July 11, 2017

Watch: How to Hack Your Shotgun Mic So You Can Go 'Wireless'

Here's an interesting hack for those who want more options for recording sound on location.

Back in February we shared a video by Knoptop showing you how to utilize a wireless transmitter to create an untethered boom mic setup with fewer wires. Though it had its kinks and limitations, it was an interesting idea to us mainly because it allowed you to record audio straight to your camera without having to be hooked up to it. Inspired by Knoptop's hack, the team over at The Film Look decided to take it a step further to see if it would work with a bigger microphone that uses an XLR. Find out how they pulled it off in the video below:

The Film Look's solution is relatively simple. First, in order to use a "big" boom mic that requires a substantial amount of power you're going to need a preamp that can handle it. This is where the Saramonic SmartRig comes in. Second, to record sync audio to your camera without any wires, a wireless transmitter comes in handy (The Film Look uses a RØDELink). Bam! You've got a "wireless" boom mic. (Totally not wireless—maybe a better term would be "untethered.")

Again, both Knoptop's and The Film Look's hacks have their limitations. Being a huge fan of inexpensive handheld recorders, like Zoom's H6, H5, and of course the classic H4n, I was wondering why it'd be such a big deal to use one to record audio. For less than $400, you could untether yourself from your camera, control your levels, and use high-quality external XLR microphones. However, this doesn't solve the problem of having to sync sound in post, which can be an extremely challenging and time consuming process.

Another issue, though, is that monitoring sound will have to be done by the camera operator, and you know they ain't got time fuh dat. Unless you're one-man-banding it and hired a buddy that knows nothing about sound to be your boom operator, this could be an issue that may keep you from trying this hack. However, I one-woman-band my smaller projects all the time and a setup like this might make my life a little easier. 

So, once again I found myself intrigued by the idea—I hesitated first with Knoptop, a second time with The Film Look, and even a third time as I got halfway through this article. But look, some of the greatest things we can offer each other as a filmmaking community are options. Some of these options may not be the best for your specific project your your own personal needs, but they might be a lifesaver for others.       

Your Comment

3 Comments

The Saramonic has a headphone socket, so while it wouldn't monitor sound *as received by the camera*, presumably the boom operator could do a master cross-check between boom and camera for levels and quality at the start of a shot. After that they'd still be flying blind, so to speak, but at least they'd be able to monitor what they were picking up. One advantage of the Rodelink for this is that the Receiver unit read-out shows if the connection drops out and Transmitter battery life (not easy to see at a great distance, though).

July 13, 2017 at 5:19AM, Edited July 13, 5:57AM

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Rob Cole-Hamilton
Filmmaker
93

It's a bad idea for the boom operator not to monitor what he is recording. Now you've got a camera operator who needs to focus on camera and audio, and a boom operator who can't know for sure how he's doing. Recipe for disaster if you ask me. It's better to just plug the mic to an external recorder and just sync it later manually of by way of plural eyes or something. If you want freedom of movement with the boom you can still do that wirelessly and use a shorter XRL cable to make it less cumbersome. My two cents.

July 13, 2017 at 1:46PM

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Andrés
82

I realize that this site is about DIY and cheap solutions for narrative filmmaking, but this wireless boom was solved quite awhile ago. I use a Lectrosonics HM and the sound quality is indistinguishable to a wired mic. I will often go wireless as a one man band recordist either to make set-up quicker or so I can set down the boom. I tend to send the signal straight to my/mixer recorder and then send that signal out via a wireless camera hop, but the whole system is trustworthy. I've seen wireless booms used on a number of hollywood financed films. The boom op has an audio feed to hear what they are doing, though. I mean, this all takes money, but it is pretty simple.

July 17, 2017 at 12:31PM

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Casey Preston
Videographer
182