a small footprint, I have been really impressed by the sound quality reviews of most all of the phantom or battery powered XLR shotgun mics in the $160 & up range that I have heard. The smallest solution I've been able to come up with would be to attach an Audio-Technica AT875 shotgun mic (6.89") to a Saramonic SR-VRM1 Recorder. Stuff this mic+recorder combo into an Auray DUSM-1 Shock Mount & mount it to the camera's cold shoe. This SR-VRM1 is very new though; it's the first iteration & I can't find much info on it. The very few reviews on it seem to suggest that the SR-VRM1's pre-amps are good & it does has a jack for headphone monitoring. For the price, I'm seriously considering giving it a shot.
Thoughts?

3. My other solution, which would give me lots of options as far as multiple inputs as well as other uses, would be rigging up the camera with a Zoom H5 with either of its SGH-6 / SSH-6 Shotgun Microphone Capsules riding on a Rycote Suspension. Or pairing the AT875 shotgun mic with the H5. Of course with its inputs & features, I could have all sorts of versatility & functionality (eg. Adding wired lavs, handhelds, capsules, etc.), but this setup would be significantly bulkier & more expensive than solutions 1 or 2.
Also, has anyone here compared the sound of an AT875 v. Zoom's SGH-6 / SSH-6 shotgun mic capsules?

Options I've ruled out:

The popular 3.5mm shotgun mics (eg. Rode VideoMics) mics are noticibly better than the onboard DSLR mics, but still below the audio quality I'm looking for. After listening to YouTube reviews on my studio monitor headphones of most of 3.5mm mics, I was not at all impressed by the sound quality when they are plugged into the DSLR's onboard pre-amps. And even when they were plugged into devices with better pre-amps -like the Zoom H1- I was still not impressed with the quality of these mics when comparing them to the quality of XLR shotgun mics in the $160 & up range. So I'm ruling all the 3.5mm mics out & graduating to the next class of shotgun mics.

For solution 1, After hearing multiple sound quality reviews, I was not at all impressed by the Shure VP83F shotgun mic with built-in recorder & feel that it's overpriced.

For solution 2, the Tascam DR-10X Recorder looks to be a fail: no phantom power, no manual control for gain, cheap plastic, etc. So that's out, at least in its current iteration.

What are your thoughts on these 3 listed solutions?

Is there any gear out there that I'm overlooking that could provide a high quality, lightweight, compact, on-camera solution?

-Loxley

PS- Does anyone have any expereince with a "Sparepart: Sony Microphone ECM-XM1, 154274912"?
Seems like a great quality shotgun mic for the price, but can't find much independent information or reviews about it.
 
Last edited:
It will also depend on the quality you're trying to achieve. If you're trying to achieve a broadcast level quality, you're likely to wish you had a larger budget in production to avoid Q&A and the prohibitive costs to fix your audio in post.
 
Thanks for your interest in clarification Sweetie. The quality I'm aiming for at this stage is higher than 3.5mm shotgun mics plugged into the DSLR's onboard pre-amps, and not as high as the $400 and up shotgun mic price range.
-Loxley
 
As a budget option, the 10SG sounds pretty decent. Sure, it's nothing close to my sound setup but for run 'n' gun on a budget, it's OK. It has a little mini-boom so you can get it closer to the talent and away from the camera (with all the little noises around there) and the closer you can get it to the subject, the better the sound will be.

As a note, the biggest element in an on-camera mounted mic is the distance between the mic and the subject so I like to use as wide an angle as possible. This allows me to keep the illusion of distance but stick the mic right in the subject's face!

My suggestion is to look at used sound kit. I bought a $500USD mic for $50 USD because a production house was having a clearout and it is beautiful. Mics can last a very long time so you can get incredible bang for your buck by going used.

Personally, I'm looking for a mini-boom to throw the mic a little further out the front of the camera but no-one sells them. Maybe a business idea...
 
As a budget option, the 10SG sounds pretty decent. Sure, it's nothing close to my sound setup but for run 'n' gun on a budget, it's OK. It has a little mini-boom so you can get it closer to the talent and away from the camera (with all the little noises around there) and the closer you can get it to the subject, the better the sound will be.

As a note, the biggest element in an on-camera mounted mic is the distance between the mic and the subject so I like to use as wide an angle as possible. This allows me to keep the illusion of distance but stick the mic right in the subject's face!

My suggestion is to look at used sound kit. I bought a $500USD mic for $50 USD because a production house was having a clearout and it is beautiful. Mics can last a very long time so you can get incredible bang for your buck by going used.

Personally, I'm looking for a mini-boom to throw the mic a little further out the front of the camera but no-one sells them. Maybe a business idea...
Thanks for the tip on the wide angle and the heads up on the used gear. I hadn't thought of that. Where are some good places to keep an eye out for high-end used gear?

