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Hooking up a field mixer

From: Video Production Techniques: Location Audio Recording

Video: Hooking up a field mixer

Now I want to go over how you can hook up a mixer for a typical set up using So plug into the camera now and I'm just going to take a listen.

Hooking up a field mixer

Now I want to go over how you can hook up a mixer for a typical set up using a shot gun microphone or any other hard wired mic and a wireless microphone. Actually, it's the exact set up that we have going on right now. I'm being live with the wireless mic. I also have a shotgun mic just out of camera above my head there. So I'm going to show you how to do the exact same setup, because this is a pretty typical scenario for all kinds of shooting. So first we're going to start with this shotgun mic. It's a little simpler. So we got our MK8 Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic here.

And I'm going to plug that into input 1 on the mixer. So even if you have a three-channel mixer doesn't matter. This one's only got two channels same procedure's going to apply. So we're going to go ahead and put this into input one and any time you plug in an XLR cable, you want to make sure that you're checking right here underneath for the switch that's going to tell you what level signal you're sending in. So when I plug in XLR cable, this button is asking me a question. It's asking me, hey, what type of signal are you putting in here? Are you giving me a line level signal, a mic level signal or a mic level signal that needs phantom power.

In this case I know that my mic needs phantom power so I want to go ahead and click this switch over to 48 V or 48 volts which is a symbol for phantom power. Now some cameras and devices might also say ph and some will also say phantom. So whether it says 48 V plus 48V PH or phantom its all phantom power, so go ahead and turn that on cause this might need power to operate. And I can see already that I'm getting a level there, so I know that that's working. But just to make sure I'm going to go ahead and plug in my headphones, now, a handy thing to have any time you have headphones is one of this little adaptors because some devices like this mixer take photo, or quarter inch.

And this right here is mini stereo, also known as eighth inch. So we go ahead and plug that in right there, and I'm just going to take a listen. Check 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2, check 1, 2. Okay, I'm getting a signal, no problem. So we're good so far, so everything this good going into the mixer. Now, I'm gong to come out of the mixer on the left channel, here. So if I want to come out on the left channel, I want to check the front of my mixer and look for this little switch, or button, that says pan.

So this has a little switch here that says LCR, or left, center, and right. Now, because I'm plugging two microphones in here I'm not going to center this, I'm actually going to put it on the left side. So that's going to come in on this channel one and it's going to come out on the left channel. so now that I've told it to direct the signal to the left channel, I'm ready to go ahead and hook up an output for that. Now one thing that's a little funky to get used to, it's not that big a deal, but on most mixers the outputs will be labelled left and right and on most cameras the inputs are labelled one and two.

All you need to remember is left equals one, and right equals two for purposes of keeping things straight. So now I'm going to come into my camera on input number one because I'm funneling that to the left side. What that also means, just to be clear, is that in post-production when I listen back to this, whatever I have coming out of this left side is only going to be heard on the left speaker. Whatever I have plugged into the right side Only be heard on the right speaker, not a big deal. I can totally remix that very easily in post, but I want to keep them separate.

So I have separate control over the audio on this mic versus the other mic. So going back to the camera, I'm coming out of here. Now I have to check the signal level that I'm coming out. Told you any time we plug in XLR. We want to check the bottom right here and check what type of signal we're putting in or sending out. In this case, I have two choices, mic level or line level. Line level is a stronger type of audio signal. So if I have a choice between the two, I'm always going to choose line. And fortunately here I do have a choice so I'm going to choose a line level signal.

It would still work, by the way, if I chose mic level. the difference is, the main thing that I want to make sure of is that whatever I have coming out, I have to have coming in. So if I'm coming out at line level, I want to check the camera and make sure that I'm coming in at line level. And I can see right there that I am coming in at line level. So now I'm just going to go ahead and plug my headphones into my camera. Again, I'm checking my audio at every step along the way just to make sure it's getting where I think it's getting okay. So plug into the camera now and I'm just going to take a listen.

And I'm hearing my mic nice and fine no problem. Great I've got audio signal going all the way through successfully to my camera, so I'm very happy about that. The other thing I want to check on my camera that I just happen to already have set up is for each one of these channels. So for mic input number 1 do I need phantom power nope I do not need phantom power the phantom power's being supplied by the mixer. So I want to make sure I turn that off so nothing funky happens with my audio. I also want to make sure that I am selecting the channel this mic's coming in on.

So I have three choices here, I have internal, input 1 or input 2, so I'm going to set my channel on input 1 right there. So my mic is coming in here. It's going in to channel 1. No problem. So we're good to go with that one. Now, let's go ahead and hook up our wireless microphone. So I have my wireless microphone and receiver. Assume that I've already tested this too. I can see that the transmitter is speaking to the receiver, no problem on that end. I'm going to go ahead and plug this into my mixer on input number two.

