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PapaJohn
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PapaJohn's Newsletter #104

A Shotgun Microphone


Wind noise has always been an issue with the built-in microphones on my camcorders, but only when it's windy... like when I visit Chicago. I've adapted by avoiding wind or editing out the audio segments.

I've read about problems with the internal mic picking up camcorder mechanical noises, but I've never noticed them. My Hi8 and mini-DV camcorders are both high-end consumer models, so maybe they have better microphone systems than the average model.

With the outdoor Renaissance wedding coming up, I figured it would be a good time to spring for a new item in my video kit, an external mic which is supposed to be able to eliminate such issues. On the recommendation of a 'professional' videographer, I opted for a Sennheiser MKE300... a $180 investment from B&H.

Rather than wait for the wedding to test it, I thought it would make a good subject for this newsletter. The mic is supposed to eliminate wind and internal camcorder noises, and be directional to focus on the sound of most interest. 

... before getting into it further, here's a couple short notes...


Notes...

I started a 5 page article/tutorial about Photo Story 3 for MaximumPC magazine... busy writing some more.

Vista Corner... I reinstalled the earlier build 5365 to get the 'glass effects' to function again... and to see if my choice of reformatting the hard drive when moving on to build 5381 was the wrong one. It's running fine again, which points to my system not being sufficient to handle the added demands of the latest 5381 build.

Follow-up note about my first for-sale video on Google Video... submitted on May 3... the current status is still "Video is verified; stay tuned - it will be live shortly".

The website for the Renaissance Wedding is a new page in the Living Projects section of the website. Here's the direct link that Chris and Ash use and pass around to family and friends.

Chris-Ash

It's ready for the wedding videos... which I'll be adding one at a time as soon as I have the footage.

.... back to the main topic...


Shotgun Mic... first round testing

I've never had to think much about the camcorder's audio... just shoot what I wanted, capture it to Movie Maker, and edit. If there was wind noise, chop that part out and use the rest. That's kind of how I approached this first round of testing.

Here's the test arrangement...

  • Setup the tripod in the treadmill part of the basement
  • Turn the TV on and play a Tivo saved segment of 24... restarting it for each part of the test
  • Place an indoor fan on a chair so it's blowing on the side of the camcorder/mic when the camcorder is aimed at the TV
  • Rotate the camcorder as it records, so it goes fully around from TV back to TV...
  • Move a piece of cardboard in and out of the space between the fan and the camcorder, so the wind goes up and down like the gusts outdoors

The test is meant to check two things: the effects of wind noise, and how directional the shotgun mic is... how does the captured sound fall off as it rotates from the subject to the opposite point?

These video snippets are the results of this first round of tests:

the camcorder using the built-in mic.

using the shotgun mic.

The wind noise seems resolved by the mic... but there are some noises I'm hearing with the new mic that I didn't like... or maybe it's just that the mono sounds different than the stereo. I grew up thinking stereo was better than mono.

I slept on the subject as I thought about more tests...


Earbuds... to listen closer

I'd read about the need to listen to the audio coming into the camcorder as you shoot... again something I never had to do using only an internal mic that was always in the 'on' mode.

It can be pretty catastrophic to assume the mic is functioning when its not...  I read one account of someone shooting a wedding ceremony without realizing the audio wasn't being captured. He thought a flickering LCD light was sufficient, but it wasn't. It can happen if you plug the shotgun mic in but forget to turn it on... or if the battery is shot... or a connection isn't good.

Maybe the better reason is to simply know what sound is being captured, as it's much more directional than the internal mic, it's mono, and it's different than what your ears are usually hearing.

I plugged in a pair of earbuds and found immediately that I could hear sound in my right ear but not the left. The earbuds had a stereo plug, and the microphone port on the camcorder was stereo... I had assumed the mono input would be fed to both channels.

By moving the plug for the earbuds in and out of the camcorder port, it showed that both left and right played at certain points, but only the right played at others. I added a stereo to mono adapter... and with it fully inserted, I heard in both ears. That completed the hardware setup.


Audio Noise... one of the things you hear when you listen closer

My next test was simply sitting at my desk and listening to the sounds coming into the earbuds when the camcorder was in the recording mode and the only deliberate noise in the room was music from my stereo system....

First some Willie Nelson, followed by Beethoven. The Willie Nelson was more telling as there's total silence between words or guitar strums... I was hearing some low level audio hiss during the silence. It was the kind of hiss that is sometimes from speakers when the volume is pumped up too high... a maybe a low-level grounding issue.

I couldn't think of a way for me to ground the camcorder/mic system or do anything more to connect/align the two devices... the mic's mounting hardware is all plastic, so that couldn't be the issue.

It turned out the camcorder has a volume control, and the hiss was there because it was set to the max... a feature I'd never paid attention to as I wasn't as involved in listening during shooting. It sounded better when it was set about half way between the minimum and maximum.


Video WindOutdoor Testing... the Wind

Some wind came up, and this time it was good wind, when I wanted to go outside and capture the audio with the new mic.

Click the image or this link to hear how it sounded with the earbuds...

