Mic Camera & Audio Test – Zi8, Zoom H2, Lavalier & ATR-55, ATR-6550,

mono to stereo plug adapter

People ask me about the mics I use in recording my Ez videos. I have a few, but certainly nothing that’s very expensive.  A professional musician or filmmaker could spend more for one mic than I have for all my camera and audio equipment put together.

Lately I’ve been using my Kodak Zi8 to make video.  The Kodak makes good video and it has an external mic input jack.  Many people use this camera with great results and it was wildly successful primarily because of the mic jack.  The Zi8 has joined in the flip in the no-longer-manufactured department so look for other products to find something similar today.

This piece will not focus on the camera but mic that plugs into it.  The more relevant equipment piece shown here is the audio recorder device, the Zoom H2.  A flip HD video camera with a Zoom recorder is also an excellent combo and will get the same results I’m getting in this test. [ Note, the flip cameras have no external mic jack.]

Now, let’s go outside for a little test.

I own only 3 mics, not including the Zoom H2, which has 4 mics built in. It is amazing as a stand-alone device but becomes even more amazing and versatile when used  with a decent external mic.

Generally, if I’m recording myself or just one person. I will use the lavalier mic.  If I am recording 2 or more speaking people I use the shotgun.  These shotgun mics are usually held by a boom or a stand but as you can see they work great as hand-held mics too.

The Audio-Technica ATR line offers great results at budget prices. They are especially perfect for pocket video cameras. The mini plug fits the Zoom H2, the Kodak Zi8, and most other pocket toys.

I used to use an Audio-Technica lavalier mic, but recently switched to the one here in the video. This is a simple mono lavalier model from Giant Squid Audio Labs. It’s the bomb!

One thing to note here is the mono/stereo plug. My shotgun mic, and many others, are mono with a single black strip on the male plug [see photo]. In order to get audio into 2 channel programs you need to add a mono/stereo adapter. The Stereo plugs have 2 rings on the plug so you can tell what you have. These adapters are widely available at Radio Shack or similar stores. They generally run about $3 to $5. While you’re there I recommend an extension cable of 10 ft or more. Get the highest quality and not the cheapest.

mono to stereo plug adapter

Turn 1 channel into 2 with this adapter

All of the mics I use were purchased new for about fifty dollars or less.  The Zoom H2 is about a hundred. Look for links in the sidebar to shop for current prices.

I use these mics with my camera and with my Zoom.  For ease of editing the straight-into-the-camera method is best.  This is Ez but can be very limiting.

Let’s say you want to record a speaker talking at the front of a room for an hour or more.  The camera [especially the Zi8] could easily run out of battery power. If the mic is wired then the speaker is too restricted. A wireless mic could be good but you just blew the budget!

I use the lav mic and put it into the Zoom H2. I then put the Zoom into the speaker’s pocket and let it go. The device runs on AA batteries and will run for 2-3 hours. The result is very high quality and professional sound.

Turn the audio into an mp3 and the speaker can have a super piece of content. Shoot small pieces of video for short promo pieces. If the entire presentation is needed in video you could place two cameras in the room then edit the 3 pieces together and find great results.

External mics offer your biggest increase in video quality. The real secret is that 70% of good video is the audio. Make your video sound great before you worry about a camera upgrade.

I am ignoring the issue of how to get the audio from the external recorder into the video .I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio for the editing but will have to leave this for another day.

Please and your comments and ask any question below.

flip vs. Kodak Zi8. My test is in.

This little shoot-out was conducted with 3 simple video cameras, and likely the 3 most popular today. The flip Ultra in standard format, the flip mino in HD, and the Kodak Zi8. For this test I shot the Kodak in 1080p mode and the others have only their one options.

The files came off the camera onto an external hard drive and were edited together on a macbook pro’s iMovie. This is a good little editor and standard on macs. the 16:9 format is not native to the flip ultra which produces 4:3 video, but rendered here you get a good looking result in what many call ‘HD’ format.

First lest take a look at the youtube converted flash video..

The standard flip produced an avi file of 13 MB. The flip HP an MP4 at 58 MB, and the Kodak gave me a .mov file of 75MB. Those are big files for a short segment. For this reason I like the standard video best. My computer is very good at processing and editing the standard stuff, but is too weak to handle the HD format. If you have a newer system then you may have no problem here.

I normally edit on my aging PC with Sony Vegas Movie Studio ver. 8, and it will not handle these files, especially the 1080p .mov from the Kodak. For this test i had to use the macbook pro and iMovie. The mac handled the 3 file types and sizes with no complaints.

In watch the raw files it was instantly obvious that the audio from the Zi8 was much better. The built-in mic was used and the 3 cameras were positioned as close as possible, equidistant from me, the subject.

I hope this little experiment is helpful to you. For me it means I’m going to have to work towards another couple of thousand dollars for upgraded hardware and software and a new Kodak. By then some other player is likely to release yet another pocket video camera.

I will also post a mp4 video file here if I can figure out how? I’ll find an EZ way to do it ;-)

The true bottom line is that all of these cameras are just cameras and the real value in video is the content. If you have boring and useless content it doesn’t matter how technically beautiful it is.

Me interesting and/or entertaining and nobody notices the little details.

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