Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic Part 2

There’s been a lot of interest in a recent post I made on Sescom cables, and how they help you get good audio inside a camera when working with a portable digital recorder. Well, it turns out that Sescom makes another variation of this cable which makes it possible to also monitor your audio on headphones as you record. A company called Markertek was kind enough to send me one of these cables to test out. As usual, I figured I’d share my findings with you.

The problem with using a regular Sescom cable is that it consumes the headphone output on your portable digital recorder, leaving you with no way to listen to the sound. That’s why they make special Sescom cables with a headphone tap. Instead of it just being a straight cable with a -25dB pad, it’s a Y-Cable with a female 3.5mm headphone jack. This enables you to feed the sound from your portable digital recorder directly into your camera’s mic input, while listening on headphones at the same time.

People often worry that if they split an audio signal, it will degrade the quality of the sound. This is a legitimate thing to worry about. Continue reading Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic Part 2

An Easy Rechargeable Battery Kit for the HDV-Z96 LED Light

Z96 LED lightI recently picked up a Z96 LED light to use in my video productions, and I immediately packed it with five lithium AA batteries (yes, it takes five of them). I shot a few short videos, and one longer project. When the lithiums finally sputtered out, I decided to take advantage of the Sony L series mount on the rear of the Z96 and buy a proper rechargeable battery system for it.

I had never used a “Sony L series DV battery” mount before. I was not familiar with NP-F570 or NP-F770 batteries. It was all an alien language to me. Hardcore video people tend to throw around obscure battery terminology like it’s common knowledge, but I was totally green to all of this talk.

I really hate throwing out spent AA batteries. I especially hate playing money for stuff that I know I’m going to be throwing away. Continue reading An Easy Rechargeable Battery Kit for the HDV-Z96 LED Light

No GH2? Whatev! Make a Sound Slideshow with Images!

I just got back from a short vacation in Paris, and I had a really nice time eating amazing cheeses, breads and cream (with extra cheese). Seriously. I love that country. If there are any French people reading this blog, I’m honored to have you. Anyhow, I was hoping to purchase a Panasonic GH2 to take photographs of Paris, but I was unable to get my hands on one. I decided I was putting too much emphasis on equipment. I liked the idea of shooting HD video in the city of light, but really I just wanted to make something. So I brought my old point and shoot (a Canon SD1000) and my Edirol R-09HR audio recorder. In the end I’m glad I focused on recording sound.

It gets said a lot, but I’ll say it again. Don’t let gear get in the way! In the end, your tools are a distraction. They’re an obstacle. It doesn’t matter if you have a truck load of equipment or no gear at all. Either way, equipment is your biggest obstacle. Continue reading No GH2? Whatev! Make a Sound Slideshow with Images!

How Recording Music is Similar to Lighting a Film

Arri 650 plusThe camera department and the sound crew tend to be thought of as existing in different universes, but I’m starting to see how we may have a lot more in common than you might think. As you may know, I do not yet own a video-enabled DSLR camera, but I plan on buying one soon. My search for the ideal camera has been grueling. I’ve read endlessly about it, and picked the brains of my DP friends incessantly determine which way to go. The more I dig into the practices and theories behind shooting high-definition video, the more I see parallels between recording sound and capturing moving images. Continue reading How Recording Music is Similar to Lighting a Film

Shooting HDSLR Video as a One Man Band

Shooting DSLR video and audioI’m fairly new at shooting HDSLR projects as a one-man band. Being in charge of sound, picture, and subject is tricky stuff. Some people fear this is the future. Cutting costs equals shrinking crews, and ultimately you’ll have one person doing everything. I don’t think this is the case. When a production company can afford a crew, they should have enough experience to know that they’ll have a better project if they put a good crew together. Shooting as a one-man band isn’t something that should be frowned upon by the production community. Rather, it should be embraced. It’s hard work to do everything yourself, and it’s totally amazing that it’s even possible.

