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Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.

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Michael Harrison
Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 2, 2014 at 9:45:27 pm

I create educational videos for YouTube and would like to improve our audio. Right now we have a great mic (Schoeps Colette) and a mediocre recorder (Zoom H4n). The mismatch in gear quality is due to budget. Whenever we have the funds, I upgrade one component. The last upgrade was in our mic, and now we're ready to upgrade our recorder.

We typically film one person in a green screen studio. However, in the next year we will begin shooting outside more, and may start 2-person shoots. I see no scenario in which we'll have more than 2 people in a shoot.

I'm looking for flexibility, since we:
- Often record in a sound booth next to a DAW
- Film in a green screen studio
- May begin location shoots with 1 or 2 people

Constraints:
- Ease of operation. For now, all audio/video is handled by me.
When our revenue allows, I'll definitely add a sound person
and a professional DP. But until then, it's important that
the audio solution be simple.
- Cost. I'd prefer to stick around $1000. If the consensus
is the Sound Devices 702 or similar, then I might wait and save-up.

Contenders:
- SD 702: I've read nothing but glowing reviews of this, but at
$2050 it may delay our upgrade. (I'm keeping an eye out for used ones.)
- SD mixpre-d + Zoom H4n: A more affordable option, though using the
Zoom on location is a dreadful experience. A baggable mixer with
controls on top is SO appealing.
- Tascam DR-680: Looks great for the price, but I wonder if I'll be back
here in 2-3 years looking for something of higher quality and better
battery life. I baby my equipment, so I'm not worried about the plastic
build.

And finally, I'd love any advice on how to evaluation various setups myself. I would gladly rent a few pieces of equipment to try them out. However, I'm not sure how to properly analyze the performance beyond a simple "ear test". Are there ways to analyze the audio in Adobe Audition to determine the signal-to-noise ratio? Or some stress tests I should try?

Thank you for patience, and my apologies for the super-long post.
~Michael Harrison


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Richard Crowley
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 3, 2014 at 12:07:26 am
Last Edited By Richard Crowley on Oct 3, 2014 at 12:09:03 am

I don't see any mention of the camera(s?).
Are you using such low-end camera(s?) that you must do double-system sound?
You haven't really established why you are using double-system sound to begin with.

Although I started out as a sound person before ever getting involved with video, and I have TONS of audio gear, I will almost certainly record directly to the camcorder when I start shooting video for some instructional/blog things in a month or two.

There are reasons for using double-system sound. But shooting simple 1 (or 2) microphone instructional video hardly requires that much fiddling around.

I also plan on using headset mic(s) which IMHO are far superior to lav or boom for utilitarian instructional production. No, that is NOT the headset mic you see in my photo. That is an old, hard-wired production intercom headset.


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 3, 2014 at 5:09:52 am
Last Edited By Michael Harrison on Oct 3, 2014 at 5:23:37 am

We are filming on a Canon DSLR. Most of the time we use a single camera, but have used two cameras on occasion. For audio we've been using a dual system from the beginning. Right now our mic is on a boom pole mounted on a C-stand that feeds directly into our Zoom H4n.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 3, 2014 at 1:17:46 pm

Your mic on a boompole is fine when you can use it. I have the Tascam 680 and for use with a DSLR and a shotgun or other field mic it's fine for the price. It's not terribly rugged. I would not buy the SD unless you really want to carry that much weight around. Don't get me wrong, It's a fabulous product, and yes, you likely will need to replace the Tascam in a couple of years, but I've found it to be very reliable, though it eats batteries.

I tend to agree with Richard. I now usually use a real videocamera (C100) with xlr inputs. Simplifies my life greatly and gives me the DSLR look of shallow DOF when needed.

Best of luck.

Al


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 3, 2014 at 7:32:33 pm

Thanks Richard & Al for your feedback!

I'm definitely drawn to the idea of feeding audio directly into our camera. For this, it seems the SD mixpre-D would be ideal. At the same time, however, the Tascam DR-680 looks like a simple, affordable alternative. In the field, throw it over my shoulder, press record, and I'm off to the races without mounting extra gear to my rig.

Rather than list a few configurations and ask for a buy recommendation, can you suggest some tests I can do to properly evaluate these for myself? I'd love to learn how the pros analyze recording quality.

Thanks again!
~Michael


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Al Bergstein
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 3, 2014 at 9:03:24 pm
Last Edited By Al Bergstein on Oct 3, 2014 at 9:05:00 pm

Remember, the Mixpre-D, while very useful, is only a mixer, not a recorder. The Tascam is a recorder (and it has some mixer ability with it). How many mic ins do you need? if you need 4 in and a high quality mixer/recorder in one package, then yes, the 680 is quite nice. We used it to record live performances of a singer/songwriter and the quality was superb. No discernible noise floor. Nice preamps. For the price, it's a great deal. If you only need two mic/line in you might also want to check out the 60d, which screws onto your DSLR mount. It has the ability to record one channel of audio while recording a second backup copy at -6 db below so you are protected from spikes. It not only records but also can feed your camera so you get a backup onto the camera that is high quality blend. Helpful for one man bands. The build quality is less, a bit plastic, and the pre's are not up to the 680 quality (IMHO).