As far as the 10SG are you referring to their noise-isolation arm?

-Loxley
 
The quality I'm aiming for at this stage is higher than 3.5mm shotgun mics plugged into the DSLR's onboard pre-amps
If you already have a microphone, you're probably going to benefit most from a decent mixer as your next purchase instead of a better microphone.

The next point. How you're using the audio equipment is going to have a greater impact than the equipment itself. If you're just mounting the gear on the camera, you might be better off saving your money and use/buy something really cheap that you're not going to stress about throwing it away.
 
Okay, can we summarize here?

1. You are using a DSLR.

2. You need a camera mounted mic as back-up for narrative shooting and to capture sound for run&gun.

3. Your budget is about US$400.



Okay - no matter what you do you will always, in one way or another, be using the preamps of the DSLR. If you want higher quality you will need an external recorder.

Since you specified "run&gun" it should probably be something that can mount under the camera for ease of use. The Tascam DR-70D is one example.

As the mic will be camera mounted steer away from shotguns and think about a supercardioid or cardioid mic; the patterns are more forgiving, which is a plus in run&gun situations.
 
As the mic will be camera mounted steer away from shotguns and think about a supercardioid or cardioid mic; the patterns are more forgiving, which is a plus in run&gun situations.
Thanks for the advice Alcove. Those are all things I will consider.
What do you mean when you say "more forgiving"? Are you referring to the direction I'm pointing the mic, as shotgun mics are highly directional, I may miss the optimal vocal pickup area?
Also, I've seen some shotgun mics advertised as "supercardioid" (eg. Sennheiser ME66) but I don't exactly know what this means when compared to other shotgun mics. Could you recommend some models you are referring to?
Thanks again Alcove :)
 
What do you mean when you say "more forgiving"? Are you referring to the direction I'm pointing the mic, as shotgun mics are highly directional, I may miss the optimal vocal pickup area?


You should do some research into microphone types, and the wheres and whys to use them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microphone

s-l1000.jpg


https://www.amazon.com/Location-Sou...92402754&sr=8-1&keywords=location+sound+bible

You have LOTS more research to do after that.


Shotgun mics have a lobar polar pattern which is very narrow. Shotguns are very good, when properly aimed, at rejecting background noise. When placed on top of a camera rig it will not be properly aimed. You're doing run&gun, so optimal conditions will almost never apply. So you want a polar pattern that has a wider pick-up range.

That brings us to cardioid microphones. There are three (3) main types - cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid. Cardioids have the widest pick-up pattern, hypercardioids the narrowest, with supercardioids splitting the difference.

Polarpatterns.jpg



In your situation I would go with a supercardioid or a hypercardioid.


Also, I've seen some shotgun mics advertised as "supercardioid" (eg. Sennheiser ME66) but I don't exactly know what this means when compared to other shotgun mics.

The ME66 uses a supercardioid mic capsule, as do most shotguns. The lobar pattern is created by the extended mic housing that give shotgun mics their characteristic length. It's a hell of a lot more complicated than that, but covers the basics.


Could you recommend some models you are referring to?

The Audio Technica AT4053b is somewhat of a prosumer standard for production sound when a hypercardiod is needed. Out of your price range.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...ypercardioid_Condenser_Microphone.html?sts=pi

A passable micro budget alternative is the Avantone CK-1.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/prod...ne_Pro_CK1_CK_1_Small_Capsule_FET_Pencil.html


There's lots of other stuff out there; I'm not as up on the current low budget stuff as I used to be.



Thanks again Alcove :)

You're welcome.
 
Last edited:
Shotgun mics have a lobar polar pattern which is very narrow. Shotguns are very good, when properly aimed, at rejecting background noise. When placed on top of a camera rig it will not be properly aimed. You're doing run&gun, so optimal conditions will almost never apply. So you want a polar pattern that has a wider pick-up range.

That brings us to cardioid microphones. There are three (3) main types - cardioid, supercardioid and hypercardioid. Cardioids have the widest pick-up pattern, hypercardioids the narrowest, with supercardioids splitting the difference.

In your situation I would go with a supercardioid or a hypercardioid.

The ME66 uses a supercardioid mic capsule, as do most shotguns. The lobar pattern is created by the extended mic housing that give shotgun mics their characteristic length. It's a hell of a lot more complicated than that, but covers the basics.

The Audio Technica AT4053b is somewhat of a prosumer standard for production sound when a hypercardiod is needed. Out of your price range.

