Of the 60+ projects we undertook in 2015 about eight of them were video assignments. Just video with no still photography component. I shot them either on a Nikon D750 or D810 in the earlier part of the year and then tossed the Olympus EM5.2 cameras into the mix in the second half of the year. All of the video projects worked out pretty well so I have a reasonable expectation that we'll continue to see growth in this area in 2016. While the ratio between still and video jobs seems large it's good to remember that video has more "moving parts" takes longer to complete and comes, almost automatically, with more billable hours. Bonus if you can also write scripts!
One tool that I kept missing for video production was a good set of preamplifiers to use with various microphones. Some microphones, when used directly into the cameras, have some electrical and level mismatches that cause problems with noise. We have a passive Beachtek unit that allows me to moderate levels and to use microphones that require XLR connectors but I didn't have an elegant way to really match the microphones to the cameras when I needed to boost lower signals. I have a Zoom HN4 that works well but the levels are not controlled by discreet, physical knobs and it's a barebones solution for getting decent audio.
I did a little research at the end of the year and found this low cost option. It's the Tascam DR-60 version 2. It can work in a multitude of capacities, including: a digital audio recorder, microphone preamplifier and field mixer. It's small enough to bolt under a camera but big enough to handle lots of wiring interfaces without feeling cramped. The product has one major flaw that everyone knows about --- it sucks down battery power like crazy. It'll go through four double A batteries in less than three hours of use. Quicker if you are using phantom power for your microphones. But the reckless power consumption seems to be the device's only major flaw. At least the only one I know about right now...
My work around is to find a USB auxiliary batter unit with an internal, rechargeable battery to plug into the USB slot. Either that or find an endless supply of batteries. A small price to pay for microphone preamplifiers with less noise that those in my older Zoom HN4.
I like this unit for the way I work, which, as you may have guessed, is a bit eccentric. I am partial to a set of inexpensive, Audio-Technica, hardwired lavaliere microphones. Specifically, the Pro 70 model which is a cardioid condenser model that handles voice very well. Yes, I do have a set of Sennheiser wireless microphones but for some strange reason I like the security and visual presence of dedicated wires. Go figure.
The only issue I've had with the Pro 70's is that they do not put out a very big signal. If they are plugged into the Beachtek D2A or directly into the camera they require a lot of gain and, with camera pre-amps, that means a lot of noise and hiss. The Tascam DR-60 version 2 has four master levels of gain as well as the front mounted knobs that allow one to "ride the signal" as necessary. At the second highest gain setting in the master menu the microphones just come alive and the DR-60 keeps the noise to a much, much lower level than my cameras.
The other advantage is that with all my cameras gain control of external (and internal) microphones calls for "menu diving" and menu control, as opposed to external, physical controls. There are some other nice features like being able to bring a signal back out of the camera in order to monitor what is being written (sound-wise) to the internal memory cards of the camera. I also like the "slate" button that allows me to generate a tone with which to set the initial camera levels in manual. Once set I don't have to use the camera controls to ride audio; I can use the physical knobs on the Tascam digital audio recorder to do so, and have a certain level of assurance that I won't overload the camera.
The unit also has a feature which will record one set of tracks at regular levels and one set of tracks at a level about 20 db down. This means that if someone starts shouting into their microphones and overloads the normal audio tracks we have a quieter second track to fall back on. That's nice.
I'm certain that there are better built units all over the market. This one has a plastic battery compartment door, for example. But I'm equally sure that this unit is an amazing bargain for people who are careful not to use their gear to hammer nails into walls or use their audio units gaffer taped to skateboards, etc.
Why am I writing about this unit here? Because, like it or not, we're going to be doing more and more video along with our still photography and I think people are interested in how we make our video productions work for the mid-tier projects we keep taking on.
Last words, Nagra and Sound Devices are the two most professional producers of this kind of product and have equivalent products (at much higher build standards and with much cleaner audio) that sell for between two and three thousand dollars each. If you want a nice, eight channel Nagra you can spend between nine and eleven thousand dollars. I paid less than $200 for the Tascam and it already sounds (to my ears) at least twice as good as anything I was getting directly into the cameras. Seems like a good choice for me. YMMV, depending upon your needs. And your budgets.