Everything robgrauert has


Everything robgrauert has mentioned is exactly correct, if not a bit of overkill. If they are sending you an XLR line out from the mixing board, you need to make two conversions. Let me elaborate (you knew I would.)

Let me start with sound boards or mixers, I’ve been on the receiving end of many, many of them. Here’s a bit of what I’ve learned. Mixers have a variety of outputs. The biggest advantage to using the balanced XLR cable to connect you to the mixer is it let’s you borrow their cable to do it. Mixers on the professional level usually have a 1/4″ mono line out. The 1/4″ or “guitar plug” cable is a commonly used cable for line to line signals and the adapters from 1/4″ to 1/8″ are much less expensive. And I’ve seen a lot of mixers for public address systems have several XLR mic out connections in a row (but no useable “line out” connections.)

The only sure way I have found (in my 20+ years) of having the correct connection is to bring along two to three hundred dollars in connectors, like in a production van. Next best is to speak with the person who runs the audio board, even better if you can meet at the mixer’s location. Then you can identify exactly what is easiest for you to do and achieve the best results. Starting from the top; is there any sort of mic out to record the mix; what are the options for lineout signals; how far will I need to be from the mixer to shoot decent video; and who is providing that cable? It’s best to have settled these questions ahead of time. My experience with audio techs indicates they will arrive with the just enough time that setting up requires. Then they break until the show starts. So you just gotta speak with someone ahead of time to insure the audio tech is expecting you to plug into their baby. I’ve been refused on occasion, even when the band was asking the audio tech to let me plug in.

I think I may have drifted off there. If you’re only making educated guesses as to what you’ll need, here’s what I’d recommend. Converting a line level signal to a mic level signal is called attenuation. Radio Shack and others sell short attenuator cables. If all you want to record is the mixer audio, you will also need a mono mini-plug to a stereo mini-jack, otherwise you risk any number of nasty audio surprises. Now I recommend also using a mic near you to record one channel of the crowd & ambient audio, then you’d need an L & R 1/8″ mono mini-plug to 1/8″ stereo mini-jack adapter. So let’s start at the camcorder with whichever mono to stereo adapter we select, then we’d put in the attenuator cable, mine is a female RCA in to a mono 1/8″ male out. There is a large variety of adapters available to plug into the female RCA. So pick up an XLR male to an RCA male adapter. Now you’re set to take an XLR line out to record properly going into your 1/8″ stereo mic in. The beauty of this 3 adapter system is flexibility. Should you have a 1/8″ mono mic in, delete the stereo adapter. If you’re able to get a mic out signal, delete the attenuator. Actually, you’d have to replace it with an RCA female to 1/8″ mono mini-jack. Or an XLR male to an 1/8″ mono mini-jack. But you get the idea, there are more modest ways to go at this than a combo mixer/adapter.

And I have a last chance, Hail Mary audio trick I can share. If you can commandeer your own headphone plug. The 1/4″ male to 1/8″ male stereo adapter comes along with a lot of headphones I’ve purchased. Then you connect the camcorder using a cable with male jacks on both ends, or use a headphone extension with a male to male adapter at one end. Anyway, the point being that the headphone signal is a “variable line” out. Meaning you can adjust the audio volume, although it is generally going to be kept very, very low, to be able to record decent audio going in the 1/8″ stereo mic on the camcorder. But it is really tricky when you have to leave the microphone in an “auto-level” setting.

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