Tutorial: Sony PD 150/170 Video Camera Accessories
There are several accessories you should have with your camera to improve the quality of the video and audio you get, and to protect your equipment.
They include things like different microphones and a set of headphones, a tripod and a carrying case, and various adapters, filters and cables.
There are many different kinds of microphones you can use with a digital camera, including:
- the microphone built into the camera
- a shotgun microphone attached to the top of the camera
- a handheld microphone you connect to the camera
- a lavalier or clip-on microphone you connect to the camera
- a boom microphone you connect to the camera
- wireless microphones (these can be either handheld or lavalier mics)
The microphone built into the camera is good for ambient audio or natural sound - nature scenes like chirping birds or babbling brooks, background noise from street scenes, etc.
It also can be used to record a performance or a speech, although the quality of the audio will suffer because of all the other ambient sound the mic picks up.
You can make adjustments to the audio level of the built-in microphone, but we recommend just setting the audio to automatic, using the camera menu. If you want to manually adjust the audio, consult your camera manual.
If your camera has a shotgun microphone attached to the top rather than a built-in microphone, you need to check some settings, such as making sure a power source has been selected for the microphone, setting the audio input level to "microphone" (rather than to what is called "line" level, which is an audio feed you would get from an external audio mixer, such as at a concert) and setting the audio recording level to automatic.
On the Sony PD-150, the audio settings for the shotgun microphone are on the top left of the camera toward the front. If you're using the shotgun microphone, make sure the Record Channel Select button is set to CH1, the Input Level button is set to Mic and the +48V button (which is the power source for the microphone) is set to On.
Then set the audio to automatic.
The build-in or shotgun microphone is not ideal for doing an interview with someone, where background noise can make the person difficult to understand.
Interviews are best done with lavalier, handheld or boom microphones.
Microphones - Handheld
A handheld microphone is just like it sounds - a mic you hold in your hand to record your own or someone else's voice.
Handheld microphones are particularly good for doing quick interviews with people, such as a "man-on-the-street" interview.
You should definitely use a handheld microphone if you're doing an interview where there is a lot of ambient sound - traffic, wind, or other voices. The handheld microphone will tend to screen out a lot more of that sound than the built-in mic on a video camera.
Handheld microphones, such as the Sennheiser depicted above, usually do not have any batteries or other power source (a microphone like this that doesn't need a power source is called a "dynamic" mic).
Lavalier microphones, commonly referred to as lav mics, are tiny mics that you clip onto a person's shirt or lapel to record their voice.
They're especially good to use for a sit-down interview with someone. They'll screen out much ambient sound - traffic, wind or other voices. And you can hide almost the entire mic and not have it show on camera.
To do this, have the interview subject run the mic cable up the inside of their shirt to their breastbone area. Clip the lavalier there on the inside of the shirt, with the mic facing out.
This will create a natural, nice-looking interview. And make sure you wear headphones so you can hear if the mic starts rubbing against fabric.
Lavalier microphones often have their own power source - usually a single AA battery (microphones that need a power source are called "condenser" mics).
To insert the battery, unscrew the metal barrel toward the end of the microphone cable (be sure to turn the portion of the barrel that doesn't knot up the cable as you unscrew it).
Then insert a AA battery into the slot, in the direction indicated by the diagram inside the barrel.
The end of the metal barrel also has the XLR jack to connect the lav mic to the camera using an XLR cable.
On some cameras, you'll also need an audio adapter for the camera into which you plug the other end of the XLR cable.
Tip: always have some extra AA batteries on hand. You don't want the lav mic going dead in the middle of an interview.
One sign that a battery is getting low on a lav mic is that you'll start to hear a crackling sound in your headphones.
To connect a microphone to your video camera you need a cable, called an XLR cable. This cable has a 3 prong connector (male) on one end, and a connector with 3 holes in it (female) on the other end.
With a handheld microphone, push the female end of the XLR cable into the end of the microphone cylinder (where you'll see the three prongs protruding).
