Tips and Tricks for the 5D MKII – PART II – Audio

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One of the most common questions that I get relates to audio and the Canon 5D MKII.   My first recommendation is always to record your audio independently – i.e. with a separate device.   This gives you much greater freedom with your edit when you have a continuous sound recording – and are now free to cut between shots even if they weren’t sequential.  If you want to shoot stills and video – an independent audio recording device allows you to cut between stills and video – shot with the same camera.  

 I’ve tested the Sennheiser mics – and to be honest I’ve found the audio to be marginal – both for their hotshoe mic, as well as their shotgun mic – especially when you compare those two devices from Rode.   Sennheiser has become the de facto mic for most multimedia journalists out there – often coupled with a Marantz devices.   I’d like to suggest a new route – after some research, help from others and a few side by side tests – the Rode mics seem to excel relative to the Sennheisers – especially in the lower tones.  It’s definitely the best bang for the buck that I’ve found.  (You can ALWAYS find something better for more $$$ – this is true of everything I mention below.)

So I’d recommend you look into three solutions:

The Rode Video Mic – you can hook it onto your hotshoe and plug it right into the 5D MKII’s input – and it has great sound isolation through its integrated shock mount.  (Use this in video only – when you go to shoot stills… it blocks the eyepiece)  and it doesn’t interfere with a 16mm lens (i.e. get in the shot.) And it’s self-powered by a 9V.

The Rode NTG-2 Shotgun Mic – excellent audio from this shotgun mic – great for interviews and good for ambient sound.  

And finally the Fostex FR-2LE Field Recorder – it seems to have much cleaner audio then the Marantz.   At the Eddie Adams workshop – we put these units head to head (Marantz w/ Sennheiser vs the Rode w/ Fostex – and there was no comparison – the later won hands down.)

And not to be totally down on the Sennheiser brand – if you’re looking for a great lav mic kit – I’ve been using the Sennheiser  ew100ENGG2 Kit – with the wireless adapter for my Rode shotgun mic as well.

Oh and one more thing – if you really want control – check out the Beachtek DXA-2s – this allows you to actually control the level of the audio coming in from your mic – given that the 5D MKII doesn’t allow you to adjust the level of the incoming audio.

Audio is likely one of the most overlooked parts of film – especially by photographers.   I’d recommend you put some time into it – put the camera down and walk around with a good mic or two – and a good field recorder and headphones and really start to study sound.   You’ll have a blast.

Last tip:   use a splitter if you’ve only got one mic – (the Shotgun Mics record in mono) and plug the same mic into both the Left and Right inputs with the splitter – set the Left input’s adjustment control up a bit, to pic up the quieter sounds, and the Righ input’s adjustment down a bit – to make sure you don’t blow out unexpected loud sounds… nice and simple trick – that can easily save the day.