Of course, you can buy SD quality for more money, and if you are really going to be pushing the gear in the field, it might be the right way to go. you can't beat SD for ruggedness. And I believe their field recorder allows you to use standard Sony batteries for much longer life in the field. That's a huge plus.

Good luck.

Al


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 4, 2014 at 2:57:03 am

Thank you for your help!

BTW, I just saw that the next version of the DR-60 will be going on sale next week: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1084690-REG/tascam_dr_60mkii_portable...
Apparently they've improved the preamps.

Thanks again!
~Michael


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Al Bergstein
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 4, 2014 at 4:54:39 am

The specs seem almost identical to the older unit. But for the price, what the hell. It's a great unit for $200. A no brainer.

Al


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 25, 2014 at 10:07:34 pm

Hey Al,

I have a quick follow-up question. After reading your post, I've been learning more about the C100. Do you not need dual sound with this camera?

When shooting on location we use lavs with the Sennheiser G3. If I were to feed the receiver straight into the C100 XLR, would that give production ready audio? If so, then I'm almost ready to ditch the world of DSLRs + dual audio + rigs + sync + viewfinders.

Thanks again!
~Michael


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Al Bergstein
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 26, 2014 at 6:16:03 am

You do not need dual sound with this camera. So it depends on your style of shooting. For my low budget documentary and corporate interviews, etc. I usually just go directly in to the camera with my feeds. It does suppose that you can run your levels just fine without touching the camera. Often that's ok, sometimes not. For shooting one of a kind audio like music, or if I have a situation where I need to run the levels, I usually run a second recorder and/or my SD MixpreD and feed the camera along with that. But the sound on the C100 is just fine for most uses.

Al


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 27, 2014 at 6:01:54 am

Excellent. Thank you for your time and help!


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Bruce Watson
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 4, 2014 at 2:53:32 pm

The joy of a MixPre-D is that you can run balanced line out to a separate recorder, like a DR100mkII (I don't know if your Zoom H4N can take pro line out), while simultaneously sending unbalanced mic out to your camera. That's how I use mine.

If your camera audio is good enough, you can use it without any sync issues in post, and the recorder files become backups. If camera audio not good enough, you can use it as a guide track to help sync the audio from your recorder in post.

But if money is tight, a Tascam DR-60D seems like the obvious choice for use with a DSLR.


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 4, 2014 at 11:34:36 pm

Thanks for your feedback, Bruce!

Here are my 3 use-cases:
1) Record voice-over straight into a computer
2) Film in a green screen studio (controlling camera with laptop)
3) Shoot in the field

For 1) and 2), I'm thinking the USBPre 2 would be ideal.
For 3), it seems the Mixpre-D would be best (or DR-60D for a budget alternative)

It's been tough because I'm trying to find a magic solution for all 3 use-cases, but I'm beginning to think that may not be possible. Since 90% of our work is 1) and 2), I'm leaning towards the USBPre 2.

Q: Can you use the mixpre-D as an audio interface? If so, how does it compare with the usbpre 2?

Thanks!
~Michael


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Al Bergstein
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 5, 2014 at 3:59:09 am

Michael. it seems if you really need to do live voice over and also film in a green screen studio and only care about mixing the audio and running the volume control into the camera, that the Mixpre-D is a good solution. The Tascam is a bit harder to ride volume pots on real time. I wouldn't consider using it for such a thing. using a Mixpre-D to feed a 680 might be the bette choice. You can also feed your camera at the same time. Might be a bit non-ergonomic. But it would get the job done. But you could do it with any recorder actually from the mixpre-d.

Al


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Bruce Watson
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 5, 2014 at 3:28:47 pm

The MixPre-D does have a USB port, and it does have AES3 output. So it's got a ADC on board. I'm thinking it's probably possible to use it as a USB audio interface to your computer. But I've never tried it, so I don't really know.


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Michael Harrison
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 5, 2014 at 7:01:40 pm

I just took another look at the product page on the Sound Devices website, and the mixpre-d can be used as an audio interface:
http://www.sounddevices.com/products/mixpred/key-features/
Though it seems it cannot be powered via USB.


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Ryan Phillips
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Oct 9, 2014 at 2:33:02 am

I've used the Tascam DR-60D and gotten fantastic results. It's portable and affordable. But if you are thinking about recording directly to camera, go a quality XLR adapter like the BeachTek DXA-SLR Pro. It mounts right to your camera, it's rugged, extremely portable, and allows you to record great audio right to the camera from your quality mic via XLR inputs. Phantom power, limiters, AGC disable, the whole nine yards.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Analysis Paralysis: Sound Devices, Tascam, audio interfaces, etc.
on Nov 3, 2014 at 1:46:35 pm

Michael, the Mixpre can run a long time off two AA batteries. I have used it extensively and the power consumption is wonderfully low. You can also buy the power apdapter and run it from 120 or 220 if you need to. I've got no complaints.

Al


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