Usually there's a little button to push down so the cable can be inserted. You'll hear the cable snap into place when you insert it into the end of the microphone.
The other end of the cable is inserted into the video camera, although you may need an audio adapter for the camera into which you plug the XLR cable.
It's also wise to take a couple of extra XLR cables of varying length along with you on a video shoot.
That way you can daisy-chain the cables together if one is not long enough to reach your subject.
Or you may have occasion to use two external microphones simultaneously, in which case you'll need an XLR cable to connect each mic to your camera.
Connecting XLR Cables to the Camera
Some video cameras, especially higher end ones, will have built in XLR plugs for the XLR audio cables.
You then can simply connect an XLR cable from a microphone directly to the camera.
(for cameras without a built-in XLR connector, we recommend you buy an audio adapter that has XLR connectors built into it.
For cameras with built-in XLR connectors, you need to check some audio settings, such as making sure no power source has been selected for handheld or lavalier microphones that don't require power from the camera.
You also need to set the audio input level to "microphone," rather than to what is referred to as "line" level, which is an audio feed you would get from an external audio mixer, such as what might be provided at a press conference or a public event.
On the Sony PD150, the plugs for XLR cables are on the top right of the camera.
The audio settings you need to check are on the opposite side of the camera - the top left toward the front.
If you're using a handheld or lavalier microphone that doesn't require power from the camera, (such as a Sennheiser handheld or a Sony lavalier), make sure the Record Channel Select button is set to CH1, the Input Level button is set to Mic and the +48V button (which is the power source for the microphone) is set to Off.
Then see the instructions on manually setting the audio levels for the microphones on the PD150.
If your video camera does not have built-in XLR connectors, you can purchase an audio adapter that sits on the bottom of your camera and lets you to connect an XLR cable from a microphone into the adapter.
Without the adapter, you either have to purchase:
- a microphone with an 1/8th inch mini-jack cable that will plug right into the camera. But these microphones are usually of lower quality than a microphone with an XLR connector.
- an XLR to mini-jack adapter cable to connect a more expensive microphone into the 1/8th inch mini-jack plug in the camera. But the adapter cable is thick and tends to put a lot of stress on the plug in the camera, often producing electrical shorts in the plug.
An audio adapter avoids these problems because it is a box-like unit that screws onto the underside of the camera. An 1/8th inch mini-jack cable on the adapter then plugs into the camera's mini-jack mic plug.
The adapter has two XLR plugs you can use to connect to two different microphones with XLR cables.
Here's what an audio adapter we use, made by Beachtek, looks like:
This adapter has a screw that attaches it to the bottom of the camera.
The 1/8th inch mini-jack cable protruding from the adapter is plugged into the mini-jack plug on the camera.
On the Sony TRV900, this is the red colored jack near the front of the camera.
Caution - once the audio adapter cable is plugged into the camera, it will disable the built-in microphone in the camera.
So if you're using an external mic with the audio adapter during a shoot and you decide to use the camera's built-in microphone for some footage, be sure to unplug the cable from the audio adapter so the built-in mic will function.
This is a very common problem and easy to overlook! Use your headphones to double check that you have sound before shooting - it's easy to make a mistake and come back from a shoot with no sound.
On the side of the adapter are the two XLR connectors for XLR cables that you can use to connect to one or two microphones to the camera.
On the back of the adapter are separate volume controls for each of the XLR microphone plugs. These dials control the recording volume for each microphone.
Finally there are switches for each XLR plug that toggle between mic and line.
Flip the switch to mic for recording with a microphone.
The line setting is used when you are getting a direct audio feed from an audio mixer, such as what might be provided at a press conference or a public event.
You'll also see a switch for toggling between Mono and Stereo. Leave this on the Stereo setting, so if you plug in two microphones the audio will be recorded on separate tracks (if you only have one microphone plugged in, it will record to a single track even if it's set at Stereo).
The first time you come back from a video shoot to discover there's no audio on your tape because you didn't plug in the microphones properly, you'll appreciate how essential it is to have a pair of headphones for your camera.
