My current event video setup is compact and portable, fitting into a ThinkTank Airport Essentials backpack. I can get all my gear into it, cables, sundries, a 13" laptop and a tablet. The biggest annoyance with this backpack is the lack of a passthrough for a rolling bag. I am told by ThinkTank that any revisions to this model will feature a passthrough.
I carry a tripod in a separate bag, but it could be attached to the backpack the ThinkTank’s straps and cinches if you wanted a more compact carrying setup and are willing to sacrifice some protection.
The camera is a ❶ Panasonic GH5, which is capable of recording 3840x2160 (4K) 29.97fps 4:2:2 10-bit using its All-Intra codec. For recording presentations, I just set it to 1080p30 using its H.264 Long GOP codec, which gives me hours of recording on an SD Card. It is in a SmallRig cage, but that’s not really required for this setup. There’s room for a few lenses, and I keep a 12–35mm f/2.8 on the camera. I use the ❷ Panasonic DMW-XLR1 audio interface, which provides two XLR inputs with phantom power, and attached to the hotshoe of the camera.
Audio is handled using a Sennheiser ew300 G2 wireless system. I have ❸ two receivers, a ❹ transmitter with lavalier microphone that I use for the presenter, and a ❺ handheld microphone with an integrated transmitter that I use for audience questions or a second speaker. The two receivers feed each audio input independently, and there are numerous options for adjusting levels on the XLR interface, the receivers, and the transmitters. I’ve had this audio setup for several years, and the G2 series has been supplanted by the G4 series, but if I were buying again, I would seriously consider the Sennheiser all-digital AVX system, which is completely plug-and-play and configures itself. See the end of this article for some thoughts on wireless microphones.
The tripod is a lightweight carbon fiber ➏ Manfrotto 055MF4 with four segments, so it breaks down into a very compact form factor. I use a lightweight ❼ Manfrotto 701HDV fluid head, which is quite adequate for a DSLR. Both the tripod and head have been superseded by the MT055CXPRO4 and MVH500AH respectively
Finally, I use a ❽ Small HD 5" monitor for focus adjustment and monitoring because I find the fold-out screen of the GH5 rather small. I’ve had this monitor for a while. Today there are many better options like the extremely affordable Lilliput monitors (like the 7" 663/P2) or the Atomos Ninja V if you are looking for a monitoring and recording solution.
I recommend using an external power source for the GH5, since its power consumption is higher when using the audio interface, and you do not want to be switching batteries during a presentation. There are third party versions but there are reports of issues with some of them. I also make sure that I have a power strip, extension cord, gaffer tape, screwdrivers, coins (to tighten tripod plates), pens and Sharpies, a white balance card, memory cards, chargers and extra batteries for everything (including the microphones, which take AAs).
Much of this gear has been acquired over several years, but if I were to price it all out (substituting current products where the ones I own have been discontinued), I get to around $6,000 (using B&H for pricing). You could trim costs in many ways: cheaper camera/lens combination, memory card, microphones, tripod, and not bother with the monitor.
Thoughts on Wireless Microphones
When I posted the initial version of this article on the Panasonic GH5 subreddit, someone commented on my use of wireless microphones. For a situation where you only have one chance of getting it right, is wireless the right solution? In my mind, it depends on the several factors: the stakes, the venue, the wireless environment, how much time you have to prepare, etc.
Wireless systems are convenient, but they susceptible to interference and they run on batteries. There are several different kinds of wireless system. The cheapest ones are usually VHF, and I’ve never had a good experience with them — they are very prone to interference, dropouts, picking up noise during movement of the transmitter or receiver, and have poor range, particularly in an electrically noisy environment. The Sennheiser system that I use is a UHF analog system. This is a lot more robust and has 1,440 different discrete frequencies, but you need to tune it yourself (don’t worry it isn’t an analog tuning dial, but it is still fiddly and requires work.) This adds to the setup pain, and there’s always the possibility that something will change during the event to cause interference, requiring you to switch to another frequency. Worse, you need to choose the frequency bands at the time of purchase, and these frequency bands vary depending on the region. You could definitely end up in a situation where you are shooting in a location where the frequency band that you are using is illegal and (worse?) is not useable due to interference. The Sennheiser AVX system that is now available is digital and dynamically self-configures. I do not own it, but anecdotal evidence from friends who use it indicates that it works well. It uses the 1.9GHz band, which is also used by DECT cordless phones, and I believe that it can be used legally in most regions.
A wired connection should be impervious to interference, especially if you are using XLR connections, and of course, it will be cheaper because you don’t have the cost of the wireless transmitters and receivers. One disadvantage is mobility since the presenter is tethered to the microphone. Another is safety since you will likely have long wires trailing around the floor, which constitute both a trip hazard and a danger to expensive camera equipment. A hybrid solution might be viable: if wireless interference is a problem, perhaps you can put the receiver closer to the transmitter and cable the receiver to the camera.
Another option that I’ve seen is to run separate sound recording. There are devices like the Tascam DR-10L and Zoom F1 that combine a lav microphone with a small digital audio recorder. The presenter is captured at source, but you then need to sync this separate audio later. To do so, you will need scratch audio from the camera to make syncing easier.
So, while I prefer wireless, I usually have sufficient cabling with me to allow for a wired connection if I absolutely need it.