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Need advice please... Corder with good sound.

I just bought my first camcorder the Canon ZR830. It seemed a good machine except for the sound. Then I realized there was no mic port to improve sound quality. Having sold it on I'm now looking into buying something more suitable to my needs. A camera in the same range with the ability to add good mics would be perfect. On reading reviews I've noticed that a lot of low end machines have problems with quality mics. Are there any out there that work well with directional mics etc....?

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(NT) Look for the zr800 since it has the mic inputs.

In reply to: Need advice please... Corder with good sound.

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Thanks for the quick response.

In reply to: Look for the zr800 since it has the mic inputs.

I have been looking at this as an option and it seems to be a way to go. How will the camera work with a RODE VideoMic Directional Camcorder Microphone? There certainly isn't a place to attach it. Is there a camera at this end of the market that would work well with that type of equipment or perhaps theres a way to rig the machines that it can be used?

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If the audio is really that important,

In reply to: Thanks for the quick response.

the mic input and the mic are only a part of the equation.

As for attaching the RODE video mice to a camcorder that has no accessory shoe - the solution is to add an accessory shoe...
The screw mount on the horizontal piece screws into the tripod mount in the bottom of the camcorder. There is a threaded hole in the bottom of the accessory shoe's screw mount to connect a tripod, so no loss of functionality. I like the angled bracket because it is also a handle and helps with steadiness (pretty much forces you to use two hands) and it has two shoes (1 mic, 1 light?). But since the RODE video mic sits in its own mount, straight brackets are available too:
(only 1 accessory shoe).

But - in my opinion - the lack of manual audio control is what causes bad audio. Most camcorders rely on an "automatic mic gain" circuit and loud audio overdrives it. The result is lots of clipping and really muddy audio. The most expensive mic available will not resolve this. From my perspective, there are three options:

1) External mic gain control. Using something like a BeachTek adapter. They have manual knobs to control the gain. If the camcorder does not have manual audio control, you have no idea what is going in to the camera, so the DXA-6vu would be appropriate.

2) A camcorder with manual audio control. The cheapest camcorders I know of that have full manual audio control are the Canon HV20, HV30, Sony HDR-HC7 and HC9. Some of the Sony camcorders (like the DCR-HC28 and the DCR-HC96 have a menu selection for "normal" and "low" mic gain settings. Use "low" for loud audio environments. I have not yet checked whether the new DCR-HC52 or HC62 have this menu selection.

3) A combination of 1 and 2 will provide the most flexibility... but this may not work too well with the RODE video mic - It uses a 1/8" jack - you did not specify if you got the stereo version or not - but lets say you did - the DXA-6 (and vu) have a 1/8" jack (in addition to the 2 XLR jacks) - but it is a mono-jack...

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Thank you

In reply to: If the audio is really that important,

Your post was an excellent response and just what I was looking for. You seem to more than know what your talking about so I hope you don't mind if I pick your brain some more.

From your post I gathered that the HD model cameras are just better suited for sound but as this is my first cam I'm sticking with the lower end ones for test purposes so I can see how things work. As such I'm looking into your recommendation of the Sony DCR series cameras and the HC-62 looks good but as you said you don't know if it has the manual settings so I'm looking into it. The Rode mic I just put in as an example is there a different mic you would recommend?

So here's the setup I was thinking?

The HC-62 with the Bower Two Shoe Video Light Bracket and a mic you can recommend.

Any further hints or tips and I'm up for some learning.

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Glad to have been helpful.

In reply to: Thank you

In my world, audio came first, video followed - now they are used together.

It isn't so much that the high definition models are "better suited for sound" - though it does seem more than a coincidence that the four models all happen to do high definition (and there do not seem to be any other sub-$1,000 non-hidef camcorders with manual audio control). These 4 cameras do standard definition, too. That they all have manual audio controls is their key. Through a menu setting, the mic gain can be relatively precisely controlled. (More expensive cameras like the Canon XHA1, XL2 and Panasonic DVX and HVX have knobs/wheels on the camera body for the mic-gain adjustments).

Here is the link to the manual for the DCR-HC62:
I cannot find any reference to the mic-gain ("Normal/Low") menu selection.

The RODE video mics (there is a mono version and a stereo version) have gotten rave reviews - I have not used one.

I currently use an Audio Technica AT-825 for live performance recording. For interviews or where mono is adequate (or a further shotgun "reach" is required), I use an NRG SA-568. If what you are doing is music, stereo separation is a big plus. I have also found that if the camera stays in one position, having a camera mounted mic is fine - but if I want to move the camera around, I want to keep the mic in one place (especially when recording in stereo) because as the mic moves across the stage when connected to the camera, the sound (stereo spatial separation) will move with it... I put the stereo mic on a mic stand and have a long (XLR) cable back to my camera. The camera moves wherever I want, the mic stays put, no audio "movement". The other option is to use a field recorder (like those from Marantz, M-Audio, Zoom, among others) that stays in one spot and replace the camcorder's audio... And they have manual audio control.

