How to use the Sony FX3 XLR Audio Handle

One of the main features of the Sony FX3 is the inclusion of a fully featured XLR module on the handle. In this post I’m going to explain how to get the Sony FX3 audio setup using the XLR module with various mic configurations and settings.

How to use the Sony FX3 XLR Audio Handle
How to use the Sony FX3 XLR Audio Handle

Sony FX3 audio handle layout

Let’s start by looking at the Sony FX3 audio handle itself.

Sony FX3 Audio Setup - Right Side

On the right we have Input 1 & 2 which are the combined XLR / 3.5mm Jack inputs. Above those under the rubber cover is Input 3, a stereo 3.5mm socket.

Sony FX3 Audio Setup - Left Side

Using the Sony FX3 audio controls

On the left we see the main audio controls under the lift up protective cover.

INPUT 1

Let’s start with the Input 1 control section.

ATT Switch

The ATT switch controls signal attenuation. Attenuation is used to reduce the input level received from the mic in three steps from 0 – 20 dB. Start with this at 0dB as that will produce the least amount of audible noise from the cameras built in pre-amp. If the signal is too strong then you might want to consider adding some attenuation.

Signal Level Switch

Next we have the Input 1 signal level switch which offers the following settings:

Line – This is normally used for audio mixers or other audio equipment that send a much stronger signal than a standard Microphone. Line level is around 1000 times more powerful than Mic level.

Mic – This is used for most dynamic microphones that do not require phantom power.

Mic + 48V – Some microphones use power from the camera, this is generally referred to as ‘Phantom Power’. Switching to this setting will send Phantom power to the Microphone via the XLR cable. Some mics can be damaged by incorrectly sending phantom power so always check if your mic requires phantom power and set the switch accordingly before connecting it!

Input Level Switch

The lower part of the Input 1 section contains the auto /manual switch and dial that are used to control input level.

AUTO – Lets the camera automatically adjust the microphone level based on the levels being received.

MAN – Lets you adjust the audio level using the dial.

In most controlled cases where you have time to monitor levels I would recommend setting input levels manually however if you’re in a dynamic environment where audio levels can change quickly using auto can be very useful.

INPUT 2

Input 2 offers the same settings as the input 1 section however the AUTO/MAN switch has one additional setting;

LINK – Setting input 2 to link disables the input level controls for input 2 and uses the settings from input 1. This can be useful if you want to send input 1 to both audio channels and have them set at the same level.

LOW CUT

Moving to the right we see low cut settings for input 1 & 2. Low cut reduces the bass frequencies in the signal so can be useful if you want to remove low frequency rumbles, wind noise or air conditioning hum. Low cut is set in three steps:

OFF – No frequencies are cut

100Hz – Frequencies are cut up to 100Hz

300Hz – Frequencies are cut up to 300Hz

In most cases I would leave this set to OFF. If you want to cut low frequencies it can always be done in post production.

INPUT 3

Input three only has an input level Auto / Manual switch and dial which perform the same function as the other inputs but effect the 3.5mm jack input on the handle.

Handle Audio

The small switch on the handle below the XLR module enables or disables the XLR module. If switched to OFF the 3.5mm jack on the camera body can be used along with audio controls within the cameras menu.

Input Select

How to use the Sony FX3 Audio Handle - Input Select

 

By default the Sony FX3 will record two channels of audio. On the rear of the XLR module is a small control panel covered by a lift up plastic cover containing the input select switch. The switch selects which input will be sent to each of the two channels:

IN3 – Only uses Input 3 and sends it to both channels. If a stereo jack is used and stereo signal sent then each channel will be recorded separately.

IN1 • IN2 – Sends Input 1 to channel 1 and input 2 to channel 2

IN1 – Only uses Input 1 and sends it to both channels

It is also possible to record 4ch audio using the Sony FX3 audio handle but to keep things as simple as possible for now I will cover that in a separate post.

