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Old January 22nd, 2007, 01:11 AM   #1
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best recording solution

Hi

I'm starting a short film group and we have a Mac powerbook & Canon XL1. I can record direct to camera at 16 bit which seems fine to me but I can record at 24bit on a unit like the Zoom H4 Portable Digital Audio Recorder

you can see it on the home page of
http://www.markertek.com/

I can also use that unit as an audio interface into the Mac.

Am I going overboard? should I just stick to the audio as recorded on the camera and get a reasonable mixer or go for a setup like this?

BTW - I've got a Sennheiser MZH3015 mic, I'm not sure if that's a reasonable model - maybe I'd be better spending the money on a really good mike.

cheers

Paul M.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 08:35 AM   #2
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Hi Paul,

Recording audio to camera isn't at all a bad solution by any means and it can help to alliviate a few problems as well. That said, you would definitely achieve better sounding audio with a better recorder.

Using an external recorder from the camera means you would have to synch picture and audio in post, which can be a pain. Also, as I understand it, if the internal clocks of both the camera and audio recorder aren't running at the same sample rates, then audio can drift out of synch with video over a period of time. But, if you keep your takes down to a reasonable amount of time, say 10 minutes, you should be fine. There are also recorders that can synch to video using a video singnal for clock reference or converters that can change video to word clock.

As for your microphone, if your question is if you should spend money on a recorder or a better mic, buy the better mic. The mic you have really isn't designed for video production. I have had good results from a sennheiser me66 shotgun, but there are at least a few lower cost solutions that might work nicely for you. I hope this helps.

Greg
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 09:03 AM   #3
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Whilst recording directly to the Mac through an audio interface will certainly work and often work very well, it does have several drawbacks - a big one is it's not very portable. Less important but possible factors are issues with sync and sample rate, depending in part on the interface you select and the recording software you use. But a number of big-time pro mixers are going this route where practical - of course, the feature pros also often work from a sound cart that carries the mixers, interface, computer, power supplies, and all the other pieces of gear that goes along with it.

You also mention using a seperate audio recorder for double system sound and pose the question of either/or that and mixer. While the H4 is getting good press as a compact handheld recorder, I'm not sure I'd go for it in that application unless budget is a major factor. The Tascam HD-P2 is a good stereo recorder and it has the additional advantage of being able to sync its audio clock to incoming video to help avoid sync drift. With the audio interface / laptop option you'd need to usse an external video to wordclock converter to get the same ability - there only a few such units on the market and they're pretty pricey.

External recorder or not, a standalone mixer such as the SD302 or SD MixPre would be a valuable addition to your kit. Of course, don't forget that also implies you'll someone there with you to operate it - one person really can't shoot and handle audio at the same time.
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 04:02 PM   #4
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thanks guys

the issues with sync scare the hell outta me.

I'm aiming to have a boom operator and a sound tech on each shoot so people wont be a problem - expertise will!

I even looked at el-cheapo units like the Behringer eurorack UBB 1002 (it's really not a field mixer but I think it would do the job) and then I saw the H4 and I though maybe I could use the H4 -
1 - as a mixer into the camera
2 - as a mixer & recorder
3 - as a mixer and audio interface to the mac

I think my first purchase from what you say is a better mike and maybe a reasonable mixer straight to camera (the MixPre is $1400 out here) ouch!
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Old January 23rd, 2007, 04:44 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Mailath
the issues with sync scare the hell outta me.

I'm aiming to have a boom operator and a sound tech on each shoot so people wont be a problem - expertise will!

I even looked at el-cheapo units like the Behringer eurorack UBB 1002 (it's really not a field mixer but I think it would do the job) and then I saw the H4 and I though maybe I could use the H4 -
1 - as a mixer into the camera
2 - as a mixer & recorder
3 - as a mixer and audio interface to the mac

I think my first purchase from what you say is a better mike and maybe a reasonable mixer straight to camera (the MixPre is $1400 out here) ouch!
I'd agree - the H4 or any other recorder really won't substitute for a mixer - the functions are just too different. Whether you record to the camera, an external recorder, or to an audio interface to a laptop, feeding the mic(s) through a field mixer gives you better control so that, to me, seems like it should be a priority.
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Old January 24th, 2007, 03:43 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve House
feeding the mic(s) through a field mixer gives you better control so that, to me, seems like it should be a priority.
sold!

one more thing, I need to explain to the group why a field mixer is such a good thing to have - is it just levels? what other control does the right field mixer give you?

I can pick up an Azden FMX-32 for around $600 - would you still recommend the MixPre over that?
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Old January 24th, 2007, 04:30 AM   #7
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A proper field mixer as compared to a stage or recording mixer will have lower noise preamps. That matters a lot when you have quiet sound sources a distance from your mics. Also most studio recordings tend not to have lots of silence in them, silence when the slightest noise will be very audible in a cinema.

On top of that field mixers from the likes of Sound Devices are built to be used in the field. They're rugged and the controls and connectors are in the right place so they can be used slung over the shoulder. You really cannot do that with a Behringer or any studio or stage mixer.

If you're only shooting in a studio you might get away using a small studio mixer if you have mains power available and you can get the mics close to the sound sources.
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Old January 24th, 2007, 05:00 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Mailath
sold!

one more thing, I need to explain to the group why a field mixer is such a good thing to have - is it just levels? what other control does the right field mixer give you?

I can pick up an Azden FMX-32 for around $600 - would you still recommend the MixPre over that?
Besides setting levels and allowing the mixer to ride gain when needed, a very important featire of good field mixers is t hey provide switchable limiters on the audio channels. You want to insure at all cost that sudden peaks never drive the signal into clipping, digital recording doesn't tolerate even momentary levels exceeding 0dBFS. Another important feature to look for is a reference tone generator for setting the camera or recorder input levels properly. Anothyer is they can provide would be a return input from the camera to allow the mixer to monitor the audio from the camera from its output as well as listen to the audio he's sending to it. Pan controls to position a mic input to either left, right, or split equally between the stereo channels. Some provide MS decoding so you can work more easily with
mid-side stereo mic setups.
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