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Old December 14th, 2002, 06:58 PM   #1
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The MiniDisc Question

So I'm reading an article by the sound guy who writes for DV Magazine, who suggested that the next best thing to recording audio on a DAT recorder could be a MiniDisc recorder, for the low-budget crowd. He was suggesting that recording audio straight into the cam is never as 'quality' as it should be unless you have a pretty nice cam.

Running with this idea, I scoped out some very portable MiniDisc recorders on Sony's site (Shortened URL: http://tinyurl.com/3jla)
and was amazed to find that one for around $200 would, in theory, work just fine. It even has an optical out (My computer's sound card breakout box has optical-in). Or, alternatively, they do USB as well, which anybody should be able to use just fine with their computer.

So what I'm wondering is, has anyone out there used any of these MD recorders? I imagine the usual things would apply - there's no consistent timecode, so you'd have to sync with a clapboard. And, from what I see, the Studio1 XLR-BP Pro will work with a MiniDisc player, meaning you'd be able to, at a very low-budget price, have a sound-guy moving completely independently of the camera.

He could just have a belt with the Studio1 XLR adapter hooked to the MiniDisc recorder on one side, and the Boom coming in from the other with XLR cables. Then you sync up with a clapboard and go from there.

This sounds like a potentially good recording system at a pretty low budget price. Am I missing something, or can it be this easy? I'm definitely no expert, but I don't see why, in theory, this couldn't be a great way to get some pretty darn good audio. But then as they say, in theory, communism works.
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Old December 14th, 2002, 07:05 PM   #2
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Imran,

I've used an MZ-R900. It's an older model that has probably been eclipsed now with something newer and snazzier...but it works fine. I used it to record wild...then had to match up the sound to footage in post. It really wasn't difficult at all.
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Old December 14th, 2002, 11:05 PM   #3
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you certainly have stumbled upon the key to the whole thing. I've been doing sound like this for a bit...using a Sony MZ-R30...process is exactly as you described it. Cheap, high quality, and very very portable!

They are awesome with a sennheiser shot gun plugged in to em.

If you check out BHphotovideo.com they carry several professional MD recorders...much like the portable DATS used for filmmaking and pro sound....problem is they are $$.

c
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Old December 14th, 2002, 11:36 PM   #4
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A thread from several months ago:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...light=minidisc
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Old December 15th, 2002, 01:35 AM   #5
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beyond minidisc

we looked into mini disc as well, although it's nice, you still have to upload into your computer in real time, and it's compressed..

so the next step was to see if you can do it all digitally, like to a nomad jukebox, upload hours in mere minutes, uncompressed 48 wave files, record hours of music instead of 80 min, but wait...

no vu meters, big bummer, check out the article

http://toddh.net/music/njb/
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Old December 15th, 2002, 05:38 PM   #6
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I have a HHb PORTADISC which replaced the HHb PORTADAT. The latter gained wide acceptance by filmakers. The new unit has a USB port, so you can just plug it into the computer and download directly. I do this on my Mac G4 and it works great.

For a filim-making related review of the PORTADISC see:
http://www.lafcpug.org/review_mini_disc_rec.html

It is expensive, however. I have had no direct experience with syncing with video, although I bought it with that in mind. It's been very good for the radio actuality work I've used it for so far.

MARANTZ has just come out with a portable that records to full size CD that is a few hundred dollars cheaper. It's aimed more at the music market, I think.
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Old December 15th, 2002, 08:16 PM   #7
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i'd say thats pretty pricy for something that records a compressed signal, with 1 hour max, and 1x transfer speeds...sounds like a really expsive mini disc recorder with bal audio conection
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Old December 15th, 2002, 08:37 PM   #8
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What I wonder is, would a $1500 MD recorder mentioned above really be much better in sound than a consumer $200 MD walkman recorder, with an attached XLR adapter for about $189...? Also, I've never heard of one of those consumer walkman MD recorders 'freezing up' as the review of the above product mentions.

Also, regarding compression, everything I've read about the standard MiniDisc compression technique, ATRAC I think it's called, can run pretty much side by side with any CD quality audio. So compression doesn't seem like much of a concern regardless of the recorder.
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Old December 15th, 2002, 09:20 PM   #9
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i'm not so sure, for that much cash i would want at least 48 uncompressed to match my cam so i don't have to re-sample...
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Old December 16th, 2002, 06:12 AM   #10
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One also has to count in the cost of good quality digital in to whatever NLE set up one is using. In the PORTADISC case this is USB audio out directly from the unit. The "digitizing" step happens outside the computer which is good.

In my case it made sense because I also produce radio news actualities and news stories for clients and this gave me the capacity to do this in the field with the addition of just my lap-top. There is also an issue of "robustness" if the thing gets bumped around on a regular baisis. The 1/8 jacks on consumer equip have never held up well for me.

The PORTADISC also gives me a certain status with other news organization reps and bouncers at press events -- obviously not considerations everyone needs to worry about. The cost was taken care of in a few jobs.

BTW, I've never had the unit freeze on me the way the review describes -- maybe because of updates to the software.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 12:42 AM   #11
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Just a follow-up on this long-running thread.

I just purchased an HHb MD500 Portadisc, largely on the strength of Peter's remarks (thank you very much Peter) and on the LAFCUG review he referenced. I've not yet had a chance to master it but, to briefly answer the question concerning whether there's a difference between this unit and a consumer Sony recorder, the answer is a resounding "uh huh". As Peter noted, this unit is built to take a a lickin' and keep on tickin'. It's clearly designed for the rigors of professional use.

It's also very easy to upload tracks to a Mac. Simply connect the USB cable, fire-up (in my case) Peak and tell it to "record" from the Portadisc while setting the Portadisc to "play" the track. Yes, it would be great if the minidisc could simply be mounted like a CD to enable simple copying of track files. But that's the nature of minidisc.

In terms of features, the Portadisc has quite a bevy of controls (bass roll-off, clipping control, attenuation, the ability to provide phantom power, etc.), few of which I've yet mastered.

So, yes, it is a different level of gear from a consumer Sony recorder. And yes, it's a rather expensive piece of gear which may be overkill for most hobbyists and even many semi-pro's.

You can learn more about this unit, and downoload the product's brochure and operating manual, at the HHb site.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 10:18 AM   #12
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Ken,

Oh gosh, now I feel responsible . . .

I hope you will post an account of any experience with syncing PORTADISC recordings with DV -- this is something I haven't done yet, but may have to do soon.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 11:41 AM   #13
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"Synch-ing"? What is that?

Just kidding. Yes, I'll report back. (I also grabbed a clap slate when I bought the MD500.) It should be a cinch.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 04:41 PM   #14
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One point that hasn't been mentioned is size. The consumer sony MD's can be conveniently hidden on an actor whereas something bigger becomes much harder. I know you were talking about the boom op having one but if you got a consumer model you could use it for lav on actor and boom.
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Old January 16th, 2003, 05:20 PM   #15
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Agreed! The newest ones are tiny! Mine is smaller than a 1.44 floppy disc in length and height. In fact, it's barely bigger than a minidisc itself.
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