 

Using a single XLR mic (Input 1)

How to use the Sony FX3 Audio Handle - XLR 1

When using a single XLR mic on the FX3 set up as follows:

  1. Set the Input Select on the rear of the module to •IN1
  2. Set Input 1 ATT to 0 (adjust if required)
  3. Set Input 1 signal to MIC or MIC+48v depending on the Mic used.
  4. Set Input 1 level control to MAN or AUTO depending on requirements.
  5. Connect the XLR microphone to Input 1
  6. Set Input 1 LOW CUT OFF (Adjust if required)
  7. Set input 2 level to LINK (See linking below for better use)
  8. If using manual levels adjust the input 1 level dial so that the levels during recording peak no higher than -6DB

Linking

When only using input 1 the FX3 will still record audio to both channels. In the above example (step 6) we linked Input 2 to Input 1 so that both channels record the same levels as set by the Input 1 controls. This gives you two identical channels of audio. There are however better ways to utilise that second channel so let’s look at those now.

Auto Backup

Let’s say you’re shooting an event and you cant decide whether to use manual or auto control for audio levels. If you set input 1 level control to manual and input 2 level control to AUTO and then the Sony FX3 will use your Input 1 manual setting for channel 1 and automatically adjust levels for channel 2 giving you both options to choose between in post.

Manual Backup

If you set both input 1 & input 2 to MAN you can then use the level dials for each input to give each channel a different level. This can be very useful as you can set channel 2 to be a little lower than channel 1 giving you a slightly quieter backup audio track incase channel 1 clips.

Post Production

How to use the Sony FX3 Audio Handle - FCPX

It’s worth mentioning that if you do use either of the above methods to create a backup channel of audio then you’ll need to make sure you enable or disable each channel accordingly in post production as you wouldn’t want both channels to be heard at the same time,

 

Using two XLR mics (Inputs 1 & 2)

How to use the Sony FX3 Audio Handle - 2 XLR

When using two XLR mics on the FX3 set up as follows:

  1. Set the Input Select on the rear of the module to IN1 • IN2
  2. Set Input 1 ATT to 0 (adjust if required)
  3. Set Input 1 signal to MIC or MIC+48v depending on the mic being used.
  4. Set Input 1 level control to MAN or AUTO depending on requirements.
  5. Connect microphone 1 to Input 1
  6. Set Input 2 ATT to 0 (adjust if required)
  7. Set Input 2 signal to MIC or MIC+48v depending on the mic being used.
  8. Set Input 2 level control to MAN or AUTO depending on requirements.
  9. Connect microphone 2 to Input 2
  10. If using manual levels adjust the input dials so that the levels peak no higher than -6DB

Using this configuration will record each mic to a separate channel.

 

Using a single 3.5mm mic (Input 3)

How to use the Sony FX3 Audio Handle - Input 3

When using a single 3.5mm mic on the Sony FX3 audio module (Input 3) set the following:

  1. Connect microphone to Input 3
  2. Set the Input Select on the rear of the module to IN3
  3. Set Input 3 level control to MAN or AUTO depending on requirements.
  4. If using manual adjust the input 3 level dial so that the levels peak no higher than -6DB

This same configuration applies to both stereo and mono 3.5mm microphones. If using Mono the FX3 will record the output to both channels. If using stereo the FX3 will record each channel separately.

Note: The level of channels 3 & 4 will be set by the single switch and dial on the Input 3 section. It’s not possible to apply different levels to channels 3 & 4 in camera.

Part 2 Coming Soon!

I’ll be posting part 2 of this guide soon where I’ll describe how to enable 4 channel recording and look at some of the additional configurations possible.

As always, leave a comment if you have any questions.

 


Kit featured in the video

Sony FX3 – get prices
SmallRig half cage – get prices
SmallRig handle extension – get prices
Sony UWP D-21 Wireless Kit – get prices
Sennheiser MKH416 shotgun mic – get prices
Sony ECM-77B lav mics – get prices

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