Q I’m shooting a long-term documentary in Angola with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Since I’m working alone, a boom mic is out of the question. What do you recommend to obtain decent sound from a moving subject? I’m shooting interviews with several people, but my main subject is a doctor, and I need to follow him as he makes house calls to several tribes in different regions of the country. I’m hoping to pick up his conversations with his patients.
A I think a wireless microphone system is going to be the solution for your challenge. I’m not a big fan of wireless microphone systems and only use them when I must and there’s no other way to capture the audio I need. All wireless systems, regardless of cost, never sound as good or as consistent as a $40 XLR cable. That said, there are obviously some situations where a wireless system is the only way to make a situation work, and your scenario seems to be one of those situations.
Wireless microphone systems tend to fall within three distinct categories. The first is professional, high-end wireless systems like those from Lectrosonics and Zaxcom. While there’s some price variance within each company’s product lineup, in general, figure about $3,000 and up for a single, high-end wireless system. Since you’re shooting with a low-cost DSLR, I’ll make the assumption that you may not want to or be able to spend that much money to buy a wireless system.
The next tier down is inhabited by popular systems from Audio-Technica and Sennheiser. These are generally the lowest-end wireless systems to be considered pro quality and normally run about $700 per channel, not including a high-quality lavalier mic, which runs another $200 to $400 on top of that.
Below this threshold, generally wireless microphones aren’t considered good enough-sounding, reliable and robust enough for professional work; wireless systems at this level sound adequate at best.
At NAB 2012, Shure introduced a new wireless microphone system, the FP Wireless series. It consists of the FP5 receiver and three different transmitters: the FP1, a body-pack system; the FP2, a handheld microphone system; and the FP3, a plug-on transmitter that works with virtually any Shure XLR dynamic microphone and battery-powered condenser mic. In your case, since you’re recording the dialogue between a doctor and his patients, I’d recommend the body-pack system with a lavalier microphone, the FP1.
Shure sent me an FP1/FP5 system to evaluate recently, and for the money, I would say that the system legitimizes another strata in the wireless microphone market. The FP Wireless system retails for a few hundred dollars less than the competing systems from Audio-Technica and Sennheiser, but it’s in the same general vicinity as far as performance. So how does it stack up against the competitors as far as features, performance and value? Lack of space prevents me from expounding in great detail, but here are the high points.