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Audio Equioment for Outdoor Filming: Complicated


brightnight
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I’m looking for advice on audio equipment.

 Application: I’m filming wildlife with a motion triggered Panasonic GH5 camera. Basically I leave the camera in the woods and whenever something moves it starts recording. Then I come back in a few weeks to check the batteries and exchange memory cards. I’ll be recording video for a wildlife documentary and want my audio to be the same quality as my video.

The camera will be housed in a waterproof plastic case and I can bring a mic cable out of the case and run it a few feet from the camera. There are many ways to tackle this and I'm not sure what the best one is. I could place a wire mic outside the case and shield it from rain with a small roof, but I’m no sure how this will impact the sound. I’m an engineer and could modify an external recorder to turn on and start recording sound when the camera starts recording but I don’t know how I would sync the sound up later. I could use a mic with phantom power and have a circuit that only turns the phantom power on when the camera is going to record, or I could also do some type of waterproof mic but I’m guessing my quality would suffer. I can’t leave the power on all the time because everything is on batteries but I can modify something to power on when I need to. Wireless mics would use too much energy. I also expect my subjects (wildlife) to be 3-10ft away from the camera.

Any advice appreciated!

 

 

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I think by far the easiest way to do this is to record sound directly to the camera. Use an external mic which you can place outside the camera box. But this is extremely easy, although perhaps not the best possible quality. 
 

Alternatively, the only other option I can come up with would be to use a Sound Devices 788 or 744. they have the option to switch on when external power is supplied and start recording immediately. I‘m not very familiar with all the options of the GH5. Does it have a power out? If this only works when the camera is on you could feed the output to the recorder. Or somehow integrate it with you motion sensor. This would still be a fairly simple option and for the moment all I can come up with. 
 

Regarding rain protection: don’t use a roof, it sound bad. Also, use hog‘s hair or similar to reduce the noise of rain hitting your camera box. 
Use a Sennheiser MKH series mic, they are virtually waterproof. Put it in a good wind protection rig and get or build something like the Remote Audio Rainman. Angle the rig at a slight downward angle, so the water can pour out. Again, place some hog‘s hair on the ground where the water would land to dampen the sound

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Thumbs up to Constantin's post. You may also want to reach out to some nature sound recording groups and forums. I'd imagine those people have sussed out all these issues. Here's one group, though I don't know if it's the best or leading group. Check out their resources page. https://www.wildlife-sound.org

 

And if you poke around the internet, you can probably find more info on how the filmmakers behind The Cove configured their unattended sound recorders. It's a great documentary. They happened to use Sound Devices recorders, basically placed in waterproof cases (as in Pelican cases), with batteries, standard mics, etc. IIRC there are pictures of the setup floating around, and again IIRC there's pictures of the setup in the film. Here's the text version of the press release: https://www.sounddevices.com/recorders-used-for-oscar-winning-documentary/

 

 

 

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You might first consider adding one of the external mic preamps made for DSLRs to your rig (Tascam etc), that will make your camera tracks sound about as good as they can.  There is no reason why you couldn't record TC from an SD recorder of the type mentioned onto the audio track of the DSLR, and sync up in post that way.  For the mic, do you want stereo?  The general feeling among location sound people is that mics like the Sennheiser 416 (mono) are the best bet vs. moisture and humidity, even if they might not like their sound all that much.  A standard zeppelin with hog's hair over the usual wind-rat might be a start, or a mod of Remote Audio's "Rainman" that protects the front of the zeppelin as well.

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I've used the Rainman in hurricanes and it fills up with water fast.  The only way to get it out was to take it off and just sling the water out of it.  Maybe a combination of hog's hair and the Rainman could do the trick or a roof with hog's hair.  Experimentation is the order of the day.  The 416 or 816 would be a good choice as I have seen a 416 that went under water work great the next day.  Fresh water of course.  

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2 hours ago, bilagaana said:

I've used the Rainman in hurricanes and it fills up with water fast.  


It may not be hurricane proof, but I‘ve had great success with it in heavy rains, including artificial downpours. It’s important to angle it down a bit, though, as that is where the water escapes 

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Some recorders have an 'Auto-record' function where they start to record when an input reaches a user defined level. iirc Tascam DR-680 and the later mark 2 (which also can also record safety tracks). You could even use the audio O/P from the camera to trigger record on the Tascam (so you don't have lots of audio without picture).

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Use a MicPre3 (or a MixPre6) from Sound Devices, I recommend the Gen2 so you can do 32bit as they'll be unattended. 

Send out the HDMI from the GH5 to the MixPre, this will trigger the recording on the MixPre every time the GH5 starts! And the timecode on both will exactly match. Double win!

Then use some good robust workhorse mics, such as: the classic Sennheiser 416, or the Rode NTG3 clone, or if on a tight budget the cheapie Deity S Mic 2. 

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