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Some recommendations on building a run-and-gun dual system rig for documentary


Thomas Farmer
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Gearing up for a couple small documentary shoots coming next year. Looking to stay relatively compact and simple. I'll be switching from shotgun mic on rig to lav going into recorder depending on interviews, soundbites, etc. in the environment.

I'll be shooting with a Sony A7III. Currently looking at this CAMVATE Camera Cage or this CAMVATE Adjustable Cage. I was planning on buying additional cold shoe adapters and rods for the cage to give me some freedom in applying more gear. My hope is to attach everything I need to this rig if feasible. Mic/recorder/lav receiver etc.

 

For sound, I have an NTG2 rode mic but am open to purchasing smaller, and/or better options for the run/gun style rig. For lavs, I have one set of Sony UWPs.

Biggest question is external recorder. A coworker of mine recommended this Beachtek DXA Micro Pro Plus Adapter and it would feed directly into my A7III. So I could run my shotgun and/or lavs into it. I've also just been recommended the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter with Microphone. This is more pricey than I expected for an adapter but if it's worth it than I'm willing to dull it out. Though personally I'm not sure I want to run sound into the camera. I'd feel safer and more confident about it running into a dedicated sound recorder instead of just through a pre-amp (but I am open to the possibilities!)

 

A friend of mine owns a Zoom H4N that I could borrow/rent. I'm not personally a fan of it as I think it's a little clunky. But if it's a good fit for something like this I'm open to it. But a preferably small audio recorder with at least two inputs (for shotgun and lav) that could realistically be attached to the camera cage is something I'm looking for.

 

So all together, a camera cage rig with a shotgun mic, audio recorder, and lav receiver that is still reasonably compact for run-and-gun style shooting. Open to different options. No real budget in mind, am willing to buy what I need. Though at the time I'm not looking to spend more than $1000 currently. 

 

Would love insight/recommendations on building the rig. If anyone's got experience with a similar rig or if I need to completely rethink my approach! Thanks!

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Hmm.
'Run and gun' with a DSLR should not be in the same sentence, IMHO.
(Yes, there are people who can actually focus, but it's hard...)
Next, what about syncing if you use an external recorder?

If the shooting is 'run and gun', normally post is 'news style' (Meaning, quick and dirty. Exceptions are movies mocumentaries like 'er ist wieder da', or 'Borat', where run and gun get heavily posted.)
 

I have edited thousands of 'run and gun' style shows, and quite a lot of them were finished faster than the time a manual sync of the footage would have taken by itself.
Talks to the client about this, if you're not the one who's going to edit the stuff.

 

Since I don't like 3.5 mm jacks for anything mission critical, I do support the idea of an external recorder though.
And that can be cheap, especially if you can be hard wired.
There was a used TC gen advertised here. Get something like that, and an Y cable, and a sound recorder with a channel to spare and you're home free.
(With extra cabling / extra box / extra fuzz, but it will work, and will be cheap.)

Bouke

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In terms of audio quality it‘s not best, but I would actually recommend the Zoom H4N, as it does everything you need, incl. timecode sync, in a small box at a low price. But you need timecode sync between your camera and your recorder, but you‘ll need that no matter what. 
The aforementioned Sound Devices MixPre3 is in everyway superior, but I think it’s more expensive and possibly a bit bigger than the Zoom. You may want to verify that on the internet.

Last piece of advice: this forum is not ideal for your request. There are others whose members are far more experienced in the low budget and OMB with camera types of jobs 

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3 hours ago, Constantin said:

In terms of audio quality it‘s not best, but I would actually recommend the Zoom H4N, as it does everything you need, incl. timecode sync, in a small box at a low price. But you need timecode sync between your camera and your recorder, but you‘ll need that no matter what. 
The aforementioned Sound Devices MixPre3 is in everyway superior, but I think it’s more expensive and possibly a bit bigger than the Zoom. You may want to verify that on the internet.

In the grand scheme of things the MixPre3 isn't much more expensive, so it doesn't seem worthwhile compromising quality/features by getting an H4n

 

Plus the H4n doesn't have timecode 

 

And from a size perspective, the H4n vs MixPre3 are very similar (the MixPre3 is a couple of hundred grams heavier, but I'd say that is largely due to its tougher sturdier construction relative to an H4n. However the size difference is smaller at only 420 vs 570 cubic centimetres between them). But from an ergonomics perspective the MixPre3 will integrate in with a camera rig waaaaaaay better than an H4n would. 

