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Old August 30th, 2018, 01:13 PM   #1
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recording multiple mics simultaneously

I shoot frequency interview type video. Usually there are 3 to 4 people in the shoot and each person wears a lavalier mic that goes to a digital audio recorder.

When editing and combining the audio, it's very time consuming because the audio recorders drift out of sync ever so slightly over time resulting in noticeable echo/reverb. For the time being I edit out the tracks of the non speaking people. However if two speak at the same time I'd have to sync the tracks carefully.

I'm looking for a better solution in the long run. I can think of two solutions: (1) use one multi track recorder with 4 simultaneous inputs or (2) mix down the mics to one track and use a regular audio recorder.

I'm not considering recorders with timecode because this gig has no budget and I have to pay out of my pocket. Solution (1) would cost $400 -- the cheapest recorder with 4 or more simultaneous inputs I know is zoom R16. Anything else cheaper? Solution (2) doesn't cost anything because I already have a mixer. However there is less chance for fixing any audio problem (e.g. one person speaks louder than others) that I didn't notice at the time of the shoot.

Any comments or suggestions?
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Old August 30th, 2018, 01:41 PM   #2
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

IMO solution 2 also requires a crew member to do the mixing. Of course you *can* shoot and mix, but it does lead to more errors of framing, focus, or mixing, since most mix decisions are now moved up from post to the shoot. You can keyframe or checkerboard volume changes in post, too, but... the idea here was to spend less time in post, right?

There are only so many ways you can divide your attention while shooting. Were it me, and restricted to the slimmest possible crew, I’d go for the multitrack recorder.
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Old August 30th, 2018, 02:43 PM   #3
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

I was shopping for multi-track recorders last spring and considered the Zoom R16. Lots of features at a reasonable price, but I decided against it. It was physically larger that I wanted, looked like I would need to use an awkward menu system for many functions and it's an 8 year old design.

Also considered the Zoom F4 which looks like a lot of bang for the buck, but I really wanted more than 4 channels. I ended up getting a Zoom F8 and really like it. Aside from the additional tracks, the big difference is the F8 control app that lets you use an iPhone or iPad as a control surface. This is not available on the F4 so you are forced to use the tiny controls on the unit.

I was also interested in the Zoom LiveTrack L-12 which is somewhat similar to the R16 but with a lot of nice additional features. But it also seemed too big for me. I'm glad I got the F8, it packs a lot of power in a small package and with the recently released software upgrade I think it's a great value (although it still may be more than your want to spend).
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Old August 30th, 2018, 07:06 PM   #4
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

The Tascam DR-60 is just under $200, claims 4-channel capability although two are XLR input and 2 are via a 1/8" stereo mini jack. While not fancy, and targeted to DSLR users, it is a budget approach that might be worth evaluating. (However, I have no hands-on experience with one.)
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Old August 31st, 2018, 02:34 AM   #5
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

You will need a recorder that includes 4 microphone pre-amps. A lost of the cheaper ones only have two mic. inputs plus 2 line level.

Your $400 budget is extremely low for such a recorder, I'm afraid.

Yes, at the cheaper end, I would agree that the Zoom is the best value and that the F4 is probably the best one for you - though it does push your budget a bit (it's just ofer £400 here in the UK).

If you go too cheap, you will regret it later and then end up spending more money very soon to get what you should have got in the first place.

But the F4 does have the 4 mic. pre-amps you need and will, obviously, record in sync. It's a lot cheaper than using raiomics (though you can add these later if needed) and will save you hours and hours of time trying to sync. up tracks recorded on separate recorders.

Oh, when I started recording very many years ago, my take-home pay was just under £60 a month - my first recorder was the equivalent price of 5-months pay!
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Old August 31st, 2018, 12:31 PM   #6
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

If you don’t need a multi track recording get a four channel mixer and use one of your recorders to record the mix. Not sure that will save you money unless you get something used.
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Old August 31st, 2018, 01:20 PM   #7
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Thanks to all replies. I also gathered more info:

As someone pointed out, the tascam DR-60D MKII is $200 and has 4 inputs. Two XLRs and two are 1/8" stereo input with plug-in power, which is even better since I use electret mic that requires plug-in power. In fact I need adapters (rode vxlr+) to use the XLR inputs. But plug-in powered mics are not considered professional tools, so unfortunately there is no recorders with 4 plug-in powered inputs.

The zoom h4n is also $200 and also has 4 inputs similar to the tascam. I'm still figuring out which of these two recorders is better for my need.

There is also a software solution from red giant called plural eyes that syncs audio tracks from multiple recorders and takes care of drift. MSRP is $300 and looks interesting however it requires a more updated NLE editor as host which I don't have right now.
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Old August 31st, 2018, 01:51 PM   #8
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wu View Post
Thanks to all replies. I also gathered more info:

The zoom h4n is also $200 and also has 4 inputs similar to the tascam. I'm still figuring out which of these two recorders is better for my need.

There is also a software solution from red giant called plural eyes that syncs audio tracks from multiple recorders and takes care of drift. MSRP is $300 and looks interesting however it requires a more updated NLE editor as host which I don't have right now.
I own the h4n and I'm not sure how you record 4 inputs. To me its a two channel recorder. A lot of these recorders claim more inputs than really use able.

