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Old April 10th, 2010, 02:00 PM   #1
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Recording audio-only interviews

I am currently working on a documentary film. I shot all the interview with my XL-H1 and a Rode NT-3 microphone. The sound quality is great.

However, for my next projects, I will be shooting both on-video and off-video interviews. The off-video interviews will be audio-only and I do not intent to use my XL-H1 to record the audio. So I am looking for a good digital field recorder.

However, I am not sure what I will need. I am planning to buy a Audio Technica ATW-1821 wireless system next month. So what I would like to do is the following: get the audio line out of the ATW receiver and feed it to a digital field recorder. Monitor it from that field recorder.

I found this great site:
Portable Recorder Reviews

The models I consider are:

Olympus LS-11
Sony PCM-D50
Zoom H4n
Marantz PMD661

The Zoom H4n and Marantz both have two XLR inputs. My question is: do I need them? I guess I will if I want to use my Rode NT-3 (or I could use a battery and XLR -> 3.5 adapter cable). How good are the fixed microphones on the LS-11 and PCM-D50? If I place those recorders on the table between myself (interviewer) and the interviewee, will I get a clean, high quality sound file that I can use in my project (edit under video or photos)?

I also thought about using my MacBook Pro and the USB -> XLR adapter I read about on these forums. However, that is a bulky solution that I cannot use outside so I think using a portable field recorder is a more versatile solution.

All feedback/input is highly appreciated.
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Old April 10th, 2010, 06:59 PM   #2
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If you want to match the great audio quality of your existing footage, I'd suggest that you continue to use the same microphones and microphone techniques that got you this far. At a minimum, that would mean getting a recorder that gives you access to the world of pro audio, meaning it's gotta' have xlr inputs.

As I'm sure you've read, there's quite a bit of user info on the H4n and 661 in this forum. I'm pretty happy with my H4n.

Either would give you two xlr inputs to use with your NT3, AT1800 series, other pro microphones - this and your recording techniques will be important.

PS: And, monitor with headphones! Otherwise, it's impossible to know what you're getting.
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Old April 11th, 2010, 12:46 AM   #3
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How about Sound Devices MixPre + Sony PCM-M10 or PCM-D50?
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Old April 11th, 2010, 06:34 AM   #4
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Why not continue to use your current setup?
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Old April 11th, 2010, 07:30 AM   #5
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Because it makes no sense to use my camera and dv tapes to record audio-only. I am going to make a few audio-only documentaries (like those of the BBC World Service), and do not want to drag my Canon XL-H1 with me for audio-recording only.
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Old April 11th, 2010, 07:33 AM   #6
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My 2 cent

If it aint broke , dont fix it, you're happy with your sound so save your money and keep doing what your doing with your current set up

Your going to have to lug some equipment with you anyway and you wont get the same results from a Zoom as you do from a camera IMHO

Who knows maybe one of the interviews will give you an idea for a video documenatry and you wont have to reshoot
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Old April 11th, 2010, 11:33 AM   #7
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My preference would be to use a sound recorder for an audio-only interview. If the equipment is less visible the interviewee is more likely to relax.
A sound recorder with controls that are easy to use (not fiddly), a good limiter and level indicators that are easy to read will let you concentrate on the interview rather than technical stuff.
You can't hide behind a camera in an audio interview and you want to maintain eye contact as much as possible.
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Old April 12th, 2010, 12:19 AM   #8
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That is also how I think about it Richard.

I still have to decide which recorder to buy though.
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Old April 12th, 2010, 03:13 AM   #9
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I don't know how it compares with the recorders on your list but you might want to look at the Fostex FR2LE also.
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Old April 12th, 2010, 11:50 AM   #10
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I have the Zoom H4n, but unless your mic has a very high output that recorder works better with balanced line-level input and a separate mixer or preamp. I have used my NT-3 mics with my older Zoom H4 and it was adequate but had no more room to boost with a quiet subject. I haven't tried my NT-3's with my newer Zoom.
If I was doing important audio-only interviews in a fixed location, I'd be using a mixer or preamp anyway for better control.
However if you want the minimum-sized kit for field use, getting a recorder that has good preamps with your specific mics is important.

Last edited by Jay Massengill; April 12th, 2010 at 05:21 PM.
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Old April 13th, 2010, 07:49 AM   #11
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I have a JuicedLink CX471 that I have been wanting to pair up with a Zoom H4n. Has anyone tried this combo?
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