SENNHEISER MKE 600
Q We have a team of five camera operators who will be shooting alone, doing man-on-the-street interviews using DSLRs and low-end digital camcorders. What's the best solution for camera-mounted microphones? We need good quality, and the cameras (and, therefore, the microphones) will be within a foot or two of the subjects.
I'm glad you included the fact that having the microphone located close to the subject is essential to obtaining decent-quality usable sound. While using a boom pole is optimal and allows you to locate the microphone close to the talent, at times, you can get away with camera-mounting a microphone if you can stand close to the subject. Camera-mounted microphones need to be designed to be used in that way, though they must be nearly immune to handling noise, or every time the camera operator zooms, focuses or adjusts the camera controls, that handling noise is transmitted to the microphone. Assuming that your camera operators won't have a lot of time to rig lavalier microphones onto the subjects, it would seem that a good-quality, small, on-camera microphone would be in order.
One challenge of mounting a small, high-quality microphone on a camera is that the better microphones are designed for use with a boom pole and microphone mount. Another challenge is that better microphones are usually phantom-powered, and most DSLRs and consumer-type cameras aren't set up to accept XLR cables and output 24v or 48v phantom power through the XLR output.
Sennheiser has recently introduced a new microphone specifically geared toward situations like the one in which your camera operators are shooting. The MKE 600 is Sennheiser's lowest-cost XLR microphone, and the big deal about it is that it's small and light and can be powered with phantom power or via a standard AA battery, perfect for running the microphone into the types of cameras your operators will be shooting with. Sennheiser includes a foam windshield and a shock mount and carrying case. The shock mount is designed to be inserted into the common lighting shoe mount that most DSLRs and lower-end camcorders have. Sennheiser is also offering the optional MZH 600 windscreen, a combined foam windshield and fur cover that reduces wind noise more effectively than the included foam windshield. It's interesting that accessories that used to be rather exotic and expensive on their own like fur-covered windscreens are now available from the manufacturer of the microphone for just a few dollars more.
Other companies provide similar solutions for the consumer camera/DSLR user, but few competitors have the depth and breadth in their product line and the reputation that Sennheiser has. Typically, Sennheiser microphones are considered among the best location sound microphones in the world, so the MKE 600 should sound pretty good. Unfortunately, this microphone was just announced at press time, so I haven't tested it yet, but I'd suggest making a trip to an audio retailer so you can see and hear it for yourself to determine if it suits your needs. Visit the Sennheiser website at www.sennheiserusa.com.
16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: None of the manufacturers of the hardware mentioned in this article compensated me to write this article, nor did they send me a review unit to try out the hardware. No material connection exists between the manufacturers mentioned in the article and myself.
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