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Ok Lets see if I'm understanding everything.....

In reply to: Glad to have been helpful.

In regards to the low end cams and getting good sound.

1. If I buy a low end cam I need a mic port to plug in a Mic.

2. Once plugged in some mics work fine with low end camcorders but need to be switched to mono.

3. If better quality sound is required then better quality mics are required. This being the case you need the ability to control sound input. For control a BeachTek adapter works well.

4. Some low end camcorders like DCR-HC28 and DCR-HC96 can survive without the Beachtek adapter due to their "Gain settings" function.

For the most part I should be able to set up a low end camera that has a decent sound system with the use of the Beachtek adaptor and a good mic. So all I need to is find the camera I want with a mic port and buy the appropriate equipment am I right?

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Oh and....

In reply to: Ok Lets see if I'm understanding everything.....

In regards to recording in mono and stereo. If I get a BeachTek adapter then I'll be able to record in stereo correct?

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I wish this was not so complex,

In reply to: Oh and....

but the short answer is yes. But not with a RODE Video mic. You will need a stereo mic (like the Rode NT4, Audio Technica AT-825 or Shure VP-88) that goes out to two XLR jacks.

When the animation flips around the back, you will see 2 XLR jacks and 1 "R AUX" jack. You will also see a M/S (mono/stereo) switch (and a G1/G2 switch - which I have not touched).

My AT-825 stereo mic has left and right XLR jacks. They plug into the matching L/R plugs on the DXA-6. The M/S switch is in stereo. Recording is in stereo.

My NRG SA-568 is a mono mic. While I can use an XLR (mic) to 1/8" mono jack cable (and plug directly into the camera), I use the XLR-XLR cable and plug into the Left channel on the BeachTek and flip the M/S switch to Mono. Both L and R channels get the same audio.

I also have a battery powered base-station lavaliere (with a battery powered body pack) that has a 1/8" jack only - this can go into the "R AUX" plug. The "R" in R-AUX" is right channel only if the BeachTek is in stereo mode. If the BeachTek M/S switch is set to Mono, both L and R channels get the same audio.

I have had occasion to use the mono-mic (with a longer XLR cable) as a handheld or as a shotgun mounted to a boom-pole - plugged into the L channel of the BeachTek while the lavaliere basestation is plugged into the R-AUX... and the M/S switch is in Stereo. Then the conversation has spatial (L/R) separation and I have better control of the audio edit in post-production.

The "R-AUX" can give you right-channel only if the BeachTek is set to stereo. The "R-AUX" can give you both channels if the BeachTek is set to mono, and both channels will be the same audio...

Is this making sense?

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Oh yeah, good stuff.

In reply to: I wish this was not so complex,

Its making sense but I'm simply a bit lacking with the techno jargon so deciphering it can take a minute. I do think however, after looking at the quality of equipment you are using that it is far beyond my needs. Although I understand you may just be using those particular pieces as examples. So let me tell you what I want to use it for and maybe you'll be better able to assess my needs and I can stop harassing you. Interviewing , filming scenes for amateur movies and also monologues. I already have a Lavalier lapel mic, I'd need a hand mic for filming scenes (via hiding it and using various other techniques) and I thought a directional mic (such as the Rode one I mentioned) to overide the poor camcorder sound for regular filming.

I think we're getting close the answer though so keep it going.

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So lets be clear...

In reply to: Oh yeah, good stuff.

You are not "harrassing" me. There are lot of us who post here because we want to help others... as we have likely been helped by others in the past.

Now that you have shared what types of stuff you are planning to shoot, I don't think you need all that manual control crap I was rambling about. I've done shorts and behind the scenes and live music (among other stuff)... When you said that sound was really important, I (incorrectly) jumped straight to (loud) music. If you aren't doing loud audio, all of the stuff I was yammering about is good to have when you move to the next step, but I don't think will be needed now.

By all means, the RODE video mic plugging directly into the camcorder (HC62 - Have you looked at the Canon ZR950?) on the camera bracket should be just fine - especially with the two mics you already have. Though you say you already have a "handheld - does that not do "it" for you as far as being external? I guess I don't understand what you mean by "regular filming". I pretty much always use an external mic - the internal mics are used only when I know I will be removing that audio...

The best thing you can do is learn your equipment - what it does well and its limitations. In this case, just be alert when you get into loud audio environments.

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In reply to: So lets be clear...

I've been looking online and I don't think either of these camera's (Sony DCR-HC62 or Canon ZR 950. A shame) actually has a mic jack. But Thank you for all the help. I can assure you it wasn't a waste of time I now have a clear view of what the differences are and where the next step is if I need to take it.


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In reply to: Dang

It looks like I'll go for the Zr930 has a mic port and the av/audio out doubles as a headphone jack to monitor the sound coming in.

Thanks again and good luck out there don't let the man get you down.

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(NT) Canon ZR800 and 900, too...

In reply to: Dang

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