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mercer

Audio Recorders?

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So, I’m at the point where I am about to start shooting dialogue scenes for my film. Being a one man band, guerrilla shooter, I need my set up to be as quick and easy and inconspicuous as possible.

I’ve used the H1 and the DR-05 but they’re both a little big for my set up. Right now, I have two Olympus LS-7 field recorders and I love the quality and how small they are. I can have one attached to the top of my camera with a small shotgun and then have another in my actor’s pocket with a lav. They will do fine if need be, but I figured I’d explore my options.

I always liked the size of the Zoom H2/H2N... small but not tiny with external controls. And I’ve heard/seen some filmmakers use the whole recorder attached to a boom pole using only the onboard mic. But I know they’re pretty dated and assume there are better options out there.

So I looked around last night and came across the Zoom H5. Anybody have any experience with it? I have acces to a couple Rode NTG mics, so the onboard XLR inputs seem interesting but as I understand it, the onboard mic unit is modular... will the recorder work without any of those modular units attached? Because it seems like the perfect size without it. I figured I could pick up one or two of their new pocket recorders for lav mics and then run an XLR shotgun and maybe an XLR lav from the other input on the H5.

I know this isn’t ideal, @IronFilm but I NEED the small footprint, so is it usable? If not, any creative ideas out there to get good audio with a cheap and easy workflow that one person can operate?

Also, does the old line in/out trick from external recorders really work to bypass DSLR preamps?

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On 5/6/2018 at 8:53 AM, mercer said:

I know this isn’t ideal, @IronFilm but I NEED the small footprint, so is it usable?

:)

Someone has to keep us on the straight and narrow... otherwise no telling what kinds of trouble we would get ourselves into. (slowly pushes zoom h1 under bed with foot so it is out of sight / out of mind...)

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On 5/7/2018 at 3:53 AM, mercer said:

I’ve used the H1 and the DR-05 but they’re both a little big for my set up. Right now, I have two Olympus LS-7 field recorders and I love the quality and how small they are. I can have one attached to the top of my camera with a small shotgun and then have another in my actor’s pocket with a lav. They will do fine if need be, but I figured I’d explore my options.


An H1 is "too big"?! The mind boggles.... 

Perhaps get a Tascam DR10L to use on talent?
 

On 5/7/2018 at 3:53 AM, mercer said:

And I’ve heard/seen some filmmakers use the whole recorder attached to a boom pole using only the onboard mic. 

Please no. 

Just because people have done this (I've also seen people use broom sticks as boom poles! ha), doesn't mean you should do it!!
 



I wrote up last year my thoughts on the best pics for a recorder:
http://ironfilm.co.nz/which-sound-recorder-to-buy-a-guide-to-various-indie-priced-sound-recorders-in-2017/

The only notable changes since then in this niche is the MixPre10T announced and the Marantz PMD-706 shipping. 

2 hours ago, Sage said:

Thoughts on these?

https://www.sounddevices.com/products/recorders/mixpre-3

Its hard to beat SD preamps

Zoom F series pre amps are right up there at the same level. 

And the Zoom F4 has more features and a lower price than the MixPre3.

Personally the only strong reason to get the MixPre3 in my eyes is its small size, it is shockingly small. So if teeny is what you want, go for MixPre3!

 

 

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27 minutes ago, Sage said:

The H4n scared me off

Yup, no Zoom recorder would interest me professionally other than the F series. (well I have the H1 which I purchased when I was the student)

 

 

 

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Rather than a new recorder, what about adding an XLR preamp to your existing setup? 

If that might work this review by Caleb Pike compares some relatively inexpensive (+ one expensive) preamps.

In a couple of other videos here Caleb shows a way to use and modify the Saramonic SmartRig XLR Preamp ($23).

I understand the camera's mic input still passes through the camera's internal preamp and you can't actually 'bypass' it - just turn it down and make it less pronounced by using a stronger - and ideally cleaner - input signal.

The $23 Saramonic setup does look workable, lightweight, simple, cheap and creative, and presumably the 3.5mm output could be split with one of these or similar, to send an input signal to a recorder (e.g. DR-10L/LS-7 which could otherwise double as a pocket recorder if needed) as well as a signal to the camera for scratch or backup audio.

The audio quality seems pretty reasonable, but in the video it sounds like the Saramonic setup loses some of the lower frequency sounds compared to the C100 XLR preamp, which by contrast sounds somewhat 'richer'. I wondered if there was an inbuilt low cut filter involved with the Saramonic. The Beachteck looks like a better quality option, but is a little more bulky and expensive. However, it can be bottom mounted which is a plus. Either way, at $23 and $140 respectively the Saramonic and Beachteck options are considerably cheaper than the Zoom H5 at $270, but with the downside of having to connect your existing recorder, which is more fiddly and prone to disconnecting, but nothing you couldn't work around.