The power of this production technique was highlighted again this week with the release of Andrew Wonder’s Undercity documentary. I originally read about Undercity on Philip Bloom’s blog, and I was impressed with this piece. It shows you the raw power of this production approach. To be able to capture HD footage with excellent sound with a completely¬†inconspicuous amount of equipment is nothing short of revolutionary. It allows¬†documentary to squeeze in where it hadn’t fit before, and its high-def resolution plunges the viewer deeply into that world. If you have any doubts, check out this first five minutes of this Frontline footage. It was shot by Danfung Dennis who was armed with a Canon 5D mkII, a Beachtek XLR adapter, a shotgun mic, and a Sennheiser wireless system (his portion starts at 1:38):

Continue reading Shooting HDSLR Video as a One Man Band

My One Year Anniversary Post! (…and a dorky video)

One year ago today I made my first blog post at Granted, it was a pretty dull post, but it was a start. This website started out as a way for me to get more work as a production sound mixer. I ran the site for a while like this, but I thought it was kind of boring. I added the blog section to kind of liven things up with some fresh content.

This site still serves its main purpose as my location audio resume, but I’m having fun writing the blog too. I’m really glad that people are getting involved, posting comments, and saying hello.

Like my first post one year ago, there isn’t much point to this post either, but I figured I’d leave you with something. Below is a video I shot a little while ago. It was the first video I made on the Nikon D90. It’s a little how-to video for making an echo effect with two mobile phones. Check it out:

Continue reading My One Year Anniversary Post! (…and a dorky video)

The Top 10 Trends and Innovations of 2010

3D TV failEven though it may not feel like it, there were a number of trends and innovations in 2010 that will make a lasting impact on creative production. The bad news is that not all of them have been happy and positive. The evil villains really came out to squash the little guy in 2010. But thankfully the little guy proved that with a dash of ingenuity and motivation, they could still pull off a devastating surprise attack.

10) The rapid failure of 3D TV

I’m not a fan of today’s 3D movies. When I was a kid, 3D movies just seemed more fun. Shark jowls would swim straight at you. Laser beams would touch your forehead. And evil doctors would always point a giant syringe directly in your face. The directors of today’s 3D movies¬†have too much integrity to have a character¬†deliberately wave a giant battle axe over our heads. The 3D element is just tacked on to make the price of the ticket higher. Continue reading The Top 10 Trends and Innovations of 2010

How Good is a $250 HD Camera with 24p?

When I was putting together my list of gift ideas for video nerds,¬†I stumbled upon the¬†Canon Vixia HF R100, and¬†was totally amazed at the price of this thing. But my jaw didn’t really hit my toes until I read about its extensive audio capabilities. For $250 you get a full-blown camcorder that shoots 1080i HD video at 24p, has an external mic input and a headphone output. Then I discovered it had manual audio control of both the external or the built-in mics. Now I was envious in addition to being amazed! I decided to go see what this camera felt like in my hands, and to try out its manual audio control functions. I walked away impressed, and I think I grumbled something under my breath as I passed the HDSLRs on my way out. Continue reading How Good is a $250 HD Camera with 24p?

Gifts for Video Nerds (Obsessive DSLR Dork Edition)

Video nerds are a special breed. Photography geeks can inhabit a false sense of glamour. They can imagine that they’ll eventually be shooting supermodels for the cover of a glossy. Audio nerds can cling to a similar shred of¬†unrealistic hope. Right now they may be shoving a beltpack transmitter into a fat, sweaty pastry chef’s¬†underwear, but a year from now they may well be producing¬†the next Sgt Pepper’s. Video nerds don’t really have an unrealistic ideal to keep them going. I guess they can daydream that they’re George Lucas’ cinematographer, sitting atop a large crane with a camera rig, squinting while making an imaginary frame with their thumbs and index fingers. But let’s face it. That person still comes off as a dork. Continue reading Gifts for Video Nerds (Obsessive DSLR Dork Edition)

Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic

DSLR and Zoom H4nThe microphones built into portable digital recorders typically sound pretty good, and if you use a recorder to capture the sound for a DSLR video shoot, you may be tempted to mount the recorder directly on top of your camera and use it as an on-camera mic. But here’s the problem…

Plugging the headphone output of the recorder into the mic input on the camera won’t sound good. The mic input on a DSLR needs a mic-level audio signal, and the headphone output on the portable digital recorder is line-level. Mic-level signals are very low, and line-level signals are very loud. If you just used a normal 1/8″ to 1/8″ mini-plug cable to connect the two, you’re likely going to get a nasty sounding distorted recording. What you need is an 1/8″ to 1/8″ cable with a built-in -25dB attenuator. And wouldn’t you know it… such a thing exists. Continue reading Using a Zoom H4n as an On-Camera DSLR Mic