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Zoom H4N digital recorder issue

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Chris Shaw
Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 3:48:30 pm

Hi I recently recorded some audio for some video work for a client's video that's going to be on their website. They're a huge client and this is my first video job since starting. Ive got a background in motion graphics but said I wouldnt mind helping them do some video work. So I came up with the storyboards etc and in the end it was me running 2 camera's (canon 5ds, one which I used with a shoulder rig) and 2 recording devices. One was a Blue Yeti hooked up to my microphone just to record the room tone and the other was a tie mic hooked up to a Zoom H4N digital recorder.

When I played back all the tests on the H4N the quality was perfect. All the audio was being saved into Folder 1, ready for when I exported it. After each interview I listened back and the quality was amazing. However, when I got back to the studio I imported the audio via the USB method and the files were super quiet. I dragged them into Final Cut and whacked the audio up to +30DB and you could then hear it well(ish). The downside is it sounds terrible. I contacted the company we hired the gear from and they said what I heard through the Zoom H4N when I played back the recordings should have matched up the audio when I dragged them off in finder (im using a mac). I really dont know what happened but now after half a days worth of shooting Im in the position where I have decent footage but literally crappy audio. Gutted isnt the word. Anyone help me or guide me on what could have happened and if I should prepare to be sacked?


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Mark Barroso
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 4:26:33 pm

When you play it in the zoom, where are the levels hitting? Try listening with another program, like i-Tunes or QT or whatever. What does the waveform look like in FCP?

BTW: you should always be prepared to be fired. That's why I submit invoices the day after a job.


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 4:36:42 pm

They went up to half way on the screen. What I dont understand is how when I played it on the Zoom itself it was perfect. Surely it was just playing back the audio it had recorded? Therefor when you export the files they should be exactly the same? In FCP the waveform is flat with a couple of tiny little rises in the audio. In iTunes its like Im playing a recording of silence.

Do you think this is sackable? Im only a junior so Im pretty uptight about this. I appreciate your help though :)


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Noah Kadner
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:01:52 pm

Half way up- hmm that doesn't sound like you were getting close to overmodding. Which is where you want to be with your loudest sounds. Digital audio is what it is- i.e. the waveform doesn't lie or change when you copy a file. Are you sure you had the recording level set high enough?

Noah

Call Box Training.
Featuring the Panasonic GH2 and Panasonic AC160/130.


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 5:16:36 pm

So half way up may have been too low? I just dont get why, when I had the headphones plugged in to the zoom, it played perfectly. Literally perfectly. If the files played half as good on the mac as they sounded when I played it on the Zoom I wouldnt be worried about my job. It really confuses me. If the guy hadnt wiped the files would it have been possible to get the audio by playing it through the H4N into another recording device, like my Mac Pro and record that?

Ive learnt a valuable lesson. I always aimed to be the jack of all trades. Do some video, but focus on my motion graphics etc This is why you get people who are incredibly focused on single areas of their chosen profession. Also this is why you have crews of people at any one time, not just 1 guy trying to spin several plates at the same time.


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Mark Barroso
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 6:14:24 pm

My first mistake as a soundman was relying on headphones for an indication of how loud the sound was being recorded. You can have the headphone volume cranked and still be recording at a low level. You really need to play the file back on the zoom to determine what happened. "Half-way up" is not an accurate description of the levels you recorded. The Zoom has levels ranging from -48 to 0, and the optimum range for recording sound is -20 to -6. Anything less will need serious boosting.

An almost flat line in FCP is not a good sign; it tells me this is exactly what happened. You can try "normalizing" the audio to boost the peaks a little, as well as apply the gain filter to your clip.


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:30:51 pm

I remember setting the recording level to -20 on the mic and matched it up on the transmitter that plugged into the Zoom. Its just baffling why it sounded ok every time I played it back. If it recorded low then you'd think when I played back the recordings on the Zoom it would also play super low. But it was perfect.

Thanks for the tips, I'll try doing that but I think the quality is too poor now. I will just have to face the music with my boss :(


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 7:51:55 pm

One thing, even though the card has been "wiped" if it was just the standard "format card" problem do you think theres a chance the files could be recovered on the zoom itself? Then if it played them perfectly on the zoom could I hook that up to my Mac and record that audio? Such a long shot but Im getting desperate... also in your personal opinion do you think this is sackable?


