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Using H4n on film set

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David Watson
Using H4n on film set
on Aug 16, 2012 at 5:22:38 am

I was doing some tests with the Zoom H4n and am not sure how to use it for what I need on a film set. I work on short films, and most of the time we only use a boom mic to record audio. But sometimes we use 1-2 lavs in addition to the boom. And this all needs to be recorded at 48KHz/24-bit. Well I guess it doesn't NEED to be, but I would prefer it over 44.1KHz/16-bit.

On the H4n, the 3 modes are Stereo/4Ch/MTR. MTR mode allows for mono wav files, as well as stereo, but it only records at 44.1KHz/16-bit. Stereo mode only allows to record up to 96KHz/24-bit, but it only allows for stereo wav files. This isn't a problem when using only one mono input (ie, boom). In this case the audio is recorded onto both the LR channels of the wav. I can just strip out one channel or even work with a stereo file. The problem arises when using two mono inputs (boom + lav). The audio from each input is mixed together, and then duplicated to both the LR channels. So I don't think I can work on just the boom audio alone or just the lav audio alone. 4Ch mode isn't any better because it creates two stereo files from the two inputs and the two built-in mics.

So does this mean that I am forced to record one mic input at a time if I want to record in 48KHz/24-bit, or record in 44.1KHz/16-bit if I want to record multiple mics together?

David H. Watson
dEhiN Entertainment


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 16, 2012 at 10:54:44 am

First question is..... How familiar are you with the H4n and have you done much work with it?
The H4n is a good recorder but it should NOT regarded as a 'Professional' recorder, yes it can deliver good results if used with care.
Are you intending to actively ride the audio levels (if so how are you going to do it?)or are you going to use it as a set and forget recorder?


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David Watson
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 16, 2012 at 11:17:53 am

Hi Brian, I'm not familiar with it at all, and have done no work on it. A volunteer film group I'm part of purchased it to try and get better audio than using the built-in mics on DSLRs. In the past the group used to also rent equipment when using pro cameras (like the RED camera). But they recently purchased the H4n and a boom + pole + headphones (Sennheiser HD 280).

I don't foresee actively riding the audio levels, but I also don't plan to just set and forget. I plan to have a separate boom operator so I can monitor the recording levels. I know most of the time on a film set a boom mic will suffice alone to capture the audio. But I'm wondering if it's possible, and if so how, to record more than one mic input (ie, boom + 1 lav) and record each separately - either as separate mono wav files, or one stereo wav file with each mic input on each LR channel.

David H. Watson
dEhiN Entertainment


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Peter Groom
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 16, 2012 at 9:13:05 pm

h4n is really a 2 track recorder, both iputs on the rear xlrs/ jacks. if you have more surces you must either mix, cross jack or use 2 recorders.
i really would suggest you feed everything throug a f ield mixer and then to the recorders.
DONT allow audio to look after itself. It wont and will all go pear shaped. YOU MUST give it 100% attention. Let the pix loo after themselves.
Peter

Post Production Dubbing Mixer


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Jonas Bendsen
Re: Using H4n on film set
on May 19, 2015 at 8:04:10 pm

I realize this an old thread, but thought I'd post in case the "indie crowd" found it looking for tips on use of their H4N's. While the H4N isn't going to compete with an 8 channel Tascam or Sound Devices field recorder, you can definitely use it as a decent little budget 4 track recorder.

We run a mic into each XLR input (which are phantom powered), then plug the lav receiver or a mixing board/direct out into the 3.5mm input jack on the bottom of the unit, which hijacks the onboard mic input.

We usually use this as a three track solution, but if you're using a mixer and you pan hard left and right, you will have four channels of isolated audio.

Again, not necessarily "pro," but a great solution for a budget production.

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Brian Reynolds
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 16, 2012 at 11:37:05 pm

David you mentioned... "I don't foresee actively riding the audio levels, but I also don't plan to just set and forget. I plan to have a separate boom operator so I can monitor the recording levels. I know most of the time on a film set a boom mic will suffice alone to capture the audio. But I'm wondering if it's possible, and if so how, to record more than one mic input (ie, boom + 1 lav) and record each separately - either as separate mono wav files, or one stereo wav file with each mic input on each LR channel"

Is the boom operator also monitoring the sound with headphones?..... I hope so, as a microphone sort of pointed in the right direction is like using a camera pointed in the right direction WITHOUT a viewfinder it might sort of work but very unlikely do give the desired results.

As mentioned the H4n should be regarded as a 2 track recorder if this doesn't suit the shoot you need to change the way you do things.


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David Watson
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 18, 2012 at 12:00:40 am

So typically both the sound recordist and the boom operator both monitor levels? I guess that makes sense. If there's only one pair of headphones, what about self-booming? Is this feasible?

As for the H4n being a 2-track recorder, that should be fine for the shoots coming up. What I'm trying to figure out is whether it's possible to have 2 inputs recorded at 48KHz/24-bit on separate channels or wav files?

Or perhaps I should pose a new question: in music production, every single input is recorded on a separate track, regardless of what samplerate you use. I assumed the same should be for audio production on a film set. But someone mentioned above about using a field mixer if I have multiple inputs. But wouldn't this mean I am mixing on set and saving a mix of the inputs to one track? Is this the way audio for film is usually done? I know that generally the boom captures all audio, but what about when you have 1 or 2 principal actors specifically mic'd?

