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Shoot Expertise: Camera Mics

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Barry Braverman

Sound advice for shooters.


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The Lectrosonics SR is the first slot-load receiver with performance and quality comparable to the best externally mounted units. Its unobtrusive presence and negligible weight makes this model the ultimate wireless receiver for the itinerant shooter.

The Lectrosonics SR is the first slot-load receiver with performance and quality comparable to the best externally mounted units. Its unobtrusive presence and negligible weight makes this model the ultimate wireless receiver for the itinerant shooter.

Going wireless

Every shooter, regardless of niche, could benefit at some point from a wireless mic or two in their travel package, and so in this context, the new Lectrosonics SR (Slot Receiver) is the ideal solution, adding little additional weight and bulk. I like that when it comes to sound stuff on my rig. No Velcro. No wires. No mess.

Slot-loading receivers have been around for a few years, but they've always been plagued by compromises; their smaller sizes disallow sufficiently sophisticated electronics that would enable professional high-end performance. With the introduction of the Lectrosonics SR, this is no longer the case.

The Lectrosonics SR receiver is smaller than the company's top-end UCR411A and ubiquitous UCR401 receivers. The SR provides better performance overall than the UCR401 — especially on the radio side, with less noise and better physical range. The 411A, with its superior filtering system, is still the best choice for top-tier pro users operating in environments with a lot of RF interference, which is typically found in city centers.

For me, the big attraction of the Lectrosonics SR is its simplicity and overall transparency. Its dual-channel capability supports two discrete inputs — a key consideration when you're working with more than one talent, as is often the case with a reporter and subject. Attach a sidemount receiver in addition to the SR, and four independent inputs is now a real and practical possibility.

The SR's dual channels can also be linked to a single frequency for increased range and robustness of signal. Lectrosonics True Diversity technology automatically selects the cleaner of the two inputs. I like this notion of a second channel to ensure a clean signal. As a shooter, I understand the critical importance of audio quality, but I do have other things on my mind. Usually.

When compared to some lower-cost alternatives, the SR (with a street price of $1,800) is by no means cheap. On the other hand, we must recognize this is a dual-channel receiver with two discrete inputs. This effectively doubles the efficacy and functionality of the unit.

In general, I'm not a fan of many inexpensive wireless systems, because they typically sacrifice robustness through the use of plastic parts that are prone to breakage. The sound quality in cheaper units is also suspect — they suffer from a much higher noise floor and they're more prone to interference. The analog technology used in lower-cost units can also contribute to their inferior performance, although this might also be attributed (in part) to poorer design and wider tolerances. By contrast, in every respect, the Lectrosonics SR is indistinguishable in quality from a hard-wired mic.

Lavalier mics from a variety of suppliers may be used with the Lectrosonics system, including the Sennheiser MKE2 and the Sanken COS-11, with the appropriate connector. Conclusion

As shooters' responsibilities have expanded to embrace the role of audio recordist, so has our interest in capturing the highest-quality sound in the most unobtrusive way possible. We all understand how the on-camera short shotgun is imperative in this regard. But so should be a wireless slot receiver — especially now that many newer camcorders are configured to accept one. In these changing times, we shooters will keep our well-trained eye more and more on the audio meters.


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Soundman Frank Nolan adjusts the angle of the Sennheiser MKH416 for a recent documentary on the Bottle Rocket Criterion Collection DVD.

Soundman Frank Nolan adjusts the angle of the Sennheiser MKH416 for a recent documentary on the Bottle Rocket Criterion Collection DVD.

Sennheiser MKH416

There aren't too many things in life like it: a loyal friend who never lets you down and performs for you no matter what — through thick and thin, heat and cold. You can bang it around inside a gyrating Huey one minute or subject it to a riot water cannon the next. At National Geographic, where I hung my battery belt through the 1980s and 1990s, the 416 was standard issue to the Society's battle-hardened road warriors, joining my Arriflex camera, Nagra recorder, and Sachtler tripod. Twenty-eight years later, that same 416 is still a member of my closest family. And each time I board a plane to fly off to the Yukon or the Amazon, I check for three essential things: my passport, my AMEX card — and my Sennheiser 416.

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