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Mark Barroso
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:04:33 pm

Chris:

I don't know why you're baffled after what's been said here. The "quality" issue is not because the device didn't work properly. It works great for, literally, millions of people. If you want it to work for you in the future you need to learn how to use it. That begins calling things by the correct name. If you plugged a transmitter into the zoom you have bigger problems than what you've described here.

You can't show up on a job with a new piece of gear and expect it to work fine without a little study and testing. I'm sorry if this is harsh, but it's not as bad as the reaction of a client who thought you knew what you were doing.

Read the manual. Listen to professionals. Figure out what you need to do before you need to do it.


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 8:21:28 pm

Listen I know what you're saying and I totally agree. I was given a budget and told to organise something I have never done before. I was employed to do motion graphics not video. I was given the budget to hire the equipment for 1 day only and had literally 2-3 hours to learn about all the new gear.

It just doesn't make any sense that the recordings were perfect on the zoom when they were played back. I realise Ive done something wrong along the way, I don't doubt that for a second, but the recordings were perfect. I know its a great bit of kit but its not so good that the low recordings sound great on there and completely muted on everything else. The recordings were fine. The test recordings were fine.

Im sorry I don't know all the technical terms, I never claimed to be a sound engineer.


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Mark Barroso
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:09:44 pm

You've got my sympathies, Chris, and sorry if I lectured you, but this board is also read by others in your same predicament and my posts are directed at them as well.

IMO, it wasn't realistic that you could pull this off with a 2-3 hours introduction to new gear, your experience level and have nothing go wrong, unless you're some kind of video genius. Sometimes we have to say "no" to people who don't have a clue as to how much is involved in doing what we do.


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 9:40:23 pm

No worries, ultimately you're right. Just like we need to manage our clients expectations I need to do manage my bosses (although he took the job on before letting me know). Have you ever heard of someone being sacked for something like this?

Also I just spoke to my friend who has a mate who edits TV commercials. When I recorded it the guy told me to record it in stereo mode, even though the Mic would only be connected up to the left channel. He said I could just duplicate the channel onto the right channel to give a proper mono sound. When I import the files (and also on iTunes etc) it seems that both left and right channels have audio. His friend thought that maybe theres a chance that the audio from both channels have "mixed" or something like that. I know you have better things to do but could this be why it played perfectly in one earphone when I listened on the Zoom and then poorly on my Mac as there seemed to be 2 channels when there should have just been 1? Or is this a sign of me being exhausted after no sleep and getting desperate?


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Mark Barroso
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:24:14 pm

You may, in fact, be listening to a mix of one "bad" channel and one "good" channel.

I don't know what you don't know, Chris, but in FCP you should see 2 channels of audio. Put the file in the browser window and see if there is two tabs labeled 1 and 2. (The zoom always records two channels, unless you force to record four) Click on one of the tabs and then the other. If you recorded a mic on one channel, it will look very different from the other channel with a healthy waveform.

In FCP, de-link the channels and delete the one that has the weak waveform, based on the above tabs. Play the remaining one and get happy.

This is basic in all audio editing software, but since you mentioned FCP I used that as an example.


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 10:42:12 pm

Thats pretty much exactly what my friend said. Im at home now (I'm in the UK and its almost 11pm). Are you in America?

I tested the above idea on a good bit of recording from a previous project and I couldn't see the tabs you mentioned. I know this is painful for you and I really appreciate this, but would it be worth taking screen grabs or even emailing you one of the files?

When I listened to the recording files on the zoom the left channel sounded perfect and the right channel was silent... so is it possible then that the wav file has mixed both channels together... even when I play it in other media like iTunes?


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Mark Barroso
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 7, 2012 at 11:11:32 pm

Yes. I-tunes will play the two channels together. FCP can play them separately if mute one channel. If you have the file in the FCP timeline, double click the audio and it will appear in the browser. Follow the above steps.


