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HurlBlog Sound Guru: Gene Martin

  • January 17, 2010
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
HurlBlog Sound Guru: Gene Martin

We are so excited to feature our first guest blogger Gene Martin on the HurlBlog. Whenever I am asked about a specialty such as sound, specifically sound with the 5D, I turn to this expert to weigh in with what he feels is the best. Visit Gene’s website to learn more about what he offers at www.audiodepartment.tv.

What I love about Gene is that he is a one man sound mixing machine. He delivers top notch quality audio as the only member of his sound department, so it fits perfectly with our small footprint work-flow. Gene always has a smile and can do attitude that is required to be one of the cowboys with this new technology in the wild, wild West.

Indie Film Sound And The 5D

“Sound is never noticed unless it’s bad.  It can make a beautiful film or meaningful documentary painful to watch.  So, for the Canon 5D you’ll need to make a small investment to enhance your film’s sound.

The 5D records 16-bit 44.1kHz linear PCM audio and you have no real control of the camera’s input levels. Its AGC (Automatic Gain Control) is ok for general b-roll, but it’s going to amplify any loud unwanted sounds (near by lawn mower/wind).  I know there is a firmware hack that changes the settings, but it’s still not the final solution.

First lets avoid spending more money than you need or just buying items that don’t really solve the Canon’s sound issue.  The BeachTek DXA-5D and the JuicedLINK CX231 both add XLR inputs, phantom power and gain control, but just plug into the camera’s 3.5mm input leaving you with the same 16-bit 44.1kHz audio.

Double system is the only true solution for the Canon 5D. Treat it like film. Just like the Red One camera, both can record sound, but any sound recorded on the camera should only be used for reference in post.  It will add a little more time in post, but the result is well worth the time. The most important step in doing double system is a slate.  Whether it be a actual slate, the clap sticks from a slate or even the clap of your hands you just need to ensure the clap is heard by both the onboard camera mic and whatever mic you may be using for your external audio recorder.  In post if you look at the audio waveforms of the camera and your external audio recorder you’ll see a spike in the audio when you clapped your slate/hands. Once the two audio clips are lined up via the spike in audio you’re now synced.

Zoom H4n
Zoom H4n

There are many options for an external audio recorder, but the best solution for the money is the Zoom H4n ($299).  The Zoom H4n can record up to 4 tracks simultaneously via 2 onboard microphones and 2 external inputs via XLR or ¼”. It records WAV audio files from 44.1kHZ 16-bit to 96kHZ 24-bit.  (Typically we would record at 48kHz 24-bit) The Zoom records on SDHC cards up to 32gb, which would give you 15hr and 25min. It also has phantom power if needed and has a headphone jack for monitoring.  If you are using the Zoom’s onboard mic’s for ambient audio recording outdoors you’ll want an additional windscreen.  Rycote and Red Head both offer windscreens for the Zoom H4n that will protect you from unwanted wind noise.

Zoom H4n
Zoom H4n

Tip: If you wanted you can get a y-cable to split the headphone jack and use one side for your headphones and plug the other into the 5D’s 3.5mm input jack.  This will make it easy to sync the audio in post, plus if you play back your files from the camera you’ll have your actual audio (reference only) to listen to while viewing back your shots.

G3 wireless
G3 wireless

As far as what mic’s you’ll need to capture dialogue there is a very large variety.  For the money if you need a wireless system Sennheiser G3 is the way to go.  They come in a kit with everything you’ll need to get started.  As for a boom kit, you can’t go wrong with Rode.  They are very well priced and offer a 10yr warranty on most of their products.  The best boom mic for most dialogue situations would be the Rode NTG-2 or the Rode NTG-3. Both are good microphones and will get the job done, but the NTG-3 is more than twice the money.

Rode VideoMic
Rode VideoMic

If in the end you just want an improvement of the 5D’s onboard mic, again go with Rode.  They have two different options, the Rode VideoMic and the Rode Stereo VideoMic.  Both are battery powered and have a hot shoe mount for easy mounting on the 5D.  Again these are best for improving ambient audio recording or just creating a better reference camera audio track for syncing your audio later. The audio is still controlled under the camera’s AGC.  If you did NEED to record dialogue this way you would want the Rode VideoMic and would need to be fairly close to the subject speaking in a not too loud environment.”

To rent or purchase any of these items please visit www.audiodepartment.tv or call Toll Free: 1(877) 566-6526

  • Canon
  • HDSLR Cameras
  • Sound

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