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Tony Connoly
Building an audio system
on Oct 10, 2010 at 2:05:37 pm

I'm beginning to understand the importance of audio, and have read from Still to Motion and done a bit of research to determine in general what audio gear I will need.

I cannot get everything at once. I was wondering if you could advise as to which are the most important pieces of gear (the order to invest in them).

--I gather that the audio recorder is probably the first to get. Can this function by itself with the built-in speakers?

What comes after the audio recorder:

--microphone to plug into the recorder. What is the most versatile type?
--on-camera external microphone for reference audio.
--mixer and headphones for monitoring.
--other specialized microphone.
--boon arms


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Richard van den Boogaard
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 10, 2010 at 8:25:00 pm

First of all, I would advice you get a Zoom H4N - a great (and very affordable) portable recording device that allows for recording of upto 4 channels, of which two mono combined XLR/Jack inputs.

The Zoom H4N also has two cross mics on the front which allows for recording of set noise - extremely important for your edit, as it gives you the feeling of 'actually being there', even if you mix it in at -20dB. Boats/planes/cars/factories/kids, whatever is relevant for the environment you're shooting in, take a few quiet minutes to record set noise. Also, bear in mind to record at 16-bit 48kHz as that matches the format in camera on the 5D (not sure about the 7D).

When recording subject sound, it's key to get the mic as close to the subject as possible. You can use a directional mic and a boom, but you'll probably need an assistant to hold it for you (and prevend it from entering the frame). Alternatively, you can use a wireless lavalier (which you can try to hide inside a shirt). For wireless solutions, you can go for Sennheiser, although I prefer Sony's much sturdier (and reliable?) UWP sets. If you have an interviewer holding a mic, use the most-used broadcast mic out there, the Electrovoice RE-50.

For monitoring of audio you can use most any headset - I often use the plugs from my iPod. Most important thing is to prevend audio from clipping, so do a set-up check first and regularly check the meters on the Zoom H4N while listening.

Just remember that 50% of your video production is actually audio...

Good luck. Hope this helps.

Richard van den Boogaard
Freelance cameraman • Editor • YouTube specialist


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Bill Doyle
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 11, 2010 at 2:21:59 am

To add to Richard's thoughts, I would get a Rode VideoMic for your camera. In a pinch, you can use the audio from that, but I use it to make sure I'm getting decent sound for syncing. If you're shooting close to the subject, you'll be fine using the camera mic to sync with the Zoom, but from a distance, it will be much harder for a program like PluralEyes to do its work.

I use the built-in mics on the Zoom a few feet away from the subject, a wireless lav into the XLR and the Rode on my camera. I also have a second wired lav feeding into a Zoom H1 as a backup.

Bill Doyle

17" MBP, Final Cut Pro 7, 23" ACD, Matrox MXO, Canon t2i


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Richard van den Boogaard
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 11, 2010 at 7:40:33 am

True, I almost forgot - you do need to record proper sound in camera, if only for sync purposes. I too use a Rode Videomic, although the little plastics in which the mic hangs do tend to break easily. But then again, it's not the most expensive mic out there...

Richard van den Boogaard
Freelance cameraman • Editor • YouTube specialist


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Tony Connoly
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 11, 2010 at 12:27:25 pm

If on a limited budget, what is the first piece of equipment you would get? The second piece?


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Bill Doyle
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 11, 2010 at 1:20:28 pm

Tony,

If you really want to keep the cost low, get a Zoom H1 ($99) and an Audio-Technica AT3350 wired lav ($20). The H1 can be hand-held and passed around like a wireless mike or you can use it for music and ambient sound. If you're doing an interview, your talent can wear the lav and put the H1 in a pocket.

If you're close enough, the 3350 has a 20' cord which means you can plug it directly into your camera.

Lastly, you can put the H1 on your camera with a hot shoe mount.

After that, I would add the Rode, then the H4n and, finally, a wireless lav.

Bill


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Tony Connoly
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:08:28 am

The H1 might fit the bill. Two questions about it:

(1) I thought it would be easy o find a shock mount for the H1, but my search did not turn anything up. Are you aware of a compatible shock mount?

(2) Really stupid question: although the H1 has two channels, I assume that does not mean you can record from the built in speakers and the line-in at the same time (to 2 separate files)?


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Bill Doyle
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 12, 2010 at 1:39:56 pm

Tony,

I'm not aware of a specific shock mount at this time (the H1 just came out), but I would imagine you could use a basic microphone shock mount designed for video cameras.

Correct, you don't get both. That's what you get with the H4n.

Bill


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Tony Connoly
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 12, 2010 at 3:16:40 pm

Thanks Bill. On second thought, it seems that the H1 might not be sufficient long-run, so I might as well get the H4N or the similarly priced Tascam. I think it will take quite a bit of study to figure out which is most suitable. For example, the H4N has four tracks, but I'm not sure how useful they are if there is no independent level control. The Tascam has two tracks, but you can't mix and match inputs. Can the levels be adjusted separately on the Tascam?

As for the microphones, the $20 lav seems like a no-brainer until I know more. The lav should be omni-directional, correct?

There seem to be two different Rode videomics. Are you guys referring to the cheaper one ($150) that is not stereo? Is this a good general purpose microphone to plug into the recorder, or is it only useful for the camera?


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Bill Doyle
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 12, 2010 at 8:29:54 pm

Tony,

You can set the recording levels independently on the H4n (not each mike or each XLR input, but you can adjust the XLR inputs and the mic inputs separately). The H4n does have a slow start-up time compared to the H1, however.

I'm not sure about the Tascam, but I've gotten positive feedback from those that own one.

Bill


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Tony Connoly
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 12, 2010 at 10:15:14 pm

Bill,

How about the level for the line-in for microphones; is that independent of the internal microphones and XLR?


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Bill Doyle
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 12, 2010 at 11:53:04 pm

Tony,

I use one or two lavs plugged into the XLR inputs (they also accept 1/4' and can accommodate condensers) and use the built-ins for backup and ambient room/environment sound. The XLR/1/4" inputs have an independent signal adjustment from the built-ins.

Bill


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Tony Connoly
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 13, 2010 at 10:50:04 am

I've read about the slow start up time for the H4N. Does that mean that everytime you press the record button you have to wait, or is it only once per session? How long is the wait?


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Bill Doyle
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 13, 2010 at 12:31:47 pm

Tony,

The wait is only for the initial power-up (approx. 15 seconds). Once it is on, you can hit record immediately. You can also set up a 2-second pre-record so you won't miss anything.

Bill


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Tony Connoly
Re: Building an audio system
on Oct 21, 2010 at 4:30:52 am

I went ahead and ordered an H1. I need to learn the basics.


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