Now input number two is giving me the same choices of phantom power, mic, or line. Now on this case scenario, I don't need phantom power. Why? Because my microphone here has it's own. Power right there. So, I already have batteries in here, so I don't need phantom power. So, I'm going to go ahead and put this on mic level signal. Remember, if it's a microphone it's going to be set at mic. If it's a mixer or any other device it's probably going to be set at line. the good thing is that it's very hard to get it wrong because only one's going to sound right.

The other one's going to sound horribly over modulated or not give you any audio at all, so you have a 50, 50 chance of getting it right either way. So now that I'm plugged into there. Again, I'm going back to the front. Input knobs right here, I just want to make sure those knobs are turned up at about 50%. I'm going to tweak these later. I'm not concerned with the quality of my audio. I'm just concerned that I'm getting a signal passing all the way through to the end to where I needed to go. We're going to adjust that later on in another step. So now I'm going to reach down here to the pan switch. Remember left center right and I'm going to send that to the right side.

So I've got input one going to the left side input two going to the right side which means they are input one is coming in here, channel one. Input two is coming in here under channel two. So now I have complete, separate control. Now this is important. I do have the center switch there, remember. I could put these on center and the audio would still come through perfectly fine and it will still sound the exact same. Only I would have a big problem in post production in that I now married these two microphone signals together and I have no way to control the levels, or to equalize them, or to do anything with them separately.

So whenever possible I want to keep my audio signals clean and on two separate channels. So, I'm going to go ahead and put these back on the correct positions which is input one to the left and the other input to the right there. So now, I'm coming out of the right hand side. So I'm going to plug in my cable for the output. And again, I'm going to go ahead and set this on a line level signal because I do have the choice. Do I want to get a nice strong audio signal coming out there? And now we're going to plug into the camera. Again, making sure any time I come out I want to make sure I'm on the exact same setting here.

So, now I'm on line level. I'm going to go head and listen again, and make sure that I'm getting a signal into my camera. On that side. And when you want to check, when you have two mics, very important. Even if you only have one mic, it's very important that you check and actually touch the microphone and make sure that the signal that you think is coming through is. Just because I'm seeing levels on my camera or just because I'm seeing levels on my mixer doesn't necessarily mean that it's coming from that particular microphone particularly on the camera. Sometimes, you could have this switch on the internal microphone and not realize it.

So I could be getting a signal on the camera but the signal that I'm actually getting is coming from the internal mic which is something I don't want. So always actually, physically touch the mic, and make sure that you're getting a signal from the microphone that you think you are. So now my audio is running all the way through and again I'm going to check my settings on the camera input two and make sure I have those set up properly. Phantom power is turned off remember because this microphone has its own power and the mixer is already powering it coming in so I don't need that. And my channel selector here is going to be input two.

So on the camera what's going in to input one is being funneled to channel one, was going in input two as being funneled into channel two. So that is a basic mixer setup. now normally when it comes to monitoring the audio, the most important thing is that you make sure that your recorded audio Going to the camera is coming in crystal clear. So, if I only have a choice of being able to listen to the mixer or the camera, I'm always going to listen to the camera. Now, mini mixers, like this, Sound Devices mix pre as well as the other, larger mixers made by Sound Devices, have something called a return.

Because they know how important it is that you listen to audio from the camera. But one of the big advantages of using a mixer is that it allows the audio operator to be separate from the camera. So when possible we want to make this our listening station and not have to have anything plugged into the camera. Well the device that allows us to do that is a mini to mini cable like this. This also would be built into a breakaway cable if you did have a breakaway cable which is a special type of cable that combines two XLRs and a mini.

But if you don't have it get one of these Midi to Midi cables. So what I do with this cable is that I'm coming out of the headphone jack. So I've sent all of the audio out of the mixer and into the camera. Well, now, I'm coming out of the camera's headphone jack. And I'm going back into the mixer. And I'm looking for something here that says return. So right here, I've got the tape return. So I'm sending that back into the mixer. So again, my audio's going out here, being recorded to the camera. And then the monitoring, or headphone output is going back into my mixer.

Now on the front, you should have a little selection here that says Return. So on this particular device, I can just press this button, and I've got the blue button Lit up for return. That's letting me know that I'm listening to the audio that's being returned from the camera to the mixer. So now when I listen into my headphones, I'm not listening to the audio as it goes into this device. I'm listening to it as it comes out of the camera. That's very important. Some people misunderstand the concepts of mixers and I want to be clear. This is just an audio processing device.

There is no audio being captured in the mixer whatsoever. This is not a recorder, it's simply cleaning up the signal and dividing it left right and center as it comes out into the camera. So no audio's being captured here. So theoretically I could be listening to my audio in the mixer and everything could sound crystal clear and fine, and I can be getting no audio at all. Or horribly over modulated levels on my camera if my settings were incorrect on the camera. So now that I've returned it, I just want to listen here and make sure I'm still getting audio. So I'm going to hook my headphones back into the mixer and I am getting audio signal fine on channel one right there.

And this microphone is also coming in on channel two. So now I have successfully hooked everything up. Now we have to set it up to the proper levels and that's going to be the next step.

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