March 31st, 2011
In my search for what I think is my “perfect” way to shoot video and dual system audio, I’ve paid attention to a lot of other people’s solutions. What quickly becomes apparent is there is no single answer. Your needs will change with the situation, and there’s any number of ways to address it.
For instance, are you running after subjects? Maybe a Glidecam would be best. Can you “eyeball” it or will you need a monitor? Can you take a tripod with you? Do you need to be discrete? Do you have a sound person?
To make a climbing analogy (sorry, I can’t help it), documentary still photography is like free-soloing or climbing without a rope. There’s minimal equipment. Shooting HDSLR video is more like aid climbing, where every inch of vertical is gained by using highly specialized equipment. If you don’t have the right piece, you’ll have to find a different path.
When HDSLR videographers realize the need for dual system sound, because the cameras cannot record good sound, one of the first questions is where to put the microphone quickly followed by where to put the recorder.
Here is an inexpensive hardware solution from Andrew Hida. I tried it out once and found it worked, but that the bracket flexed and the camera mount kept loosening. Using a small recorder is essential but the key point: inexpensive…well, that is, after you’ve invested in the camera, microphone, and recorder.
When I tried it with an LCD viewfinder, I found it ergonomically similar to shooting stills; I manually focused the camera and held it by the hand grip.
Here’s another solution, from Wes Pope. This too is economic though possibly not as ergonomic. Wes uses this set up on a tripod or by holding the camera out in front or down, sort of like a cage might be held. Note the use of the Zoom H4N, with its dual XLR inputs giving a “two-channel” audio system. He’s plugged in a Sennheiser G3 receiver and a shotgun microphone.
Last year I did a post on Travis Fox’s kit he came up with. He likes to shoot video with his HDSLR like it’s an actual video camera: by cradling it. He is also using dual system sound and an external monitor, which required their own solutions. Although the monitor, recorder, wireless, etc. are costly, the mounting hardware is pretty inexpensive. It’s even sporting duct tape!
I can see the benefit of cradling the camera and how that will stabilize the shots as well as lessen the distraction the camera creates between you and the subject, but when I held the “frankencamera” I had trouble focusing the lens. My wrist was awkwardly cocked as I rested the monitor bracket on my forearm to focus the lens. Travis has bigger hands than I do. Check out his blog post by clicking through the image:
Educator Kurt Lancaster explains Travis Fox’s use of the frankencamera for dual system audio, including syncing sound with pluraleyes at his blog post here. The key takeaway from the post is to feed the camera the same sound your mic is are picking up–which means it’s important to have your recorder physically near your camera (thus building a rig). Lancaster has some links and notes on cables to make this system work.
However, if you’re working with a sound person, or you’ve simply put a lav mic on your subject, you can pare down your kit to two simple, but expensive, things: A wireless receiver and an LCD viewfinder. You still need to have a receiver on your audio recorder, but by putting a receiver on your camera, you’re feeding the camera the same audio your recorder is getting which will make it a lot easier to sync sound later.
Of course, unless you lock it down on a tripod or put it on a steadicam, you’re still going to have that shaky, handheld HDSLR look…hopefully with minimal rack-focusing.
For more ideas on do-it-yourself rigs, go to CheesyCam’s prolific blog.
Check back here for more on HDSLR Camera Rig Solutions. I’ll be talking about buying (and modifying) stock equipment.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!