Using Multiple Wireless Microphones on a Camera
Question: I’m considered connecting two wireless microphones to my video camera and not sure where to start. I would like one microphone on the host of the show and another on the person being interviewed. Is this possible without interference? How do I attach them to my camera? What kind of connections does my camera need? Sorry I’m part of the uninitiated.
Answer: Attaching multiple wireless microphones to a video camera can be a daunting task for someone just getting started. No need to apologize for being part of the uninitiated – we were once in your shoes too!
When you’re buying multiple wireless microphone systems, you need to be certain the two kits will be capable of operating simultaneously.
Ultimately, these devices are transmitting radio signals. You have to be sure that the transmissions won’t interfere with one another. Most wireless systems built today are designed to be “frequency agile.” What this means is that this kind of system allows you to change the channel the units are transmitting on. For example, you could have two identical systems with one operating on channel 1, and the other operating on channel 3. “Frequency-agile” systems are handy when you experience static interference in your audio transmission. If you hear static or dropouts in the sound, you can change the channel that the wireless system is operating on to see if you get better results on a different channel. Some systems are set to a “fixed-frequency.” When you buy multiple “fixed-frequency” systems, you have to make sure you are buying two different fixed channels. The fixed channels are usually designated alpha-numerically.
Step One of Three: Inspect Your Camera
The first thing you need to establish is whether your camera has more than one microphone input. Medium and larger-sized prosumer video cameras often feature two XLR inputs. If your camera has two XLR inputs, you’re ready to pick out which kind of wireless systems to use for your camera.
Many smaller camcorders often feature only a single mini-plug microphone input. If your camera has a single mini-plug microphone input, you are going to need a device that will allow you to plug in two separate microphones. These devices are called Camcorder XLR Adapters. Some cameras don’t have any microphone input at all. If your video camera doesn’t have any microphone inputs, unfortunately there is no way for you to plug in external microphones.
Step Two of Three: Choose Your Wireless System
Next you have to decide what kind of wireless microphone system to use. Wireless clip-on lavalier systems are a frequent and popular choice for use in video, but you may want to consider a pair of handheld systems. You could also get a couple of combo systems, which include a lavalier and a plug-on transmitter. Whichever way you go, you will need to buy two systems. The only time this is not the case is if you choose to use a dual-channel system, which features a single wireless receiver that can mount to your camera and accepts the signal from two separate wireless transmitters.
The 1800 series from Audio Technica is an excellent quality dual-channel wireless system
The most inexpensive dual-channel portable wireless system is a VHF series made by Azden. The components of this system are sold separately. They are manufactured in two separate frequency groups, so you have to be careful to buy transmitters that match the frequency range of the receivers. To simplify the process of configuring one of these systems, we grouped the proper components together in the links below:
Step Three of Three: Mounting the Equipment to the Camera
If you’re running more than one wireless microphone, you are going to have two separate wireless receivers for every mic in use. The two receivers need to be attached to the camera or clipped on a belt. Mounting multiple wireless receivers can be tricky.
Since you may have an on-camera light, an external hard drive, a shotgun microphone, or a number of other devices already mounted to your camera, you will need to figure out a way to mount two battery-powered receivers as well.
Some battery-powered wireless receivers come with accessories to mount onto “the shoe” of a video camera. The shoe of a video camera is exactly like a “hot shoe” on a traditional still camera. The following accessories are useful for mounting audio equipment to the camera, but they’re just as handy for mounting non-audio related gear as well. Rycote makes a handy accessory called the Hot Shoe Extension Bar for mounting multiple wireless receivers to a video camera. It also comes in a wider 7.88″ version, and a 15.75″ version
A more professional method for mounting wireless receivers to a video camera is to utilize a bracket-and-box system. This solution is useful if your wireless system doesn’t have a shoe-mount accessory, or if you need to use the shoe of the camera for something else, such as a light or a shotgun microphone. These systems are not intended for use with palm-sized cameras, but rather medium and larger format video cameras.
A bracket is basically a plate with an arm. The plate mounts to the base of the video camera, and the arm extends to the side of the camera, creating a surface where you can mount a box. The camera can still be mounted to a tripod because there’s an additional tripod mount underneath the plate. The box is just a small metal casing in which you place the receiver, and then mount to the arm of the bracket. The box also serves as a protective cover for the expensive wireless receiver. If you have more than one receiver, you simply piggyback the boxes by attaching them to one another. There are a few different brackets to accommodate different cameras, and a number of different-sized boxes to fit different models of receivers.
There are a few more methods for mounting receivers to video cameras. There’s a product called The Jimmybox that essentially is a box that mounts to the base of the camera. You put your receiver in the box and away you go. The camera can still be mounted to a tripod with the Jimmybox in place. It is sold in a single or double-decker sizes.
A company called BEC manufactures a shoe-mounting system that is simply a box that holds a receiver that mounts onto the camera’s shoe. There are two models, one that holds the receiver vertically, and another that holds the receiver horizontally.