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1 hour ago, IronFilm said:

 

Plus the H4n doesn't have timecode 


No, but you can record AudioTC on tracks 3/4

 

1 hour ago, IronFilm said:

the grand scheme of things the MixPre3 isn't much more expensive, so it doesn't seem worthwhile compromising quality/features by getting an H4n


In the grand scheme of things the OP only has $1000 to spend, so a difference of more than $400 I think needs to be well justified. And from what I can tell the OP would already benefit greatly from the Zoom, especially if he pairs that with a better mic and other improved gear. Certainly if it’s only about two recorders the MixPre3 is by far the better choice

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Thanks everyone for the replies! They've been very useful. I've also been discussing the topic with local sound ops that I know. I have been debating diving into the MixPre 3 series for awhile now and I think it would greatly help improve sound with this rig. I'll be doing some research and tests of course over the next couple weeks to figure out what would be the best options. Thanks!

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6 hours ago, Constantin said:

No, but you can record AudioTC on tracks 3/4

 

Yes you can. But that is not the same as "has timecode", as if so then *ALL* multitrack recorders "have timecode". Which then makes the phrase meaningless?? 

 

6 hours ago, Constantin said:

In the grand scheme of things the OP only has $1000 to spend, so a difference of more than $400 I think needs to be well justified.

 

I mean in the grand scheme of things of an OP who has the latest generation a7 mk3 full frame camera with all the rest of the kit / accessories which comes with that (let alone what the total production budget is). In the grand scheme of things then, the proportion of audio costs which is the difference between an H4n or a MixPre3 really doesn't seem like much then does it? We shouldn't be extreme penny pinchers with audio gear. 

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Given what I read from your question, it doesn't sound to me like this is in preparation for a critical project.

Many fine personal/YouTube/low budget projects has been done with what you have already. Just borrow that H4N - and find out what works for you and replace what doesn't along the way - when you know why it doesn't work.

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I'd  look for a used Zoom F4, and a tentacle sync.

You can jam sync timecode from the Zoom f4, and record timecode on track one of your camera, and since its run. and gun, you'll probably have it in a bag around your neck , and you could record the mix track from the zoom on channel 2 of the camera.

If you only need one wireless lav, the saramonic uwmic9 actually works great, and because the single transmitter system comes with a dual receiver, you can always add a 2nd transmitter. I'd suggest replacing the lavs it comes with, with the deity v-lav, which sounds re ally good.

For a smaller boom, I'd again suggest a Deity D3. The regular one, not the pro. 

 

 

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I'd start here:

 

https://cdn.sounddevices.com/download/guides/MixPreSeries-SonyA7SR.pdf

 

If you went MixPre route I'd imagine you'd feed timecode through HDMI A73---->MixPre3/6, and audio from the MixPre3/6---->A73 via 3.5mm. The question is do you record audio 100% of the time or do you trigger record from the camera? That depends on your project. If it's more verite, I'd record every moment of audio I could (this is the main reason to get an external recorder vs a preamp and recording in camera). If its a sit down interview I might trigger record and I'd work a boom setup if at all possible. Don't settle for leaving your mic on the camera. Soderbergh, when making 'Full Frontal' ,talked about an audience having more patience for poor quality pictures than poor quality sound...or something like that. 

 

Learn to operate your camera as quiet as possible so you're not picking up too much of camera operation in your on camera mic set up. Test your IS lenses to see if your mic setup is picking them up.  Dial in your kit and cabling so your not fiddling and fighting your kit. A lot of people on DVXUser love those tascam DR10 lav recorders. Yes, you can't monitor it, but when packing and traveling as complete solo production, there are tradeoffs, and if i can lose some weight and kit, therefore streamlining setup and effeciency, it goes a long way. On that note my ideal setup for this exact scenario is 6-8 Audio Ltd. A10's all recording at the transmitter and only 1 A10 receiver with that RX-MON Headphone amplifier on me so I can periodically monitor each recording while I focus on shooting. Give me a Schoeps mini cmit, Sound Devices Mix Pre 6v2 (if i use the 32 bit float 1 time its worth it), Canon 1DX3 (i know its not out yet, but if it has canon log and dpaf, otherwise I'll stick to my 1DC), 100mm macro, 16-35, and a Ronin S. Maybe throw in a Mavic Pro, a Nexto DI NPS-10 and you'd be a doc force to be reckoned with that could all fit into a carry on. 