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Peter Groom
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:12:57 am

Just a thought. Your poor audio levels couldnt be caused by out of phase audio in mono could they.
Drop off 1 channel and pan the remainder centre. Still a problem, then its just plain quiet.
Re sacking.
Any boss who sends out a gfx designer to do a sound engineers task without the necessary back up and training needs sacking himself. hes ultimately culpable as he made the crewing choices (wrongly).
Solution. If you survive (and im sure you will as i dont think hell be able to hear his arxxe from his elbow) make sure you tell people clearly when youre being asked to do tasks outside your training, skilset knowlege etc so they know that youve tried to steer them. Then if it all comes crashing down, they know they created the monster.

Peter
Post a sample of the problem audio so we can download it and see if we can help out.

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:30:40 am

Pete I only just saw your message. As you can see its all sorted now and it really is dumb, although Im so tired after so many sleepless nights preparing for this that its slightly understandable that I would make such a mistake.

You are right though, I need to manage my bosses expectations. Im going to ask for some training on the audio sides of things.

Tonight Im going to be in bed by 10 finishing off the Steve Jobs biography whilst having a cup of tea and get a good nights sleep.

Thanks for all your help guys :)


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Chris Shaw
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 8, 2012 at 9:27:57 am

Its sorted! When I tell you what it was you're never going to believe how dumb it was. It does show that 2 sleepless nights really does make you less alert etc

Basically I recorded it on the left channel and due to the ways its all set up at work I listen to it on the right hand side... the left hand side is fine, other than being a little low and the mic picking up a few rustles its fine. I will try and clean the audio up in soundtrack pro but its a much better solution to what I thought the problem was.

It still backs up what you said: with no experience things like this WILL happen. Next time I'll be more prepared.

Thanks for all your help... Im not as dumb as I sound (no pun intended)


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Ty Ford
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Mar 8, 2012 at 1:32:25 pm

Hello Chris, and a belated welcome to the Cow Audio Forum.

I'm glad you got it sorted out and it wasn't a disaster. What may have been missed here is knowing what the levels are when you record. You need to know absolutely how hot to record. "I heard it in the headphones" is an all too typical response after you realize there's a problem. You need eyes and ears and all the time, not just at setup.

Regardless, the waveform on the OK left channel should have been of proper height. I think you said it was flat. I don't get that. Did you see waveforms for both channels on the time line?

On the setup at work, only the right channel plays back? How do you mix that way? You need to do some work there to get acceptable 2 channel sound, even if your result is mono.

Regards,

Ty Ford
Audio Forum Leader


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


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Matt Campbell
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Oct 21, 2013 at 2:59:04 pm

Chris, I realize this thread is way old and hope you have things figured out by now but your best bet is to take that file copied over from the Zoom and convert in STP (Soundtrack Pro).

What follows is based off of what you said about only hearing audio from the left headphone. This is normal when recording with an external mic, as that is mono. Bring it into a Multitrack project for mixing, double click on that file and open the file it into the File editor. Go to Process menu, Convert to Mono. Then select, Use left channel, hit ok and boom. You have essentially deleted the empty right channel and extracted the left channel and converted your stereo file to mono. Which is how you'll want the dialogue anyway. Save that file and switch back to the Multitrack tab.

I use this method all the time when recording VOs in the Stereo mode with an external mic. When shooting with a DSLR like your 5D, record in 4 Ch mode. Record stereo sound via the onboard mics. Record external audio from either Line 1 and/or Line 2, depending on how many mics you have. Then in post, you should have 4 channels of audio. 1 & 2 will be stereo (can use as reference sound and then throw away when mixing the final, 3&4 will show up as separate mono channels as long as you have Link 1&2 turned off in the menu. Use those mono channels for your audio mix.

You mentioned export in your posts. You shouldn't have to export anything. The files on the Zoom are what you want to use. Record at 48kHz, either 16 or 24 bit WAV files. No exporting is needed. If you tried to export your file, that may have been why you heard soft sound. That export was probably mixing the left channel with an empty right and threw things out of wack. If you record between -20 & -6 you should be all set.