David H. Watson
dEhiN Entertainment


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 18, 2012 at 1:11:52 am

So typically both the sound recordist and the boom operator both monitor levels? I guess that makes sense. If there's only one pair of headphones, what about self-booming? Is this feasible?

Yes they both need to have headphones BUT for different reasons.. the boom op is concerned about the positioning of the microphone and achieving the best sound he can get and the recordist is concerned about getting it on to the recorder and even more importantly what its like coming off the recorder. Yes for low budget productions you can self boom, and that's what most TV sound recordist do, have a mixer over the shoulder to keep an eye on the levels and hold the boom pole themselves.



Here is a setup I have used on a couple of shoots...


As for the H4n being a 2-track recorder, that should be fine for the shoots coming up. What I'm trying to figure out is whether it's possible to have 2 inputs recorded at 48KHz/24-bit on separate channels or wav files?

Yes the H4n will do that.

Or perhaps I should pose a new question: in music production, every single input is recorded on a separate track, regardless of what samplerate you use. I assumed the same should be for audio production on a film set. But someone mentioned above about using a field mixer if I have multiple inputs. But wouldn't this mean I am mixing on set and saving a mix of the inputs to one track? Is this the way audio for film is usually done? I know that generally the boom captures all audio, but what about when you have 1 or 2 principal actors specifically mic'd?

If you want to put things on separate tracks the H4n is good for 2 tracks, If you insist on recording the 2 radio mics to seperate tracks you may need to use a second H4n unit for the purpose OR there other machines around that will do more / and better such as the Roland R44 or Tascam DR680 as well as the Sound Devices range of recorders, the film industry standard is the SD788t, there are many other makes around also but the H4n is just the first baby step in film sound recording.



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David Watson
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 18, 2012 at 1:27:40 am

Hi Brian, you mentioned that the H4n is good for 2 tracks at 48KHz/24-bit. But I can't figure out how to set it up. I read the manual plus did several tests myself. I know with MTR mode, I can have 2 inputs recorded to two different tracks (each track being saved as a mono wav file), but this is only at 44.1KHz/16-bit. And I know with Stereo mode, I can have 2 inputs recorded at 48KHz/24-bit but to one track (an interleaved stereo wav file). I guess what I want is a split-stereo wav file or 2 mono wav files at 48KHz/24-bit. How do I set this up on the H4n?

Also what is typically done with film audio - a mixdown of all dialogue or separate tracks for each mic?

David H. Watson
dEhiN Entertainment


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Brian Reynolds
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 18, 2012 at 1:53:57 am

Record in 'Stereo' mode. (that is the most desirable recording method used on film / video shoots)
In post production these 2 tracks will then be regarded as separate tracks.
Forget 4 CH mode (unless you get custom cables made) and MTR is used for music production and is of little use on a film set.

The set up details are on page 51 of the manual. "1-03 Setting / Recording: Recording Format"

There is NOT a typical shoot... every job / location has its own needs and no one thing will solve the problems, you need to work through each one step by step.

Just like a fireman every fire is different with different problems and locations but they all have a common factor....

A location sound recordist is the same.... but with sound


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David Watson
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Aug 18, 2012 at 2:05:14 am

Hi Brian, thank you for your help. I figured out the problem - I had set Mono Mix to on, forgotten about it, and then had done my test. I set it to off, and re-tested and everything worked fine.

David H. Watson
dEhiN Entertainment


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Arlene Willems
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Jan 27, 2014 at 6:04:48 pm

Brian Reynolds,

You said:
"Record in 'Stereo' mode. (that is the most desirable recording method used on film / video shoots)
In post production these 2 tracks will then be regarded as separate tracks. "


I recorded in Stereo mode with 2 lavs. But when i uploaded the wav file for post production, the track was not regarded as separate tracks. Both inputs (Input 1 & 2) were mixed into one track. I am using Premiere Pro CS5.

I want the Input 1 in one track and Input 2 in another track. In that way, I can separately edit the tracks.

Thanks,

Arlene W.


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David Watson
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Jan 27, 2014 at 7:12:39 pm

Hi Arlene, I haven't used H4n in a few years now, but there should be some sort of a split stereo mode which will take 2 mono inputs (your 2 lavs) and save them as separate mono wav files. Stereo mode is always 2 channels in one, stereo wav file. So in your case, with the 2 lavs, one would have been recorded to channel L and the other to channel R. Alternately, you could split the wav file into two mono files using APP or any other audio editing program (if you're not sure how to do it in APP, just use Audacity since it's free and fairly easy, especially for something like this).

HTH

David


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Arlene Willems
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Jan 27, 2014 at 8:42:00 pm

Hi David,

Thanks for the information. I am not that familiar with Audacity. I have used it a few times, long time ago. I just downloaded it into my new system. I tried your advice. I recorded using Stereo mode with my H4n zoom with my 2 lavs. Then I upload them into Audacity and split them into 2 mono files. Upload the 2 files into my Premiere Pro CS5 and linked them. It worked perfectly for what I do.

Thank you David for your quick response. And I'm surprised that I was able to solve my problem that quick as well. Many thanks!

And thank you to all the people who shared their knowledge in this forum.

~ Arlene W.


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Christof Elsinghorst
Re: Using H4n on film set
on Jun 25, 2014 at 7:45:04 pm

I use the h4n in 4ch mode and made a script
http://www.ietsanders.com/?portfolio=zoom-h4n-split-stereo-files-into-2-mon...


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