I've used to use plural eyes, I think it had an audio drift feature but I never used it. I wouldn't rely on something like that. Better to use a timecode or record to one device rather trying to fix it in post. Audio drift is a tricky thing that you don't want to fool around with.
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Old August 31st, 2018, 10:13 PM   #9
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Zoom H6n. Works great. 4 channels plus 2. $350.
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Old September 1st, 2018, 10:30 AM   #10
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

If all else fails, there is a software solution. PluralEyes by Red Giant analyzes multiple audio tracks and syncs them. Works pretty well.
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Old September 1st, 2018, 02:00 PM   #11
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Plural eyes isn't so hot if tracks drift. That said - what kind of period are we talking drift issues that shift more than a frame - which is about the limit on editors - are rare now. None of my zoom kit drifts very much at all - and re-syncing is a very uncommon thing for me now. The fader movements however are perfectly normal and how it is - four in a row faders that annoy each other is normal. That phasey sound is quite normal when multiple mics are live in the same space and hear each others sound source. It's so bad that in con terence systems they have clever switching to mute mics not being spoken into for this reason - multiple mics open create weird noises as they combine and blend.
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Old September 2nd, 2018, 09:59 PM   #12
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

If you want to avoid drift over long takes you need to buy both a camera which has a genlock input and a timecode box with genlock.

Of which the Timecode Systems Ultrasync ONE is the only small (in price and size) option that can do this.


But you still need a genlock capable camera.

The cheaper option is just limit the length of your takes, say just do it in ten or twenty minute chunks then press record again.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff View Post
I was shopping for multi-track recorders last spring and considered the Zoom R16. Lots of features at a reasonable price, but I decided against it. It was physically larger that I wanted, looked like I would need to use an awkward menu system for many functions and it's an 8 year old design.

Also considered the Zoom F4 which looks like a lot of bang for the buck, but I really wanted more than 4 channels. I ended up getting a Zoom F8 and really like it.
The Zoom R16 or L12 are designed for a completely different purpose, and really are not appropriate for usual filmmaking purposes.

The Zoom F4 is truly amazingly phenomenal value, prior to the F8 coming out you'd have to spend thousands of dollars more to get comparable features/specs/quality. And then the F4 came out at an even lower price!

The F4 btw has six inputs, not four. I've done four feature films, and many many more projects with the F4, using all six inputs at once.


Quote:
Originally Posted by John Murphy View Post
Zoom H6n. Works great. 4 channels plus 2. $350.
"H6n" doesn't exist.

And I feel the H6 is poor value for money when the Zoom F4 is only a couple of hundred more (and I've seen it on sale for just $450, or for a hundred more you might find a F8) and offers so so so much much more! (in everything, ergonomics, features, specs, quality)
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Old September 3rd, 2018, 06:41 AM   #13
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Drift was an issue at one time, especially with analog tape recorders, and even with some sound cards and camcorders in the 1990s. But Clock accuracy has improved a lot since then. Still, recording all audio to one recorder makes sense.

It boils down to what accuracy over what period of time the poster needs, and what quality he needs. Tools like Audition allow adjusting the time as well if things get out of hand.

A second factor might be durability, especially if this will be used in the field by "hired hands" and not the owner protective of his investment

And of course ease of use and integration with his existing gear.

And of course some camcorders can record 4-channel sound, a simple solution for the one-man-band.
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Old September 3rd, 2018, 07:14 AM   #14
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Peterson View Post
The Zoom R16 or L12 are designed for a completely different purpose, and really are not appropriate for usual filmmaking purposes.
Sure. But since the OP mentioned the R-16, I assume he felt it was appropriate for his purpose. And they would have worked fine for my main use also, which is filming events at "The Little Theatre in the Woods" - a micro-venue I built on my property for fun with family and friends. Think I read that the L-12 has the same nice preamps as the F8?

Just did a 6 hour shoot there on Saturday with my family and had a terrific time. The Zoom F8 really did a great job, I fed a stereo mix to the camera which generally sounded very good, but I will spend some time doing a better mix as I edit the footage.

For this application, it would have been nice to have the physical sliders and some of the other features of the Zoom L-12, but I got the F8 because it would be more versatile for other purposes. And I really liked the flexibility of creating custom patches for the outputs. I used the main output for the stereo feed to the camera, the sub output fed the stage monitors, and the headphone output fed a m-100 stereo effects processor looped back into two inputs for a nice reverb effect.
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Old September 3rd, 2018, 10:36 AM   #15
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Re: recording multiple mics simultaneously

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Wu View Post
I shoot frequency interview type video.

Any comments or suggestions?
Just recently I did a dry run shoot of a piano recital practice and, lo and behold, found the recorder tracks were out of sync with the cam audio. Hmmm... upon inspection of everything I discovered the recorder was somehow set at 44.1k. Stopped by to read what anyone had to say about syncing.

Anyway, fortunately it was just a dry run and decided it wasn't worth the bother trying to sync; however, there were a lot of interesting replies to the original post.

I do have a question: What is a "frequency interview type video"?
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