Master Guide to Rigging a Nikon D800 or D800E (Part 8)

In this part I’ll cover audio gear, recorders, microphones, headphones, cables and mixers for the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E.

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The Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E has an in-built mono microphone and mono speaker – both of which are perfect for unimportant home movies.

The Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E also has two 3.5mm stereo jacks – one for audio monitoring and the other to connect to an external microphone. Internally, the Nikon D800 and Nikon D800E records supposedly uncompressed Linear PCM 16-bit sampled at 48Khz stereo (2 channels). This is a bit rate of 1577 kbps, approximately. I’ll call this mode level one, which is a very respectable recording format in theory, except in practice its quality leaves a lot to be desired.

An external audio recorder would be level two. What’s so special about an external audio recorder? It records at a better format, uncompressed, has more microphone and preamp options, etc. This method is great for corporate videos, weddings, short films, etc that require great audio quality but don’t have complicated audio production workflows or delivery formats.

Level three is recording audio separately, with no relation to the camera. This is the only way to get the best audio quality – perfect for broadcast and feature film work. Your hands aren’t tied here, and this setup gives as much creative freedom to a sound recordist as the camera does to a DP. If I had a choice, I’d always choose level three.

LEVEL ONE

If you’re stuck for cash or don’t care much for audio, you’ll be happy with level one. To get the best out of this range try this microphone:

Nikon ME-1 Stereo Microphone

With a Micover Slipover Windscreen for Nikon ME-1 for better noise control:

For audio monitoring, this should do:

Sennheiser HD 580 Dynamic HiFi Professional Headphone

The camera has internal levels control (primitive, and not variable while recording) for recording while in live view and also for monitoring.

LEVEL TWO

Audio tends to get better the longer you stay in analog mode. That includes using microphones with XLR outputs – which means using recorders with XLR inputs and special controls.

Recorder, Preamp and basic Mixer
This little baby is all rolled into one, and is my choice:

Zoom H4n Handy Portable Digital Recorder

Microphones

You can go two ways here: shotgun and lavalier. I prefer shotguns for their excellent sound quality. For corporate work, interviews, etc., where capturing room tone isn’t a big deal, and heavy mixing isn’t expected, lavaliers are perfect. Shotguns have one disadvantage – you need a boom operator to really take advantage of it. Not many productions can afford an extra person for that purpose alone.

My favorite shotgun microphone, the one I own and use, is:

Sennheiser ME66 Professional Shotgun Microphone with K6 Dual Powerd Module

Obviously, you’ll need a microphone cage, holder, windjammer and boom pole:

K-Tek Zeppelin Microphone Wind Protection System


If going lavalier, try to go wireless. My choice is:

Sennheiser EW 100-ENG G2 Wireless Lavalier Microphone System

XLR cables

Use only the best quality, and choose your length wisely based on your requirements:

K-Tek 1.5′ to 9′ XLR Male to XLR Female

Adapters

If you plan on using your recorder only as a preamp, or you run out of batteries and want to record directly to the camera, you’ll need XLR to 3.5mm adapters:

XLR Jack to Stereo 3.5mm Mini Plug Audio Cable 6ft

I recommend the same headphones as in level one.

LEVEL THREE

One could argue that level two is recording independently of camera. But level three is something else. This is to audio what camera and lenses are to video. This is you telling your audio guy that you trust and want his creative juices, and you are willing to let him take total control.

This is what I would recommend for such a shoot:

Slate/Clapper
Now you know you’re in the big leagues.

Campro Professional Acrylic Production Slate

Recorder

This is the audio engineer’s camera, so to speak. Only the best will do. This will give you four track recording:

Sound Devices 744T Recorder

A portable backup:

Marantz PMD661 Portable SD Recorder

Mixer

To make use of four track recording, you’ll need a mixer that is up to the task:

Sound Devices 552 Production Mixer

Microphones

Shotgun, the reigning world champion:

Sennheiser MKH60P48 Wired Super-Cardioid Short Shotgun Condenser Microphone

Don’t forget to add the K-tek boom kit listed in level three. These are a perfect match!

Wireless Lavalier (You might need at least 2 or 3 kits):

Sennheiser G3 Wireless System

Headphones

Sennheiser HD800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Premiere Headphone

Racks/Carts

See, by the time you rig your audio gear, you’ll need a cart. You can set it up with rack mounted units, like those used in servers, or any other way you like.

HD Mixer & Audio Transportation & Storage Rack

This is what a full production audio cart might look like (Mark LeBlanc’s setup, click here for his gear list and to contact him):

You know your audio is on par with your camera gear when they weigh the same!

That’s all for audio. In Part 9 I’ll cover flash gear and wireless transmitters.


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