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This weekly course covers the most common questions videographers encounter when shooting and editing with DSLR cameras, from choosing a frame size and frame rate to understanding moiré. Authors Rich Harrington and Robbie Carman will also help you understand the impacts of compression and the difference between cropped (or micro 4/3rds) and full-sized sensors in cameras, and much more. This continual FAQ guide is a handy way to find the answers to the questions that plague you the most.
Rich Harrington: So, I think if you watched our last movie, we've safely established that the built-in microphone, not very useful. Robbie Carman: Yeah, it's one of those things that if you have no other choice in a run-and-gun situation, it's better than nothing, but I think a much better step up is going to an on-camera shotgun mic. Rich: Yeah. Robbie: Now, if you're familiar with a shotgun mic, a shotgun mic is something like this guy, this one is made by RODE. But a shotgun mic is a very directional mic, and what that means is that it's going to pick up sound mainly from what it's pointed at, in the front of the mic. And this is great for things like dialogue, for interviews, and that kind of stuff.
Now, the thing about the shotgun mics is that you can buy shotguns like Sennheisers and other brands that are just shotgun mics, but in that situation, you probably have to adapt that microphone to work on your DSLR camera, because most of those high-end shotguns are going to be XLR outputs. In addition, they are probably also going to need power, it's called Phantom Power. However, companies like RODE and other manufacturers are now making sort of DSLR-specific microphones that can mount, just as we see here, right on to the hot shoe of the camera and then just take a line out, an eighth inch a line out directly into the camera body itself.
Rich: And what's nice is that this microphone will actually put out different levels. You see here that it can go between 10 below zero, or plus 20, so we have some flexibility with the audio levels that puts out, which is important. Different camera bodies are going to expect different levels of audio coming in. The goal I find is to make sure that I have a nice strong signal coming in. Ideally, I don't want to have to crank up the sensitivity of the camera because the more we have to boost it there, the more likely you are going to get hiss and noise and background sound. Robbie: That's right, Rich, and another nice thing about these microphones is that a lot of them are battery-powered, because they are high-quality microphones, they are typically condenser microphones which means that they need power of some sort, like phantom power that I just mentioned a minute ago.
And it's really nice to just put in some Double-As or rechargeables, and you have the necessary power going to the microphone. Rich: Now, this particular one is running off of a 9-Volt and I could tell you, with firsthand experience, always have two spare batteries, because you're going to pop it up into the camera and someone is going to have left it on, like you'll forget to turn it off, sort of get packed with it left on, you'll take it out, you'll be all excited like, you'll be like, oh, the battery is dead. So then you put the spare battery in. Well, if you only have one spare, you're hosed, because with a normal shooting day, you will easily go through a full battery, if not two on set.
Robbie: That's right, and there's a couple other distinguishing things about the sort of on-camera shotguns that you should sort of look at, and the first is sort of the reach or the length of the actual shotgun itself. Now, this one is relatively short, but you can get ones that are even longer, and the further the length of the shotgun, the further you're going to be able to reach into the scene and pick up audio. However, that length comes with one drawback, it sort of alters sort of the ergonomics of the actual camera body itself. So, if you have a very long shotgun, you might be a little bit more front heavy, especially if you have a lighter lens on the camera, so that's something to consider.
Rich: And if you are shooting wide, you may not want to be so far in front that the lens is picking it up, you've got to find the balance. The other thing to look for is this particular one has the Wind Screen built-in, most of these mics will have some sort of Wind Screen on the top, you can also get what's often referred to as a dead cat, it's just the great fluffy thing. Robbie: Little furry ball of stuff on top of the camera, right? Rich: And you wrap it around, that is a technical term, we're not making that up, but it just gives you additional wind protection that cut down on the sound of the wind noise, but this is very directional. Now, Rob, what's the real purpose for this microphone? Are we going to be getting dialogue with this? Robbie: Well, these microphones can be used to get dialogue sort of in a pinch.
Typically on a movie set or a bigger production, you'll actually see a shotgun being used in a boom configuration where somebody is actually holding the mic up and pointing it to the scene, that's a big consideration. Shotguns work best when they can get into the actual scene to pick up that dialogue. Rich: So even though we are close to each other, if I was sort of framed off-center, you were off-center, this really wouldn't pick you up, it really needs to be pointed right at you. Robbie: Right, and it's typically, if you're using a longer type of lens, you might be set back quite a bit from the actual action that's going on set or sort of the scene that you're trying to record.
So unless you're able to get up real close and tight to the subject that you're trying to record, these are not that much of a step up even from, say, the built-in mic in that sort of situation. So, when we come back in just a moment, we're going to talk about another way of sort of adapting higher end mics, that shotgun mic on a boom pole or something like that to be able to record audio in a run-and-gun situation directly to our camera.
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