 

Another tip, I always mount my mixpre on the right side of my camera cage (so the mix pre is orientated vertically), then you could use some standard velcro to attach the sony receiver to the bottom of the mix pre, though if you noted my tip before about dialing in your cabling and setup, I'd look into BEC Cases or some other mounting interface for a more rock solid solution than velcro. You do not want to be battling your kit when something important is happening.

 

 

 

Last tip, when it comes to cages and mounting, Arri 3/8" with the registration pins is the way to go. Most companies use this pattern these days, Wooden Camera, SmallRig, etc. I abhor a simple 1/4-20 screws from noga arms holding an on camera light etc. as it will inevitably loosen. The one exception to that has been the mixpre, it has a single 1/4-20 but due to the rubber around it, it has never loosened. Thats it for now. Feel free to PM me with any questions you might have. 

 

Ugh, one last tip (this is why I’m a lurker and not a poster, too long winded, sheesh, but trying to give a little something back to a great community, thanks again Mr. Jeff Wexler) anyway, with your Sony UWP’s you can go directly into the A73 via a shoe adapter (I’ve read people struggling with levels, etc, I have no experience with this setup, but is something to ponder):

 

https://pro.sony/en_GB/products/uwp-d-accessories/smad-p3

 

Here’s a few pics of a C500/MixPre/SRa setup (these pics were taken to get some custom cables made, which is why they’re a bit odd angles). All mounted to a cage with my SRa in a BEC case which is screwed onto an adapter that screws into the bottom of the MP6. 

 

 

F50CC9A9-A0B9-4B1C-8613-36D5C73351B8.jpeg

190DB143-16A5-44F0-9339-FDDCB7D1EF44.jpeg

D7BD8B78-3C7A-41DB-A7D1-466A7C7B4B57.jpeg

29F54068-99EA-40AF-9D03-F2E03C487B27.jpeg

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7 hours ago, Movies by Matt said:

100mm macro, 16-35

You wouldn't bring any focal length between 100mm and 35mm?

 

7 hours ago, Movies by Matt said:

Ugh, one last tip (this is why I’m a lurker and not a poster, too long winded, sheesh, but trying to give a little something back to a great community, thanks again Mr. Jeff Wexler) anyway, with your Sony UWP’s you can go directly into the A73 via a shoe adapter (I’ve read people struggling with levels, etc, I have no experience with this setup, but is something to ponder):

 

https://pro.sony/en_GB/products/uwp-d-accessories/smad-p3

 

 

Yes, that is one of the benefits of shooting with Sony wireless (either the new UWP-D21 or the older UWP-D11) is that you can connect it with a Sony camera via its smart shoe 

 

You've also got the option of the Sony XLR-K2M / XLR-K1M

 

Panasonic also has one for their GH5/GH5S/S1/S1R/S1H/etc: the Panasonic DMW-XLR1

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DISCLAIMER : IT'S NOT CHEAP!!!!

 

 

 

Here is my Run and Gun rig with the Sony A 7 III and the MS-Schoeps CCM41_CCM8 on cinela Osix suspension  and Sonosax M2D2

 

The camera rig is a Zacuto gunner and some home made focus pulling tools... 😉

 

It's 2,9kg. I can soot the whole day with it as my two hands, elbows, eye, make contact with the camera. The EVF and it's peaking infos are really good (much better than many EVF out there) and you can pull focus easily with it.

 

Sound from the POV of the camera si critical fro me but you can't beat a good boom and some HF. Better have a sound guy with you.

The M2D2 gives you the opportunity to have good 48v preamp and use the great MIX feature with compressor/limiter wich is great if you don't want to touch your faders during the take.

 

w30D4.jpg

dmq8a.jpg

 

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6 minutes ago, Patrick Tresch said:

Here is my Run and Gun rig with the Sony A 7 III and the MS-Schoeps CCM41_CCM8 and Sonosax M2D2

 

It's 2,9kg. I can soot the whole day with it as my two hands, elbows, eye, make contact with the camera. The EVF and it's peaking infos are really good (much better than many EVF out there) and you can pull focus easily with it.

 

Sound from the POV of the camera si critical fro me but you can't beat a good boom and some HF. Better have a sound guy with you.

The M2D2 gives you the opportunity to have good 48v preamp and use the great MIX feature with some limiter wich is great if you don't want to touch your faders during the take.

 

w30D4.jpg

dmq8a.jpg

 

Did you take note if his $1k budget. 

