Has anyone ever said how important audio is when if comes to video? “Audio is 50% of your film” is the second most tediously repeated phrase you hear after “The best camera is the one you have on you…” and yes, quite often it is me saying it!
We all know DSLRs generally have awful audio. Terrible on board mics, 3.5mm inputs which are consumer connections and pre-amps that amplify with an additional unwanted hiss! Even since I started using the Canon 5DMKII back in May 2009 working out how to get decent audio from these stills-cameras-that-shoot-really-rather-nice-video (this is what I called them as I always hated HD-DSLRs and VDSLRs) has been a challenge.
External recorders have been my solution for the most part with syncing to the picture done in post. This is a pain of course especially as occasionally you could forget to hit record on your external recorder. Not by me of course, I have never ever ever made such a basic error! Well, maybe once or twice…
Things did start to change though when Sony brought out their XLR adaptor for the A7s cameras and other cameras which have their “Multi-Interface hot shoe.” The two part XLR-K1M was first followed by the one piece XLR-K2M. This gave these cameras professional XLR connectors, manual pots to adjust the level, phantom power and decent pre-amps. Although the A7 series of cameras have half decent pre-amps, well compared to Canon DSLRs that is!
The downside to the two part XLR-K1M is it needs an additional cold shoe to mount the actual adaptor part as the MI shoe is taken by the cable. This is solved by the XLR-K2M but the downside is it feels less robust as all the strain is on the MI shoe connector rather than the solid metal cold shoe connector of the K1M. Also the K2M doesn’t have an additional cold shoe connector on it to hold a radio mic because it just isn’t solid enough. The K1M does. So if you want to use a radio mic with this unit then you need to find somewhere to put it. I thoroughly recommend the Movcam cages for these cameras as they not only give you multiple places to mount stuff they offer proper protection for your pride and joy!
There is another option with the MI shoe and this one is fabulous. If you have the Sony UWP-D mics you can buy the catchily named SMAD-P3 adaptor which lets you connect it directly to the camera. No XLR adaptor is needed and no internal AA batteries. It draws that from the camera, although with the Sony A7S and it’s rather hungry power consumption this isn’t always ideal but it does keep it really neat and more importantly you have a direct digital connection for your audio. This is by far the best way to get a radio mic connected to your Sony mirrorless camera.
With the Sony PMW-FS7 you also have an MI shoe which means you can mount a radio mic semi-permanently on it and still have the two XLR inputs free for whatever you want as the camera records four separate channels of audio. You can assign whichever input you want for the 4 channels but I tend to put the radio mic on channel 3 as it makes the most sense. In fact if you use one of the K1 XLR adaptors you get two additional XLR inputs for the camera although it looks a bit odd!
You can also use the MI shoes of the PXW-FS5 except the firmware to enable 4 channels has not come out yet. You can only record 2 channels rights now. I hope this will be fixed in future firmware updates but until then when you use the MI shoe you lose one of your XLR inputs. It is still advantageous due to the digital connection and power draw.
There are some other downsides of course. Nothing is ever 100% positive in life. If you use the UWP-D directly into your A7 series camera you cannot change audio levels in the menus, you have to do it with the settings on the mic which is fiddly and frustrating. This is not an issue with the FS7 as you can do it in the menus. The lavalier mic that comes with is OK but a bit chunky for my taste. You can buy the RODE lavalier with their adaptor for the UWP-D which is much smaller and much better for hiding under clothes. I also think it sounds better.
We didn’t have a sound recordist sadly so we had to do it ourselves. Most of the time we recorded audio into one of the FS7 cameras. Once or twice we ran them into the Zoom H6 recorder but that was infrequent. With the ability to have 2 XLR inputs for radio mics and one directly into the MI shoe we were covered for almost everything as it was rare to need four mics on one interview.
One thing I would really love to see is a dual channel receiver from Sony. We know the MI shoes is capable of 2 channels of input so to have two transmitters and just one receiver would be a joy. Currently when using my A7S II or A7RII and I need to have two radio mics for interviews then I have to use my XLR-K1M adaptor and standard XLR connections for the two mics. It would be great to not have to do this…please Sony?
These are terrific radio mics whether you use Sony cameras or not. If your camera has an MI shoe they are an essential purchase.
After all, you do know that audio is 50% of your video, right?