There's lots of other stuff out there; I'm not as up on the current low budget stuff as I used to be.
Thank you Alcove for the comprehensive reply. I thought I had already done a lot of research, but I had no idea about lobar either. That polar patterns diagram really expanded my understanding for what's going on. And yes, I still have lots of research to do before I purchase.
Just to see if I got it, of the mics in my original post, B&H lists them all as either supercardioid or hypercardioid, but since the extended mic housing runs beyond the mic capsule, they all end up with a lobar pattern?
Also, when you say "properly aimed" is that because the camera-mounted mic will end up pointing towards the talent's forehead as opposed to their chest, where it's supposed to be?
Thanks again.
 
Just to see if I got it, of the mics in my original post, B&H lists them all as either supercardioid or hypercardioid, but since the extended mic housing runs beyond the mic capsule, they all end up with a lobar pattern?

Yes. They are referring to the capsule used (hyper or super) in front of the interference tube.


Also, when you say "properly aimed" is that because the camera-mounted mic will end up pointing towards the talent's forehead as opposed to their chest, where it's supposed to be?
Thanks again.

The "optimum" shotgun mic position is above the talent, about 12" in front, aimed at the notch at the base of the throat.*** This captures everything coming out of the mouth and also picks up chest resonance for a fuller sound. And yes, with a shotgun mic on top of the camera you could very well be recording more of whatever is over the subjects shoulder and less of their their voice since you cannot optimally aim the shotgun mic.



*** Optimum never applies. Skilled boom-ops work miracles in the weirdest circumstances.
 
Thanks for the tip on the wide angle and the heads up on the used gear. I hadn't thought of that. Where are some good places to keep an eye out for high-end used gear?

As far as the 10SG are you referring to their noise-isolation arm?

-Loxley

The optimum shotgun mic position is above the talent, 30 cms in front, aiming at the base of the throat but the issue is getting the mic there. With a wide angle lens in a run-and-gun situation, you can slam the mic right in there.

Cameras with significant crop factors cause issues so a 2.2 crop with an 85mm on the front might give you a lovely image but in a run-and-gun, it's too far away for the purposes of sound recording.

The noise isolation arm allows you to put it in exactly the right place.

I used ebay and picked up magnificent bargains. Everyone buys new but if you know what you're looking for, it's a fantastic place to pick up gear.
 
Last edited:
The optimum shotgun mic position is above the talent, 30 cms in front, aiming at the base of the throat but the issue is getting the mic there. With a wide angle lens in a run-and-gun situation, the only way to guarantee this is a wide angle so you can slam the mic right in there.

Cameras with significant crop factors cause issues so a 2.2 crop with an 85mm on the front might give you a lovely image but in a run-and-gun, it's too far away for the purposes of sound recording.

The noise isolation arm allows you to put it in exactly the right place.
That's all very helpful information gorilla; thank you very much.

As I'm a bit wary of the DR-10SG due to lack of reviews, I was thinking about getting a tried-and-true quality shotgun mic & rigging up my own DIY noise-isolation arm on my DSLR to get the correct angle & closer to the talent.
This would consist of an Oben BD-0 TABLE TOP BALL HEAD mounted to the camera's cold shoe. The height would keep the mic out of the frame as well as allow for fine tuned angle adjustment:
41uMKnqvRhL._SY355_.jpg

Then mount a Dual Sided Mounting Bar Bracket on top of the Oben BD-0 running parallel with the lens to get the mic closer to the talent:
1484408496_2deadcf05bb0890ebbcd5b4180a671d6.png

Then mount a Auray DUSM-1 Universal Shock Mount to the end of the Bar Bracket closest to the talent, giving noise isolation to a high-quality shotgun mic as well as additional height to keep the mic out of the frame, as well as angle adjustment to point the mic towards the base of the throat of the talent:
51ZjTnD0tZL._SY300_.jpg

As far as balancing the added frontal weight, the Bar Bracket would also extend rearward, past the cold shoe -towards the videographer- where a Saramonic SR-VRM1 recording device with phantom power would be mounted above the camera's viewfinder & connected to the mic, possibly also riding on an Oben BD-0 so that the SR-VRM1's monitor could point at the videographer while also adding a bit of balancing weight:
9756442f50370f561059b7b32080b157.jpg
 
Last edited:
Just found 2 pieces of gear that could work for a compact, DSLR-mounted, mini-boom extension that would give a shotgun mic more proximity (adding a whole foot of proximity) to the talent, angle adjustability (to aim the mic at in the right spot as well as keep it out of the frame), all while being able to be operated by a single audio-video person in a run-&-gun situation:
Varavon Magic Arm V11
magic_arm_v11_fittings.jpg

& the...
Skier 13 Inch Hot Shoe Arm 1/4" Screw Magic Base Mount Flash LED Monitor Flexible Holder DSLR. The Skier, unfortunately, has zero reviews. Has anyone ever used a product by this brand & can speak from experience?
419P31WNE7L.jpg

Thoughts?
 
Last edited:
Top