The Hazards of Audio
In the last entry, I talked a bit about how important audio is to a production. It doesn't matter what level a video is being shot at, be it a professional gig or the indie film slash-fest, flawless audio is absolutely imperative. This weekend I had the privilege to direct a commercial for Campbell's Chunky Soup. In the commercial, a large part of the audio is taken from on-site dialog, so every bit of the video was affected by the shoot at the main location in the story. This was my first time working with dialog in a semi-pro environment. Obviously the on-board mic wouldn't suffice, and neither would an unbalanced Rode Videomic. After considering a few of the options I decided to rent a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic and the Beachtek DLX-SLR preamp. I needed the preamp to supply phantom power to the shotgun mic and to disable the ever prevalent AGC (automatic gain control). AGC creates really awful audio, but unfortunately it is built in to every Canon DSLR, so we figured that we had it beat with our magic preamp.
We were wrong.
Like, really wrong. After day 1 of shooting we brought it back to the studio and started to see what we shot. The audio was completely ruined. I honestly have no idea what happened. Maybe I didn't have something set right but the audio turned out terrible. To clarify, the sound that was put directly in-camera from the Beachtek was clean when I was in a very quiet environment. But, when I brought all the equipment back to our location thinking that fiddling with the switches more would help I still got the awful ambience. It was especially weird because I was monitoring the audio the entire time and the horrible static hiss wasn't coming through. Eventually we went searching for a plan B. What we did was take the Sennheiser 416 and plug it into a mixer that happened to be sitting in the room (weird right?). After we did that, we plugged it right into Garageband and recored oh-so-sweet flawless audio.
The lesson in all this is simple. DSLR's are made for taking still pictures. They are pretty good at video too! Audio...not so much. So unless it is desired to have audio that sounds like alien transmissions are interrupting it, go with a separate recording system and sync it later, definitely worth the extra effort.
The last thing that I would like to add: The Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic is freaking awesome. Okay, that is all.
Happy Filming! :D!