Using The XLR-PRO With The Steadicam!


Using the XLR-PRO with the Steadicam


Overview

The XLR-PRO from Sign Video is everything they say it is. Clean audio and total compatibility with every piece of professional audio gear I've ever worked with. It weighs 13.5 oz., it is passive, ground selectable, has two female Neutrik XLR inputs and two mini (1/8") inputs, and is equipped to thread onto any camera or tripod mounting shoe. It is primarily designed for tripod use but I've adapted mine for the Handheld Steadicam and it works great. Sign Video has added a belt clip that can be screwed onto the bottom of the XLR-PRO. For belt use they have also added an extension cable. The unit has a new reduced price of $149.00!


Cabling

This unit is much too heavy to ride onboard the Steadicam so I've found that wearing it on my body in the pocket of a photographer's vest is the best way to maneuver. The XLR-PRO's output is extended over to the camera with the help of a lightweight adapter cable. I wanted to go with a really nice shielded cable but it was too thick and heavy to operate with the Steadicam. The heavier cable forced the entire rig to go in the wrong direction or threw it off balance entirely--fighting a thick heavy cable turns a Steadicam into "Strugglecam"! A lightweight cable (thin--like headphone cable) won't interfere with proper Steadicam counterbalancing or operation [to understand more about cables go to Attaching Cables To The Steadicam page for counterbalancing the rig with add-on wires].

As I said above Sign Video offers an extension cable with their new belt clip and the audio remains clean all the way through. It fastens nicely and is the proper length. The belt clip is great but if your wireless receiver doesn't have a belt clip on it as well then you're still better off hooking all your gear into a vest like mine or a slung pouch or fanny pack. And there is the slight danger of the belt clip slipping off during full-out running Steadicam shots...so assess your setup accordingly. The belt clip is a great new addition to the XLR-PRO. I've seen belt clips show up on all sorts of audio accessories but never assume that something "new" is a cure-all to lugging an accessory around. A photographer's vest, or a pouch, has enclosed pockets so gear never slips out or falls--even if I had to hang upside down for something (I've tested this!).


The Photographer's Vest vs. The Belt Clip

The photographer's vest (one with extremely huge breast pockets) with velcro sewn into the pocket flaps and fastener areas remains the ultimate solution for carrying wireless audio gear and any XLR adapter on your person. The vest is comfortable to wear in all kinds of weather and the XLR-PRO's output cables feed straight up to the rig. The beltclip is something I'm seeing offered on all XLR adapters and it's a welcome (albeit a late) addition to this type of gear. The new belt clip for the XLR-PRO mounts easily with its permanent-floating screw and would probably hold onto your belt or pants at a full run during a fast Steadicam shot. The one caveat I can think of is that if your wireless mic receiver doesn't have a belt clip (and both my Samsons do not) then I have to tuck them into the beltline of my pants to accomodate the adapter. If I'm running two wireless mics then my belt is uncomfortably full of gear and walking during a moving shot is awkward at best. I suppose a large band of velcro on my side would solve everything but I'll just stick to the photographer's vest.


One other note is that if you choose to use the belt clip for your system I discovered that mounting the clip inversely so that the XLR plugs extend away from my body prevents the lower spar of the Handheld Steadicam from tangling with the wires and gear. This also allows for easier feeding of cables up the back and over the shoulder to the operating hand.


Wires can tangle the Steadicam when plugs face forward!


Setup

The XLR-PRO is simple to use. I've used it with boom mics and wireless mics. To prepare it for the Handheld Steadicam system, the first step is to plug in the headphones so that you can monitor the equipment as you're hooking it up. Leave the camcorder's audio gain in the automatic position. Second, plug in the extension cable to the mic input near the camera's shotgun microphone. Once you have these two cables plugged in you'll need to trim the Steadicam to the left to compensate for the added weight on the right side of the camera [Yes...two mini connectors and their thin cables will add up to significant weight for the Handheld Steadicam. Again, go to Attaching Cables To The Steadicam for complete "cable looping" info!] .

Slip on your headphones, flip the XLR-PRO's mono or stereo switch into the proper position (whether you're using just one microphone or two) and plug your XLR cables into it. Turn the volume knobs up during a mic check with the talent and check the audio level with your headphones so that you know the reception/connection is clean. When using the Sony VX-2000 or TRV-900 make sure the audio volume is turned all the way up by checking the volume buttons on the flip-out LCD color monitor (forgetting to do this has screwed me over so many times!!!) Have the talent count to ten slowly in a normal voice--this is the most vital part of any sound-on-tape setup. At the camera slowly rotate the extension cable's connector back and forth to ensure the connection between the XLR-PRO and camera are solid.


Let's Fly!

If your audio sounds clean and your rig is re-balanced you are ready to shoot those "walk and talks" you've always dreamed about. Hold the Steadicam normally but always allow some extra room between your body and the rig for the cables. Throwing excess cable over your right shoulder is a great way to keep things out of your way and from dragging sideways on the rig. Maintain a correct cable loop at all times. Stay focused on what you're doing because you've just added a new degree of sophistication to your Steadicam outfit and it will take some getting used to. If you're working with a boom operator be sure to discuss your shooting strategy ahead of time so you won't trip over each other later. Video productions always seem to be fast-paced but you HAVE to allow yourself time for proper setup and re-orientation. As an experienced operator I find that keeping a mental check on the rig AND having to direct talent or listen to a client is an extreme challenge. Pace yourself accordingly--that means you should hook all this stuff up BEFORE an important shoot and operate the Steadicam/XLR-PRO system in a mock situation. Ask a friend to help you--or your spouse! Rehearsing will prevent you from feeling clumsy or ridiculous when it really matters. Modify this procedure to what you're accustomed to and everything should be great.




Complete the Handheld Steadicam Workshop Tour!!--all written by John Brune


The Workshop Home Page!
Steadicam JR FAQ!
Setup Recipes for Handheld Steadicams!
Caring for the JR Monitor!
Balancing the VX-1000 with a Wide Lens Adapter!
Attaching Microphones & Headphones to Your Rig!
Tips and Techniques
The Support Gear Page!
Steadicam User Gallery!
Recent DV Headlines!
Using the Zoom Commander Pro with the Cobra Crane!


copyright 2014 John Brune