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What recorder do I need for an indie feature?

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Steve Topper
What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 3:44:10 am

Basically, I am in the midst of dumping as much as I can into filming a very low budget feature this summer/fall. I will be securing some amount of backing, but I don't know how much yet. But to describe the budgetary situation, I am currently moved back in with my parents, working and cutting every corner to get the best I can. However, I AM of the camp that if something is going to be done poorly it's not worth doing, so I will ultimately be spending what I asbolutely need on audio gear, and I humbly come to you for advice.

I have done as much diligent research as I can, but sometimes it hard to decipher the mixed messages across the web. With experience working a bit in the indie scene in DC, I mostly learned what NOT to do on the audio side, and how bad it really sounds when you skimp.

It will be filmed with Canon DSLRs, in a mostly controlled
environment most shots in a house so no “run and gun” requirements. Mics will be in the range of the NTG-13 for shotgun and AT 4043b for hyper cardiod. Which brings me to my question: what should I be recording it into. I have a zoom h4n, but the more I read the more I am thinking this won’t cut it.

Really, if this film turn out well, I would hate for it to be crippled by low sound quality, but there is always a trade-off on a budget, so I ultimately see something like an SD 702 out of my price range. Is there a lower priced recorder with high enough fidelity, OR is there a low price mixer with a good preamp I could route to in front of my H4n. OR am I over thinking it and the H4n will do

OR for the price, would I ultimately be better off hiring a sound guy who has all the gear. (I fear that would be the most expensive).

Thanks in advance for any advice! These forums have always been such a life saver!


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David Jones
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 4:26:51 am

Hi Steve,

HIRE A SOUND GUY! I couldn't say that enough. Someone will have to run sound anyway, why not someone who knows what they're doing. Sound is half your movie, and is AS important as the picture. You want to get it right during production.

Dave J


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Eric Toline
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 1:34:06 pm

What Dave said. That will assure you of peace of mind so you'll have one less thing to worry about.

Eric


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Steve Topper
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 2:41:50 pm

Right, points well taken. Believe me this is what I hope/plan to do. But even on a budget, I may not be able to afford the best of the best of a sound man. I simply won't be able to pay someone a thousand bucks a day no matter how good he is, so I would still like to know what I'm getting into with any guy I negotiate with. Hiring a pro does not solve the budget problem; if anything it exacerbates it (understandably for a worthy payoff)

So, for the sake of information gathering, let's assume that I have a seasoned sound man without any gear, or that I'm stubborn and insist on doing it myself (I'm not and I don't). If I want close to pro sound, could you clarify some of these options on viability:

SD 302 running into an h4n (~$1500)
Tascam H2-P2 (~$750)
Fostex FR-2Le (~600)
a different handheld recorder like marantz 661 of sony pcm-d50

Basically would any of these give me audio I could be happy with for an indie feature quality?

Like any ignorant filmmaker, at the end of the day, I have that familiar instinct to want to drop all my money into lenses, but growing up playing in bands and doing "home recordings" I understand the basics why that is a bad idea. So I need to find the right balance with the wrong budget.


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Eric Toline
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 5:25:32 pm

I can address the FR2le as I have one. I was less that thrilled with internal mic preamps the one time I tested them but that didn't bother me since I always feed any recorder at line level from a mixer, in my case a SD 442. That said the audio quality is excellent. It has no time code ability so you'll have to slate every take for post syncing.

Eric


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David Jones
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 5:53:32 pm

You can hire a professional sound guy (to work on an indi film) for around $150/day. They might not be the most experienced mixers but, they're are a lot of people out there looking for work; and they should come with enough gear and experience to get you the quality you want.

That said: Anything by Sound Devices is tops; the 302 is perfect. If you can't afford new, look for used. As far as the recorders, I haven't used these. Before you make a purchase, seriously look at used gear, ether through places like Trew Audio, Location Sound, Topham and others or on Ebay.

Dave J


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Steve Topper
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 1, 2011 at 6:16:41 pm

Thanks! Great advice David and Eric. As much as I love good sound, it would be great to let someone else deal with it entirely. But if anyone else has experience working with any field recorders, please throw your comments this way. The more I know, the more confident I will feel no matter what situation I end up in.

Knowlege can be depressing though...I remeber when I bought an sm57 some years ago and thought "wow, $100 for a microphone! This is EXPENSIVE" ha, little did I know.


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Ty Ford
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 2, 2011 at 12:44:57 am

Hello Steve and welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

Where are you?

David, $150/day for one location audio guy? Really?

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide





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David Jones
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 2, 2011 at 3:57:14 am

I'm in Michigan...lots of mixers and not a lot of work :-)

Anyway, I was referring to working on a film with little to no budget. I have to believe there are guys out there who would be willing to work on something like that for at least a nominal fee (plus food!). Of course, as I indicated they're probably not going to be the cream of the crop.

Dave J


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Steve Topper
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 2, 2011 at 6:11:33 pm

Hey Ty, I'm in North Carolina, Charlotte area.


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Ty Ford
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 2, 2011 at 6:20:19 pm

Steve,

Guess the azaleas must be ready to pop. I'm in Baltimore.

I realize WIlmington is not all that close, but there may be sound folks who live in between that might be able to help.

Regards,

Ty Ford

Want better production audio?: Ty Ford's Audio Bootcamp Field Guide





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Jonathan Mitchell
Re: What recorder do I need for an indie feature?
on Apr 3, 2011 at 7:22:44 am

Have you considerd renting in the audio gear rather than making a capital expenditure? A good sound guy will be able to save you time in shooting and also in the mix because the last thing you want to do is ADR the whole film.

I have a Aaton cantar it gives me 8 tracks and is perfect for feature work through to short films.

kind regards Jonathan


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