Capturing the Wind

Instead of running from the wind, the new mic let me face it and capture the sound of the rustling leaves, not ugly sound artifacts of wind on a mic...


Capturing the Camcorder Files

As I'm writing this, a newsgroup post gave me another dimension of the sound to think about. Someone posted that MM2 was reporting different properties of his captured video than VirtualDub and Premiere... the poster said Movie Maker 2 always reports the wrong audio sample rate for files captured with it, reporting a 32 khz sample rate when VirtualDub and Premiere report 48 khz for the same file.

My camcorder manual says that audio is recorded as PCM system (uncompressed) 48 kHz stereo when in 16 bit mode (2 channels, 1 stereo track), and 32 kHz when in 12 bit mode (4 channels, 2 stereo tracks). As I always use 16 bit, I did some checking and responded to the post.

I captured the same footage 4 times, using WinDV to get both type I and II DV-AVI files, Movie Maker 2 to capture it as a type I, and Movie Maker 1 to capture it as a type II.

The audio properties reported by MM2, VirtualDub and Premiere aligned... each said it was 2 Channel Stereo, a Sample Precision of 16 bits, and PCM Compression (Uncompressed)... but there are differences in bit and sample rates between the two file types.

captured by WinDVWinDV Capturing

type I
Bit Rate - 1024 kbps
Sample Rate - 32 kHz

type II
Bit Rate - 1536 kbps
Sample Rate - 48 kHz

captured by MM2

type I

Bit Rate - 1024 kbps
Sample Rate - 32 kHz

captured by MM1

type II
Bit Rate - 1536 kbps
Sample Rate - 48 kHz

I prefer aligning settings when moving from one hardware item to another, or between software apps. As my normal camcorder recording mode is 48 kHz, I'm going to make it my standard practice to capture as DV-AVI type II, using WinDV. Besides being able to capture the video as either type I or II, WinDV reports any dropped frames.

I've been running into more audio artifact issues lately than I used to... or I'm getting better at hearing them. Standardizing on capturing as type II DV-AVI files may help me understand it more.

This completes my tests of the new mic... and takes me a step closer to understanding the audio aspects of the camcorder and the files captured from it.


Conclusions and Closing

The new mic is a keeper. After the first round of indoor tests, I was seriously mulling over returning it for a different one or continuing without it. But the outdoor tests with the earbuds listening to what was being captured added a whole new dimension to my video-taking experience. It's no longer one of seeing the video in the viewfinder or on the LCD screen and letting the audio be whatever it is. The earbuds suck you into the audio environment, probably the same way an MP3 player or iPod immerse people into listening to their tunes as they move about.

You don't need an external mic to start using earbuds... borrow them from your portable audio player and give them a try, with whatever mic you have.

When you're not using the shotgun mic, it should be unplugged, turned off, and taken off the camcorder... the info with the mic says the replaceable LR44 battery should be removed if the mic isn't being used constantly. A battery should last for about 200 hours.... and I picked up 2 spares last night for $1.19 each.

It's easier to shoot without the new mic. Shooting with it makes it more of a planned activity... but that's what happens as you take a step from a home video shooter to a videographer.

Our daughter-in-law and grands' annual dance recital is this weekend, so the new mic will get some testing there. The directional aspect of it should help focus the audio on the stage and reduce ambient audience sounds.

And then the big event for the new mic will be a week later, videoing the Renaissance wedding.


I look forward to comments and discussion about this and other newsletters on the forums at:

Windows Movie Makers.net

Have a great week...

PapaJohn

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org
Photo Story 2 - www.photostory.papajohn.org


Products and Services

I'm involved in many things that support users of Movie Maker and Photo Story, and adding more regularly. Some are free and others reasonably priced.


Radio and Podcasting

theDVShowTheDVShow is the only weekly Podcast having more useful information about desktop video editing and production than anywhere else on the Web. Digital video editing, nonlinear editing, streaming media, software releases, tutorials, business tips, technical help, download of the day and news on the latest products to make everything easier. It's where professional and consumer desktop video users go to stay on the cutting edge.

Call the phone mail machine to get your technical question answered on the air... call (206)-203-3516

The radio broadcast is from Boston, and the website has downloadable podcast files. The June 19th 2005 podcast was the first 'bi-weekly' show with a segment about Movie Maker 2.


Do Amazing ThingsBooks and Magazines

Movie Maker 2 - Do Amazing Things (with its online companion on www.papajohn.org), published by Microsoft Press...

Movie Maker 2 - Zero to Hero - with support on the publisher's forum - Friends of Ed

MaximumPC's winter 2005 quarterly special... had a 7 page tutorial 'Make a Killer Home Movie with Maker 2'. The special edition of the video made for it is now on my website as a file download.

The November 2005 edition of Maximum PC had a well done reworked 6 page reprint of the same article, starting on page 42 after the Happy 20th Birthday article for Windows.

I'm now writing a 5 page article about Photo Story 3 for an upcoming issue.

Virtual DubLearning VirtualDub - published by Packt Publishing in April 2005, is the first book about VirtualDub software. I wrote the introductory chapter about downloading and setting up the software: VirtualDub, VDubMod and AVISynth.


