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External Audio Recorder Suggestions?

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Terry Nutkins
External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 21, 2012 at 11:55:07 pm

Hi there,

I am looking to purchase an external audio recorder for feature film production.

It will accompany a RED Scarlet and Sennheiser MKH 50, so I will be looking for a model that would sit well with these.

Any suggestions welcome and please let me know if I can provide any more information.

Many thanks...


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Eric Toline
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 12:20:08 am

Do you plan to use a mixer between the mic & the recorder? You'll need 48v phantom to power the MKH 50. How many tracks will you need on the recorder? What's your budget for the recorder? You've got a great mic, don't hold it back with recorder with minimal preamps. More detailed info about your project will lead to better results here.

Eric


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Brian Reynolds
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 12:27:21 am

A few questions that probably needs to be answered before you start....

Time code or NON time code recorder?
Are you ONLY using one mic for ALL your shooting?
Are you using any radio mics that also need to be recorded?
Are you doing it yourself or do you have a boom op?
What sort of locations will the shooting be at, indoor / outdoor or mixed?
What climatic / environmental conditions will you be working in?
How many $$$$ have you got to spend?
How long will the shoot take?
Buy or hire?


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Terry Nutkins
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 3:36:52 am

Thanks very much for the input guys. The project is a documentary feature - largely talking heads interviews.

Do you plan to use a mixer between the mic & the recorder? You'll need 48v phantom to power the MKH 50.
Am ideally looking for a recorder with phantom power to avoid the need for a mixer

How many tracks will you need on the recorder?
1-4

Are you ONLY using one mic for ALL your shooting?
I chose the MKH 50 as an all-rounder mic (considering its a talking heads doc I thought this may be sufficient), though may purchase a dedicated "outdoors" mic if the budget permits.

Are you using any radio mics that also need to be recorded?
No

Are you doing it yourself or do you have a boom op?
Its primarily static talking heads, though I have a production assistant for the few scenes which will inevitably require a boom

How many $$$$ have you got to spend?
I wouldn't want to sacrifice quality for price, so I'm very interested to hear what models I should be considering for now.

thanks again and look forward to hearing your responses!


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Al Bergstein
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 3:15:04 pm

I am not a 'professional' sound guy, but care deeply about the sound quality of my videos. I have been lucky enough to record with a wide range of gear in the last two years. I've made a ton of mistakes, but have also learned a lot.

So here, with the benefit of some hindsight, is my list for you to think about. If you are near a major city, rent first.

1-4 XLR inputs? Does that mean you would take 2? Or that you have to have 4?
If 4, then:
#1- Sound Devices 722
#2 - Edirol R44
Both can be bought with or without time code, which sounds like you don't need. I had it on a Sony, but found I never used it for doc use. For ruggedness, I'd have to give the nod to the SD unit.

If you only need two XLRs (which it sounds like you do), then SD has a 2 channel, and the Edirol for the price of 4 isn't much bigger than a 2 channel unit like the Marantz below.

At the 'lower' end, I have been using and love, the Marantz PMD 661. It gives excellent sound, is in use by many professional radio stations for field recording, and has a variety of input selections. Lo noise, etc. It is my 'go to' unit. (I have had a Tascam HD-p2 which I sold, it was too large for a 2 channel, and a Zoom H4N, which I would not buy again, as it's no where near professional grade, though it is a good recorder for serious amateur musicians). I highly recommend buying the case for it, either the Marantz case or the B&H portabrace combo.

SD is obviously the choice is price is no object, and you want the widest range of options in rugged field locations. Unfortunately, I don't use a sound man much of the time (my budgets are too small), and have found that both the Edirol and the PMD661 give about equal quality for the results.

If I was traveling overseas and into really difficult outdoors conditions, I would spend the money on SD.

I also find using a mixer almost, but not always, essential. I use SD for that. They are the best, IMHO.

Best of luck.

Al


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Bob Kessler
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 3:43:50 pm

If you don't want to "sacrifice quality for price" your best bet is to hire someone who knows what they are doing. There is much, much more than having the "right" gear. There is boom technique, lav technique, signal flow, gain-staging, etc. Once you get into post and find out the audio is terrible it's much too late, especially with a documentary; you have no choice but to live with what you have. And poor production sound has killed more projects than any other technical reason.

As far as recorders here are the usual suspects - Nagra LB, Sound Devices 722, Edirol R-4, Marantz PMD-671, Marantz PMD661, Fostex FR-2LE, Tascam HD-P2.

Cheaper than that they are hobbyist/prosumer units.

Peace,

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


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Al Bergstein
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 3:50:44 pm

Yeah, Bob is right, and I forgot to mention that on my musical shoots, I always hire a sound guy. Docs are a different beast. But having a separate sound guy is the best of all possible choices.

Al


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Malcolm Matusky
Re: External Audio Recorder Suggestions?
on Oct 16, 2012 at 9:36:51 pm

I shoot industrials & docs, went from a Zoom H4 & H1 to a Tascam DR680 6track. It's a non-time code machine, but I have been using plural eyes with the other recorders and found it an acceptable workflow. For sit down interviews I was regularly using 3~4 tracks, and with the small recorders that was a mess. I did not want to mix on set, recording to separate tracks and mixing in the edit was the best solution for me. I regularly shoot alone and have found the DR680 easy enough to use on my own, though I still use the H1 for stashing on talent with a lav or rubber banding it to a camera mounted shotgun, works fine for rough audio, where I just need to get something useful.

One note on the DR680, it only has ONE pot (volume control) you have to select which track you want to adjust with a push button and then use the rotary pot to control the level. A little weird, but works fine for my work, you can feed the recorder with a mixer, but I have not needed to ride more than one channel at a time yet. An inexpensive 2x2 field mixer would give you 3 adjustable channels.

Naturally if you have the budget for a sound recordists, great hire him/her with their gear and your set, but most of the time I'm on my own and have to have gear I can use my self.

Cheers,

M

Malcolm
http://www.malcolmproductions.com


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