For the past few months I have been doing a lot of research and tinkering with electret condenser microphone capsules. These are the microphones that are found in most electronics, except RED Epic and Scarlet cameras… who’s creators opted to say dealers choice to the matter. And over the past couple of months I’ve been on shoots with RED Epics and have been asked to provide a microphone so the camera could grab reference.
At first I went out and bought a bunch of the $1.45 Newwer branded lavs they sell at Amazon. And it worked out OK, at first. The problem was that now the DP has to fight about 3ft of cable every time he wants to adjust zoom or focus. I knew the lapel mic wasn’t going to work. The solution was to lose the cable!
I searched Amazon for a better solution and came across the Olympus ME-52W. It looked like this would be the perfect solution but at $14 it seemed like a DIY solution might be the way to go for such a simple microphone setup. Nothing wrong with $14 but any excuse to sit at my work bench and tinker with my soldering iron is good enough for me. (BTW, if you dont have a soldering iron, or are looking for a great one with loads of options. This one is amazing!)
If you bought the electret microphone capsules I linked to in the “items needed” section you can skip this step. This is the hardest step to do and that is to solder the wire to the microphone capsule. The smaller the capsules you bought, the harder this is. Use different color wire if you can for each pad on the back of the capsule. This will help you remember which wire is the signal and which wire is the negative/ground.
TIP: I often will cut out a small strip of electrical tape and slide it between the Tip Pad and the Ground/Negative pad to make sure that when I close up the unit, the wires don’t cross when everything is compacted.
Solder the signal wire to the Tip pad on your 3.5mm connector. Solder the negative/ground to the Sleeve pad. If you bought a TRS connector, you will want to solder the Ring and the Sleeve pads together using some bare wire.
This step will vary based on which electret capsule you bought and which brand connector you used. The Pearstone and Remote Audio 3.5mm connectors will allow for a 6mm capsule to sit inside their connector housing. If this is the connector you choose, you may want screw the housing on and fill the connector with hot glue or super-glue to keep your capsule in place. For me, I used a 4mm capsule and found that it fit inside of the stress reliever for the type of TS connector I bought. Either method works, the advantage the Pearstone/Remote Audio connector has is that it’s a locking 3.5mm and can be locked into a Sennheiser G3 transmitter.
Some will say this is cheap and that if you MUST use the $250 Sennheiser MKE-400. Why? On -camera reference audio is the VERY FIRST thing to disappear on a timeline when you enter post production. And as location sound mixers we could use that money on resources that the audience will actually hear in the final video. Plus one of the benefits of using a bullet mic with a RED is that it doesn’t add extra weight to the camera rig, your DP will thank you after a long day.
Plus, why spend so much when all your going to end up capturing during the take is the RED’s fans and the AC’s focus gear motors. As long as the microphone can pickup the slate being called out, that’s all that matters.