Websites

Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 3 - www.papajohn.org - the site's 3 goals are: Doing Amazing Things, a detailed tutorial for PhotoStory 3, and helping you solve Movie Maker 2 problems.

PhotoStory 2 - www.papajohn.org/photostory2/PS2.html - a detailed tutorial about using the earlier version.


Online Support - Forums and Newsgroups

I'm a regular on many online forums and newsgroups, the key ones being:

Forums are open to all for viewing, but require registration of those who want to post. Moderators actively participate to ensure the forum discussions move forward and stay on track.

Movie Maker and Photo Story forums at Windows Movie Makers

Movie Maker 2 forum at SimplyDV.com

Newsgroups are wide open for all to view and post... moderation is collective by the participants.

Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup - microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker

Photo Story 2 newsgroup - microsoft.public.plus

Photo Story 3 newsgroup - microsoft.public.windowsxp.photos


Weekly Newsletters

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story newsletter. The annual subscription is $20 and the link to subscribe is on the main page of my Movie Maker website at:

www.papajohn.org

Topics for upcoming newsletters (always subject to change):

#105 - May 27 - MyDVD version 8

#106 - June 3 - open

#107 - June 10 - open

Newsletters issued more than 6 weeks ago are posted by Rob Morris to an Archive Site on his Windows Movie Makers' website. Links from my website pages to specific newsletters make it easier for viewers to see the content of both while browsing a topic.

Drop an email to suggest a newsletter topic... I can use more requests rather than fewer.


Software

Add-On Transitions and Effects

Transition Maker 2 (TM2) is a utility for the ultimate in making your own personal and custom transitions for Movie Maker 2. It's a joint product from Patrick Leabo, the programmer, and myself.

I've beta tested some of the Pixelan packages and think very highly of their people and products.

 

 

ProDAD's Adorage packages for Movie Maker 2 are  additional sources of very professionally developed transitions and effects. And here are the links

TransiitonsEffectsPackage for Movie Maker - Volume 1

PapaJohn's Transitions - Volume 2

PapaJohn's Video Effects - Volume 3


Personal Database

With more info to manage, consider additional tools that help.

My personal database has been an ongoing project over many years, and is now available to others. A tutorial about using it is on the Managing > Personal Database page of my site, and more info is in the database package itself.

It's free for the asking to regular newsletter subscribers... send an email request and I'll return it with the zipped file, which is less than 1 MB.

To others it's $10. To order, use the button on the top of the Managing > Personal Database page.


Online GalleryNeptune Gallery

An online gallery that fully aligns with the main priority of the website is the 'PapaJohn Expert Zone' at neptune.

Check it at Neptune and the Distributing > Neptune page of the website, where there's a developing tutorial about how to use the service.


Training

in conjunction with the Portage, Michigan library, I offer two free training sessions about Movie Maker and Photo Story, an intro session and a workshop. Scheduled sessions are:

Monday - June 5 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop

Monday - July 10 - 7-8:30 pm - Intro to Movie Maker and Photo Story

Monday - August 7 - 7-8:30 pm - Workshop

The classroom has a large screen overhead projection system... and individual laptops for each attendee to use. You learn by doing, with a little guidance from me.


Other fee-based services

If you can't save a movie because your project has become too complex, e-mail a copy and I'll divide it into manageable sub-projects, and provide detailed instructions about how to render the parts and assemble them into your final movie. $49.95 (no cost if it's not the right solution or doesn't work) - for details, see the sidebar on the Problem Solving > Can't Save a Movie page of www.papajohn.org

Movie Maker 2/Photo Story training and support services start at $75 per hour - send an email - PapaJohn@CharterMi.net and I'll help you determine your needs, and work with you to plan and implement them.

Wedding combo website/video packages - check the bottom branch of the Movie Maker 2 website for a sample of what you can expect for the online portion of the package.


© 2006 - PapaJohn

Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

 

About John 'PapaJohn' Buechler from Microsoft.com
John 'PapaJohn' Buechler John "PapaJohn" Buechler, of Kalamazoo, Mich., goes by PapaJohn online. An avid user of Movie Maker since its first release, and a regular supporter of the community of Movie Maker users, John received a 2003 MVP award from Microsoft for that support. In March 2003, he started a comprehensive website about Movie Maker 2 at www.PapaJohn.org. He maintains the website, writes books and articles, teaches, and provides support services - all for the community of Movie Maker 2 users. An engineer by formal education, John is a computer database and multimedia expert by business and personal experience. He co-authored the first book about Movie Maker 2 and is actively working on a second one. You can find his advice in the Windows XP Movie Maker newsgroup and in the Windows Movie Makers Forums.

This newsletter is republished with permission of John "PapaJohn" Buechler.
Please note that this is an archive of newsletters and some information may become outdated. PapaJohn, and the webmaster of this site, provides this information "AS IS" with no warranties.

Visit - PapaJohn's Movie Maker 2 and Photo Story 2 Newsletter Index

 

 

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Microsoft is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.