Recently, I shot a live performance and, afterwards when reviewing the footage, I found that I had audio overload problems. I had used my Lumix GH4 with the Panasonic DMW-MS2 microphone and this simple setup just wasn’t equal to the task. The problem was the great dynamic range of the show which included actors and a singer. It was a small venue and when the singer was up close during a crescendo the recorded signal was very loud and badly distorted. Conversely, during quiet moments when the performers were at the other end of the stage or facing the opposite direction the level was too low.
You can clearly see where the waveform has clipped (the current time indicator is right in the middle of a clipped section).
Of course, one thing that would help in a situation like this would be to mike all the performers and set appropriate levels. In this case, that just wasn’t an option. And, it still might not have solved the dynamic range problem completely.
Two-Level Audio RecordingI’ve since figured out a pretty good solution for this kind of scenario and it doesn’t involve miking each performer. My solution was to buy a juicedLink Riggy-Micro preamp and use its second channel -16 db pad feature. When recording in mono on the left channel you can set the right channel to output the same signal but at a level 16 db lower. This way you have two levels to choose from in post. As long as the left channel doesn’t overload you can use it. But, if it does, you can fall back on the right channel and then adjust the gain in post to an appropriate level. It’s like exposure bracketing for audio. This shows what the waveform looks like when capturing a mono signal at the two gain levels.
I’ve tried this a couple of times and it’s worked out well so far. I just choose whichever channel is better, copy it, and paste it into the other channel. It does create more work in post but everything is a compromise, right?
Problems with the Panasonic DMW-MS2 microphone
In my particular case my solution presented another problem beyond the increased workflow complexity. What I didn’t realize when I ordered the preamp is that my Panasonic mike won’t work with it (or any other analog preamp). The DMW-MS2 is designed to be plugged directly into the camera. When connected directly to the camera it offers some nice features like software selectable response patterns (shotgun, super shotgun, stereo, or lens angle tracking). But, as far as I can tell, the microphone only works when plugged directly into a compatible Panasonic camera like the GH4.
For me, this means I have to use my backup microphone, a lower quality off-brand unit, when I want to use the juicedLink preamp for audio bracketing. So, there’s a word to the wise if you’re considering the Panasonic mike. If you’re sure you’ll never need to use it with an external preamp or audio recorder it will probably work just fine for you. Otherwise, you might be better off with another microphone.