OSX 10.7.5 with a 3.39 Ghz Intel Core i7 on a built up Hackintosh
16 GB of RAM with OSX on SSD, (2) internal HDDs RAID'd 1 for project files and External RAID 5 for all project assets (media, GFX, stills, etc.)
BMD Decklink Studio 2, FSI BM210, KRK Rokit 5s, Mackie 802


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Sade Joseph
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Jun 27, 2014 at 12:00:01 am

Hi Matt -

I did the same thing as Chris. I accidentally recorded all of my audio on my H4n Zoom today on STEREO mode and it won't play/I can't hear ANY sound coming from the files or its EXTREMELY low. I am in Africa shooting a documentary. As you can imagine, I am freaking out. I am trying to download STP as you suggested, but have no idea if its the right program or how to use it. Could you please guide me through this?

Also, tomorrow I was going to hook up wireless lav mics to the zoom and record audio that way for my interviews. Should it still be on 4CH mode? Or Mono?

Ahhh. Please help!!! so desperate.

Thank you!


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Sade Joseph
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Jun 27, 2014 at 12:15:56 am

I actually cant download STP because i dont have FInal Cut. Should i bring it to someone who does, or is there another program I can download and convert the files through? Thanks!


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Matt Campbell
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Jun 27, 2014 at 1:27:34 pm

Morning Sade, at least morning here in the eastern states! Sorry it took so long to get back to you. If you recorded in Stereo mode and can't hear anything, the levels may be too low. You could boost them with something like STP or Audition (I've since switch over all post projects to Adobe CS6 and love it). There are tons of similarities. Anyway, when you playback on the Zoom, where are your -db meters bouncing? If at all! If you have some level there above say -30, you'll probably have something to work with. Although starting out with a soft level like that and boosting it in post, will add noise. Its obviously best to start with a clean -db level. I generally record anywhere from -18 to -10 db. And when I mix for web, keep levels under -4 db. Broadcast is different & varies depending where you are.

Blah blah blah, anyway, what NLE are you using to edit? If Premiere, you'll have Audition. If Final Cut X, I'm sure there's something built in to help, though I'm not familiar. Avid? ProTools? Sony Vegas?

When hooking up external mics to the Zoom, you can record in Stereo mode or 4CH. I will generally use 4CH. This keeps the on-board Stereo mics active for reference audio and Inputs 1 & 2 for LAV and Boom mics. You could use Stereo Mode as well, but just select 1&2 on the Zoom. This will turn off the on-board mics.

For 4Ch recording, set up your Zoom to record in 4Ch mode. Under record, select WAV 48kHz, 24bit (16bit is okay too, but higher bit depth allows for greater control in post with effects and cleaning up the audio). However, most of your outputs will be 16 bit, like broadcast. Then go into the Input Menu, go down to Link 1/2 and change this to off (you can do this for Stereo Mode as well). This will take your inputs from the bottom (1&2) and make them mono files vs one blended/mixed stereo file. Although your on-board stereo mics, will still result in a stereo file.

Once in post with your NLE or audio software, your need to extract the inputs 1 & 2 and convert them to mono files. The files in your Finder will have an "I" suffix.wav. Ex. 4CH002I.wav. Your stereo files will have an "M." 4CH002M.wav. Leave these alone and only convert the "I" files to 2 mono tracks. Save them as mono files and your all set. Edit and mix away!

Sorry for the long winded message, just trying to be thorough. Because, believe me, I've been there!

OSX 10.7.5 with a 3.39 Ghz Intel Core i7 on a built up Hackintosh
16 GB of RAM with OSX on SSD, (2) internal HDDs RAID'd 1 for project files and External RAID 5 for all project assets (media, GFX, stills, etc.)
BMD Decklink Studio 2, FSI BM210, KRK Rokit 5s, Mackie 802


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Matt Campbell
Re: Zoom H4N digital recorder issue
on Jun 27, 2014 at 1:35:05 pm

There used to be freeware called Audicity. You might be able to find it. Its decent, as far as freeware is concerned. But your better off with the higher end gear. You'll have greater control.

OSX 10.7.5 with a 3.39 Ghz Intel Core i7 on a built up Hackintosh
16 GB of RAM with OSX on SSD, (2) internal HDDs RAID'd 1 for project files and External RAID 5 for all project assets (media, GFX, stills, etc.)
BMD Decklink Studio 2, FSI BM210, KRK Rokit 5s, Mackie 802


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