The schoeps alone is over $2k and the M2D2 another $1400.

 

Not really helpful information. 

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57 minutes ago, Patrick Tresch said:

Here is my Run and Gun rig with the Sony A 7 III and the MS-Schoeps CCM41_CCM8 and Sonosax M2D2

 

It's 2,9kg. I can soot the whole day with it as my two hands, elbows, eye, make contact with the camera. The EVF and it's peaking infos are really good (much better than many EVF out there) and you can pull focus easily with it.

 

Sound from the POV of the camera si critical fro me but you can't beat a good boom and some HF. Better have a sound guy with you.

The M2D2 gives you the opportunity to have good 48v preamp and use the great MIX feature with some limiter wich is great if you don't want to touch your faders during the take.

 

w30D4.jpg

dmq8a.jpg

 

Did you take note if his $1k budget. 

The schoeps alone is over $2k and the M2D2 another $1400.

 

Not really helpful information. 

Also, buy as much used as you can. 

I bought a complete, nice film city shoulder rig with matte box (not one if those plastic neewer ones) and really nice follow focus for $66

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3 hours ago, Henchman said:

Did you take note if his $1k budget

Who's to say his budget is fixed in concrete? Nothing wrong with suggesting say a $1.5K solution 

 

Plus often videographers massively under spend on audio, and we should point out when they ought to spend MORE

 

 

3 hours ago, Henchman said:

The schoeps alone is over $2k and the M2D2 another $1400.

 

Not really helpful information.

It is helpful seeing his configuration, I've never seen an arrangement like that, does give some inspirations. And a person could always keep the same general configuration but swap out for cheaper hardware. 

 

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32 minutes ago, IronFilm said:

Who's to say his budget is fixed in concrete? Nothing wrong with suggesting say a $1.5K solution 

 

Plus often videographers massively under spend on audio, and we should point out when they ought to spend MORE

 

 

It is helpful seeing his configuration, I've never seen an arrangement like that, does give some inspirations. And a person could always keep the same general configuration but swap out for cheaper hardware. 

 

He set his budget himself. 

$1k, for everything. 

 

What is so hard to understand about that? 

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1 hour ago, IronFilm said:

Nothing wrong with suggesting say a $1.5K solution 


so you agree that suggesting gear worth more than 5 times the OPs budget is kind of pointless...

 

On 12/27/2019 at 6:48 AM, IronFilm said:

as if so then *ALL* multitrack recorders "have timecode". Which then makes the phrase meaningless?? 


I don’t particularly care if the phrase is rendered meaningless or not. Nowadays, it’s extremely simple to work with AudioTC, just as or almost as simple as regular TC. Whether a recorder has or doesn’t have TC should absolutely not be a decisive feature in that kind of scenario. It may be different in a professional context.
 

I think in the OPs context the difference between a MixPre3 and Zoom H4n in terms of quality and physicality is not big enough to justify the price difference. This price difference would be much wiser spent on a decent microphone, or even two. A recorder will likely get replaced, once you know what you need. A good mic can last a lifetime, and has a much bigger impact on sound. 

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1 hour ago, Constantin said:

I don’t particularly care if the phrase is rendered meaningless or not.

 

So you won’t mind at all if Zoom changes their marketing material to boldly state across all of their advertising for the Zoom H4n that “IT HAS TIMECODE!”... ??

 

 

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8 hours ago, IronFilm said:

So you won’t mind at all if Zoom changes their marketing material to boldly state across all of their advertising for the Zoom H4n that “IT HAS TIMECODE!”... ??

 

They did something like this in the beginning when they stated that their recorders wrote BWF.
Total meaningless, since there was no info inside the BEXT, but indeed, the BEXT chunk was there.

Afaik, I'm the only one bitching about it.
Bouke

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9 hours ago, IronFilm said:

 

So you won’t mind at all if Zoom changes their marketing material to boldly state across all of their advertising for the Zoom H4n that “IT HAS TIMECODE!”... ??

 


To „not particularly care“ and and not „mind at all“ are two very different things. I would mind, and I have minded when I found out that Zoom call the H4n „the gold standard in portable recording“. It’s a blatant lie, they themselves sell better products. Sure, where actual features are concerned it’s more upsetting, but we‘ve also seen our favourite manufacturers do it with other features which never happened, so why should I care more here than in any other instance? Especially when this lack of a feature is so easily replaced. 
But - is this discussion about helping the OP or is it about my indifference toward a TC feature? 

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