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What exactly is a field mixer?

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jimmy joe roche
What exactly is a field mixer?
on Mar 16, 2012 at 12:37:55 am

Ok guys
so I have a question that hopefully isn't too dumb. what exactly is a field mixer?
why is this
Sound Devices 302 Portable 3 Channel Field Mixer $1200
and this
FMX-42 4-Channel Microphone Field Mixer $500
and a
regular old 4 channel audio mixer $100

what do they do differently ? when is it appropriate to use a field mixer?
we are shooting with panasonic hpx cameras and also 7d's that we use H4n Digital recorders to sync with.
thanks much

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Noah Kadner
Re: What exactly is a field mixer?
on Mar 16, 2012 at 1:38:09 am

Better sound- finer control, etc. Not to say you have to buy the best to get good sound but the more you spend and take the time to really learn how to get good sound- mic placement, etc the better you'll do. Personally I don't use a field mixer as I'm usually just working with a single mic at a pretty consistent vocal level. However once you start recording multiple mics and dealing with varying levels a field mixer will help you get better sound.


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

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Bill Davis
Re: What exactly is a field mixer?
on Mar 16, 2012 at 6:57:39 am

Noah's got the basics spot on.

Also field mixers (not all, but many) tend to be purpose designed for location recording.

This means you'll likely get something built to run on battery power. And something that has the right circuitry to do things that need to be done during field recording - like multiple returns so that you can feed the boom op, the recording device, and take a tap for the director for easy playback.

It also implies something that's small enough that it can not only be used on a sound cart, but popped in a field bag when a cart isn't present so that the soundie can mix/record in tighter locations.

Many field mixers have purpose built cases designed specifically to be worn on a strap or chest harness that allow port access to all the ins and outs so that you can patch into and out of them while keeping the unit safe from wind/rain/dust, etc.

Inexpensive "studio mixers" tend to be designed mostly for indoor, air conditioned room use.

With modern manufacturing, most modern mixers will all sound pretty good. Particularly to the untrained ear. At the top end, you're paying for them to sound GREAT and have not only great audio performance, but ergonomics, control choices, and control placements developed over years of research and testing that make them easier to use in real field recording situations.

You'll notice, for example, how the controls are usually protected from accidental switching when bumped or jostled. And how the controls can often be used even for a recordist wearing gloves in winter shooting situations. It's all these little things that elevate something into a class beyond a "general purpose tool" and that help you succeed regularly when you have to running after a politician or are part of an EFP crew working track side at a BMX race.

Just a few additions to help you better understand the differences.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor

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Peter Groom
Re: What exactly is a field mixer?
on Mar 16, 2012 at 10:33:55 am

A field mixer will be generally RUGGED design. Meant for taking a bit of punishment. Usually metal cased. Has pro metering, tone generators, means of providing audio to external devices by a number of output routes and varying levels (such as mic level and line level at the same time by different outputs. it will have facility for monitoring control, allow listening in on any input, have adjustemnt for mic types on every input separately, sich as dynamic mic, phantom 48v, t12, etc etc
The mic pre amps are a key consideration when working at a high spec and this is where the money goes. Pro users will spot the difference as will the post production chain.
They are expensive (good ones)


Post Production Dubbing Mixer

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Bob Kessler
Re: What exactly is a field mixer?
on Mar 16, 2012 at 4:14:54 pm

One more thing that quality mixers do is provide superior battery life, even when supplying multiple mics with phantom power.

To sum up from the other post:

Built for purpose
Rugged build
Ergonomic design
Superior sound quality
Flexible signal routing
Extended battery life


Filmmaking is the art of the invisible;
If anyone notices your work you haven't done your job right.

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