When all is said and done, cameras come and go, cheap gear breaks and often disappoints with it's compromises and lack of performance. But a quality audio setup will last a long time. That said, I'd personally consider selling anything I didn't need, throwing in the extra cash and buying a MixPre3 and not have to worry about audio recorders for another decade or more. If you look at it like that the MixPre3 is a bargain.

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The DR100mkiii is bigger than the H5 but if size is a concern then the solution that @Richard Bugg suggested would a great alternative. 

I have tested the Saramonic coupled to the H1 and it produced excellent results. 

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8 hours ago, Richard Bugg said:

If that might work this review by Caleb Pike compares some relatively inexpensive (+ one expensive) preamps.

Not a great supporter of using a dedicated external pre amp prior to your recorder in this day and age if you're on a low budget (bit different when people only say had an  H4n, then putting in say a MixPre/302 could make a massive difference, but we're in 2018 now), as the added cost/size/weight/complexity just doesn't add up to make sense. 

With the price of the Beachtek DXA-MICRO PRO Audio Adapter I'd suggest to just buy a Tascam DR60Dmk2 instead, which has pretty darn good pre amps for its low low price and you get a recorder with it too! ;-)
(I checked the listed specs for each, and yes the Tascam has a better S/N Ratio than the Beachtek)

As a low end pre amp (which all of these are, except the MixPre3, which is a recorder too) is *not* likely to outperform a solid recorder's pre amps such as say the Zoom F4 (or even a DR60Dmk2). 

 

8 hours ago, Richard Bugg said:

When all is said and done, cameras come and go, cheap gear breaks and often disappoints with it's compromises and lack of performance. But a quality audio setup will last a long time. That said, I'd personally consider selling anything I didn't need, throwing in the extra cash and buying a MixPre3 and not have to worry about audio recorders for another decade or more. If you look at it like that the MixPre3 is a bargain.


And the Zoom F4 is an even greater bargain! ;-)

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Thanks to everyone for their replies. Definitely some good info.

@IronFilm I appreciate your level of professionalism but I need a small footprint. The Tascam lav recorders could work and are essentially how I am using my two Olympus recorders now. But since I do have access to the Rode NTG mics, I am exploring a few other options to up my sound a little.

So I know what Professional IronFilm would do, but let me ask you this. Hypothetically... if you had zero equipment and were given a $300-$500 budget to buy a couple recorders and some cheap lavalier microphones, what would you buy. Also remember the Tascam 60 is WAY too big for what I am shooting. I am shooting scenes in public. On beaches and the boardwalk. I need a busy background in my shots but I don’t want to draw attention and have people stop and stare and ruin a shot.

Right now, I am most curious about the Zoom F1 and the Zoom H6. Even the H6 is bigger than I feel comfortable with but with all of the tracks and external knobs, it seems like it may be worth the extra size.

Now I’ve also found this Saramonic XLR Recorder that seems interesting. It has phantom power and is tiny with no cords... definitely something I can handle when the camera is on a tripod and I boom a scene.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1349307-REG/saramonic_sr_vrm1_compact_liner_pcm_recorder.html

You have to remember that I am truly a one man band. 9 out of 10 times, I will have zero help. The ultimate option for me would be some kind of way to bypass my 5D3’s internal preamps with an external recorder. I really don’t care if it’s a $100 recorder or a $300 recorder. But I am also not against double sound and synching in post.

As I said, the Zoom F1 seems interesting with it’s ability to send a line out to the camera and then also get an external recording. It’s small and inconspicuous size is also a plus. I also like the fact that it can double as an on talent recorder with lavaliers.

I’ve read your article and it’s definitely interesting but you bypass the best low end options. It seems like that would be a great area for someone in your position to offer the most information to zero budget filmmakers like myself.

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16 hours ago, mercer said:

You have to remember that I am truly a one man band. 9 out of 10 times, I will have zero help.

Contrary to others, I'd say - Zoom H4n Pro + 2 xlr lavs or boom one of NTG (or even both with one line lav) depends of situation. As you now, you can easily fix it on cage and make monitoring on camera with attenuator cable.

Why suddenly, and so puristic, H4n becomes so bad estimated for one-man band, easy moving operation and filming that is not meant in ambition more nor less than to, say, get vimeo stuff pick choice?

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16 hours ago, mercer said:

Hypothetically... if you had zero equipment and were given a $300-$500 budget to buy a couple recorders and some cheap lavalier microphones, what would you buy.

In detail, this is what I'd get personally with that budget: chinese 3.5m carbon fibre boom pole + secondhand Tascam DR60Dmk2 + secondhand NTG1/ME600/ME66/Deity/AT4073a (whatever can be found cheapest, as budget is beyond tight) + Samson C02 + Rycote INV-7 + Rode WS6 + USB powerbank (5000mAh should be enough, 1000mAh if you want to be cautious and have something extra to charge your phone too) + 4m XLR cable + cheapie camera shoulder strap + a strip of velcro. 