Headphones allow you to check to make sure you're getting audio with your video, as well as to make adjustments to the audio input to make sure it's not too loud or too soft.
The headphones simply plug into the headphone jack on the camera.
On the Sony TRV900, the headphones jack is on the right front of the camera under the gray flap. It's the green jack with the tiny headphones icon to the right of it.
On the Sony PD150, the headphones jack is on the right middle of the camera under the gray flap. It's the green jack with the tiny headphones icon.
Lens Protector - UV Filter
It's wise to make a small investment in a lens protector that you keep permanently on the lens of your camera to avoid scratches and chips that would require a costly replacement of the lens itself.
An easy way to do this is to buy a UV or ultraviolet filter that costs less than $20. This filter is clear and screws into the front of your lens to protect it from scratches.
It won't affect the video as it's only filtering ultraviolet light that can't be seen by the human eye.
Tripods let you anchor a camera to get a steadier shot and smoother video.
Tripods should be used when you're shooting scenes that are relatively static and do not have a lot of movement in them, and where the movement of the camera thus will be more noticeable.
They're particularly good for a sit-down interview with someone, where the person is relatively stationary and the camera movement again would be noticeable.
You adjust the height of the tripod by loosening and then extending or retracting the three legs on the tripod.
Most tripods have a little bubble level to help you adjust the legs so the camera is level. Just change the length of the different legs until the bubble is centered.
Some more expensive tripods also have a ball on the top on which the camera rests that allows you to swivel the camera once it's attached for easier leveling.
You attach the camera to the tripod by removing the small cork plate in the top of the tripod. Usually this means turning a small lever to release the plate.
Then fit the plate onto the bottom of the camera by lining up the two differently sized buttons on the top of the plate with the correspondingly sized holes on the bottom of the camera.
Screw the small plate into the bottom of the camera, using the hand screw on the underside of the tripod plate.
Now insert the plate and camera at a slight angle into the top of the tripod, fitting it under the lip of the tripod. When you have it aligned properly and press down gently, you'll hear a click as the plate snaps into place (this clicking is caused by the lever you first used to remove the plate snapping back into place).
If you have trouble getting the plate into the top of the tripod, check the lever to make sure it is open so the plate can slide in.
Once the camera seems attached to the tripod, jiggle the camera a little bit before you let go of it, to make sure the camera is securely fastened to the tripod.
The tripod also has small levers or handles you can use to pan from side to side, to tilt the camera at an angle or to make final height adjustments (using a hand crank to raise the camera).
In each case you need to unscrew a knob to free the camera so it can be moved with a particular lever or handle. Be sure to tighten each knob after you've made an adjustment, or the camera will slowly shift or sag after you've let go of the handle.
Some tripods have a remote control handle that allows you to control the functions of the camera (zooming, recording, etc.), by plugging a cord on the handle into the camera.
On the Sony TRV900 the jack for the cord from the tripod's remote control handle is on the right front of the camera under the gray flap. It's blue jack labeled lanc (which stands for local application control)
On the Sony PD150 the jack for the cord from the tripod's remote control handle is on the right middle of the camera under the gray flap. It's blue jack labeled lanc (which stands for local application control)
Camera Carrying Case
You should purchase a carrying case to hold your camera and all the accessories you've accumulated, such as microphones, headphones and XLR cables.
While there are many small, inexpensive carrying cases on the market, consider buying one that's a little more rugged to protect your equipment (especially if you purchase a higher-end video camera), and that's large enough to hold accessories like microphones, extra XLR cables, extra batteries and manuals.
One popular case is made by Portabrace and is designed with padding to protect your camera and lots of space and pockets for accessories.
About this Tutorial
This tutorial is based on lectures Ellen Seidler gave in multimedia skills classes at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. It was written by Paul Grabowicz and edited by Vanessa Kaneshiro and Pamela Reynolds. Pamela Reynolds also provided illustrations.
This content may not be republished in print or digital form without express written permission from KDMC. Please see our Content Redistribution Policy at kdmc.berkeley.edu/license.