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Old December 13th, 2011, 04:37 PM   #31
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Re: Should I get a mixer with zoom h4n?

I bought my mixer (SD Mixpre) because I thought it was needed for preamp audio quality. But I find it's much more useful for the practical stuff: easy to adjust dials, easy to read meters, switches for all controls (no menus).

I just don't think it's practical to ride the levels with equipment that doesn't have real dials; the level up/down buttons on the side of the h4n are simply not up to the task.

The preamp audio quality only comes into play at the fringes; most of the time you are able to get your mic close enough and the sound is relatively consistent, so the signal is way above the preamp noise. But sometimes you can't get a mic close enough or you don't have spare eyes/hands to keep the levels adjusted. Then you find yourself in the trudging through the mud, and a good preamp is important.

Estimating how often you will play in the mud is really what you need to figure out. Given that you will be working with untrained sound people it might be often enough that a standalone mixer with a good preamp would be useful. It sounds like you have experience, so evaluating your past sound work is a good place to start. If you find background noise in your recordings then you might need a better preamp. But if you have the more common issues from the mic not being close enough like room echo, background noise, or unintelligible dialog a preamp will do nothing for you.
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Old December 14th, 2011, 04:46 AM   #32
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Re: Should I get a mixer with zoom h4n?

I finally decided to pay more and get the tascam DR-680 8-Track Portable Field Audio Recorder. it's close to $800 - but it will do everything I need it to.
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Old December 14th, 2011, 06:38 AM   #33
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Re: Should I get a mixer with zoom h4n?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Bobson View Post
I finally decided to pay more and get the tascam DR-680 8-Track Portable Field Audio Recorder. it's close to $800 - but it will do everything I need it to.
How do you mix multiple mics on it? Are you using it just as a recorder or as a mixer as well?
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Old December 14th, 2011, 07:13 AM   #34
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Re: Should I get a mixer with zoom h4n?

I'm buying it as a recorder - so I can record 4 XLR mics at one time. I'll then be able to bring them all into my editing timeline and sort out the levels in post.
I'm usually working on my own, so I'm too preoccupied with videotaping to try to adjust levels live during the event.
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Old December 19th, 2011, 11:44 AM   #35
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Re: Should I get a mixer with zoom h4n?

So I've begun doing a series of fun youtube shorts with friends... nothing serious, more like every month or so when we all have a free weekend we record some stuff. We're using this mostly to increase our experience and knowledge (and oh yeah, have some fun) so the next time we go out we're going to rent a mixpre and see how it goes (I assume I'll also need some pads, but our original signal might just be low enough to get away with it... anyone able to chime in about this?). Tom was great enough to give us his experience with the mixpre, I'll definitely share mine. I'm excited to see how it helps...

On another note, I'm a film student and over the past month I've been wrecked with final projects... and the equipment room at school has been equally as wrecked with too many students trying to get equipment at once, meaning my sound kit got a LOT of use from my friends (and myself) who found themselves in a jam when the equipment room ran short. In those scenarios I've found with a boom op who takes the job seriously, they've been getting really fantastic crisp sound with just the h4n and microphone (no mixer), but those were also in more controlled situations... all of them inside, all of them with professional actors who could hit their marks and respond to speaking parameters (speak louder, turn your head towards the microphone on this line, etc.). Note that we didn't do any sound design for any of the rooms.

So for anyone reading, from my experience it seems like if you can get experienced actors and experienced sound operators, you can get some great audio in a very controlled environment. I'll let everyone know how the mixpre helps in a slightly less controlled environment with my shorts (not that it's documentary-style filmmaking, but more like... hey guys let's go make a movie! We can totally shoot in this parking lot!)
If anyone reading this thread is interested I'll post some sound clips as well from what we've been getting, both in the controlled environments and non-controlled.

All in all, I've decided once again that the zoom h4n is no all-purpose amazing professional sound recorder (does an all-purpose device for ANYTHING in film actually exist? I haven't found one yet). But... for $300, it gives you amazing audio that's way beyond its price range.
Now, will it be useful for my feature, assuming I can rent a few things to help it out when necessary? That remains to be seen, but I'm hoping that yes, we can get it there if we really do our homework and prep to know what we'll need and how to use it.
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