16 hours ago, mercer said:

Also remember the Tascam 60 is WAY too big for what I am shooting. I am shooting scenes in public. On beaches and the boardwalk. I need a busy background in my shots but I don’t want to draw attention and have people stop and stare and ruin a shot.

I do not at all understand why the H6 is fine but the DR60D is "too big", they're more or less the same, six of one, half a dozen of the other. 

And if you do want to be super ultra discrete then just sling the recorder into a casual side bag hanging on your body, and in that configuration the ergonomics of the DR60D becomes drastically preferable over the H6! Thus I don't understand why a person wouldn't want to choose not just the cheaper option (as they're on an extraordinarily tight budget) but also the better option as well.

Additionally, I don't see the problem with using a boom in public, I do it all the time
(people care about what you're doing less than you think)

 

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17 hours ago, mercer said:

You have to remember that I am truly a one man band. 9 out of 10 times, I will have zero help.


I don't understand this either... why does it have to be solo?  Ask around, find someone else in the indie scene, or drag in a relative/friend, or heck even use a spare actor as a helping hand for the crew! 

Filmmaking is fundamentally a collaborative team effort, to try and always do it solo is like someone always training at rugby solo then wondering why he struggles to play rugby effectively?! Gee, no surprises there as to why mate. 

 But if you're firmly stuck in your ways, I'd suggest finding whatever cheap secondhand G3/UWP-D11/RodeLink/etc that you can find, together with a Tascam DR60D (or Marantz PMD-706 if you really need more channels).  Or just get a few Tascam DR10L on sale. Or even simply one Tentacle Sync E plus a few Aputure A.Lavs, as the ultra low budget way to do it with a relatively easy workflow. (if each actor has an iPhone available to use, or just buy a few rough looking secondhand iPod Touch for around the same as a Tascam DR10L if not even less.  https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/timecode-audio-recorder/id1322011386?mt=8)

 

17 hours ago, mercer said:

But I am also not against double sound and synching in post.

Good, so no need at all for the recorder(s) to be connected to the camera at all.

 

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17 hours ago, mercer said:

As I said, the Zoom F1 seems interesting with it’s ability to send a line out to the camera and then also get an external recording.

It isn't line out, it is a mic level output.

 

17 hours ago, mercer said:

I also like the fact that it can double as an on talent recorder with lavaliers.

I'd rather have the slimmer Tascam DR10L as talent bodypacks than the bulkier Zoom F1

 

17 hours ago, mercer said:

I’ve read your article and it’s definitely interesting but you bypass the best low end options. It seems like that would be a great area for someone in your position to offer the most information to zero budget filmmakers like myself.

In the article (as I state at the start) I'm almost exclusively focusing on field recorders for the aspiring PSM, thus only looking at the low end options (with barely a brief glance at some low-mid options such as 633 getting a quick mention).

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That is the recorder from Saramonic, and the guy even said the sound was ok. He had problems with the menus and handling. 

On the other hand the Samramonic preamp is just a preamp with a battery. When I was testing that, I found it was comparable to the rm222 juicedlink when used with a Rode NT1-A. It is worth every penny of the $23! 

There is a dual XLR channel version as well.

But I agree with you on the H6, there are better audio recorders for the size/price. 

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I will say that the Saramonic recorder may be worth a test. It seems super convenient. I’m sure it has its issues, but I have found that most issues I read about on forums are due to the operator expecting too much from a piece of equipment and their refusal to work around its limitations.

For me, one man band filmmaking is about designing productions around limitations. Everything from the script to the cast to the lens choice is pre-conceived with the struggles of the production in mind.

@IronFilm I think we just live in two different worlds. If I had a boom pole on the boardwalk, I’d be stopped in less than 5 minutes by a cop asking for a permit or just shutting me down. A DR60Mkii, even in a bag, with wires sticking out would get me an extra 3 minutes.

@Don Kotlos thanks for the link to the dual XLR preamp... that’s definitely worth a test as well. In fact, it may be just what I’m looking for.

I don’t love the size of the H6 but with all of the external controls, it seems like something I could grow into if necessary. But it was really going to be a last ditch option for me. I think I would just go for a DR-40 for a couple XLR inputs in a semi-small, self contained unit before I went with the H6. I just figured for a hundred more, the H6 could stay on the maybe list.

Right now I’m leaning towards the Zoom F1. After I sell my Olympus recorders and a couple microphones I have lying around, I’ll just have enough for two units. I can then build upon those if I want to add the XLR module at a later date. Or if I want to use the F1 as a preamp for in camera audio.

 

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24 minutes ago, mercer said:

@IronFilm I think we just live in two different worlds. If I had a boom pole on the boardwalk, I’d be stopped in less than 5 minutes by a cop asking for a permit or just shutting me down. A DR60Mkii, even in a bag, with wires sticking out would get me an extra 3 minutes.

Your cops must be a hell of a lot more bored than mine. 
Where are you, the USA? I've heard of how the USA is becoming more of a "police state", but come on that is just ridiculous

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