How To Utilize Dual System Audio (On Your Next Shoot)

How To Utilize Dual System Audio (On Your Next Shoot) by Michael Head

While cinematography is the art of painting with light, an equally important (if not more important) aspect of video production is capturing quality audio. This is because  audiences will forgive poor visuals before they will forgive bad audio.

My first dual system audio includes both a Rode Videomic Pro and the Zoom H2n. Together, they make a great audio system that is flexible and an awesome replacement for a camera’s on-camera microphone.

Dual System Audio with Rode Videomic Pro

How To Utilize Dual System Audio

To get set up, you simply run the 3.5mm line from the Rode into the Line In input on the Zoom. Bad-da-bing – excellent stereo sound. You can even get a 3.5mm extension line and separate the H2n from the Rode by almost any distance.

If you add in a Rode Micro Boom Pole, you will have a complete system for booming audio on set.

Check out the video for a quick overview of the dual system audio, including a few points of caution.

The Good:
– Inexpensive Dual System Audio.
– Quality audio from the microphone and recorder.
– Very small system (I’ve put the microphone in the front seat of a car to capture sounds of the person in the driver’s seat while the camera was outside of the car).
– Allows for audio monitoring through headphones out of the H2n.

The Not-So-Good:
– 3.5mm line is unshielded: i.e., it is susceptible to interference from powerlines, the cell phone in the camera man’s pocket, et al…
– Audio needs to be synced in post production.

Final Thougts:
This is a a great, flexible system for capturing dual system audio, especially for beginning filmmakers.

Whoever you choose to run your audio, be sure that they understand the need to have the microphone close to the subject (but out of sight of the camera) and still monitor the sound being recorded. But make sure your audio pro is watching audio levels as well. For example, avoid accidentally lowering your audio input if the headphones sound too loud.

Quality visuals are important, but capturing quality audio is vital to making your videos and films stand out from more amateur work. Setting up dual system audio is one way to add extra value to your project.

Overview of Sony RX10

Have you heard about the 5K Sony Cybershot with video? According to Imaging Resource, the new RX10 can read all 5K data from it’s sensor in video mode. This is due to a new Bionz X processor. So the camera is shooting 5K video? (Exciting!)

Sony Cyber shot DSC RX10Well, let’s circle back around to that in a sec.

The camera has a fixed Zeiss zoom lens with 35mm zoom equivalent to a 24 to 200 zoom. That’s cool – until you add in the constant f/2.8 max aperture – a 2.8 throughout the zoom is awesome! Yeah, it’s fixed, but it’s still a Zeiss lens, which is a manufacturer known for quality. Add to this an advanced video auto focus and there is a lot of possibility in this camera.

Sony RX10 Has a One Inch Sensor

The one inch sensor is kind of a strange size in my opinion, but it’s a fixed lens so you don’t have to do any of that messy math stuff. Actually I’m kidding here – Sensor conversion isn’t as hard as it initially seems…

The camera can shoot up to 60 fps video, which gives you even some slow motion options if you need it.

The Good Features of the Sony RX10

  • Zeiss 24-200 f/2.8 constant aperture zoom lens.
  • Bionz X processor for full sensor utilization.
  • Continuous 10 FPS 20 MP stills.
  • Video auto focus.
  • Sony tends to have pretty good AVCHD implementation.
  • Accessory module with XLR audio inputs.

The Not-So-Good Features of the Sony RX10

  • Fixed lenses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (but hey, it’s a Zeiss lens).
  • $1,300 is a lot for a fixed lens camera.
  • It still uses the AVCHD codec.

The Different

Let’s go back to the 5K thing. Does the RX10 shoot 5K video?

No. It doesn’t…

So where does the 5K come from?

For a second, let’s think about a few other cameras. If you’re familiar with the RED Epic, you might know that it shoots various resolutions by cropping in on the sensor, which affects the effective lens viewing angle. If you look at Canon DSLRs, however, pull 1080P images from their sensors by skipping some of the horizontal lines of the sensor. This can cause some issues such as moire, but that is part of what lead to the DSLR video revolution.

Sony_RX10_BackWhat does this mean for the RX10? It can read the full 5,000 (ish) lines of resolution – so it shoots in 5K, right? Well, yes and no. It does use the entire sensor in video mode, which means there is no line skipping or cropping on the image. However, it takes the full 5K sensor data and uses it to output 1080P video.

This means you’re still only getting 1080P video ( and I can’t believe I’m saying “only” 1080P – most movie theaters project at 2K, which is only slightly larger then a 1920x1080p HD video), but it will be some great looking 1080P video that should avoid some image quality issues that can affect DSLR video.

Final Thoughts on the The Sony RX10 – 5K

It’s pretty cool. If you are looking to move into DSLR-style video shooting, this is a pretty good looking and reasonably priced video-capable camera. Sample images have shown that great resolution in the video images. Professional audio inputs available are also a plus for the normally dual-system DSLR shooting setup, and this saves a step in post. Find out more about the Sony RX10 here.

Keep Shootin!

DSLR cage

Camera operating can be tricky in its own right, but when it comes to being a one man band, where you’re in charge of both camera and audio – then things can get pretty difficult.

With the DSLR craze, it can seem at times ridiculous to build out a full-scale camera rig. In some instances, doing so can defeat the purpose of shooting with these cameras, especially if you’re going guerilla. Obviously, if you don’t have permits and are stealing shots, you wouldn’t want to draw attention to yourself with one of these DSLR cages. However, in a conventional shoot, DSLR cages can be extremely helplful.

What is most important in having a DSLR cage?

The main thing is that it numerous 1/4 – 20 threaded ports on the cage. This works well in adding your gear to the cage. What is the best way to do that? It’s with a noga arm or a friction arm. The common size is 7” and 11”. They work very well with monitors and sound recorders – like the Zoom H4N and Tascam DR100.

The reason for adding the gear to the cage is the most important factor – You want to be able to see what the camera is shooting, what your sound levels are and your remaining battery life, without having to move and look in any other direction. Having this information available is important because if things get hectic and you start to run and gun during the shoot, it is easy to forget things – like hitting record on your sound recorder!

Remember – it can be the out of sight, out of mind mentality. You want to have a mental checklist before the scene plays out. Make sure everything is up and running. That’s why having everything in front of you is the best way to go.

All of this may seem simple now, but in the field and on set, it can be a different story.  Your goal is prepare for hiccups and with a DSLR cage and more importantly, having all of your gear visible all at once is a real life saver.

Simple I know, but it’s a major thing to remember.

You can check out more of Joseph Ort’s Filmmaking Stuff at Shadowmind Productions