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Jon O'Brien

Best quality audio

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Increasingly camera operators are having to take on more and more tasks that a small crew might previously have handled. The company I work for are gearing up to get into video production. We've yet to get around to what camera to use but my first thoughts are turning to audio. We want very high quality sound recording. Can anyone advise me on how best to go about this these days. I've been thinking of a small portable recorder like a Zoom H4n pro that can connect with the camera. Is this how audio is often done, or are the cameras able to record excellent digital sound fidelity all on their own? As you can see, there's a lot I don't know. Any advice appreciated!

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Many of the modern cameras have good audio. The blackmagic pocket 4k and 6k have a single XLR input and decent pre-amp's as well. Yes, having an external recorder is good, it's actually a necessity if you want the best audio sadly. You wouldn't connect it to the camera at all, it would be a separate thing and you'd run your mic's to it. The H6N would be a better choice because having more than 2 XLR inputs is important. You'll want a lav on each person talking and a boom as backup. 

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Thanks Tyler! I appreciate the advice.

Why is having more than two XLR inputs important? I would have thought two was enough but am all ears to learn more. The H6N is about a hundred bucks AUD more expensive but that should be fine.

You mention 4k and 6k. Is a 2k or even 1080P camera fine for most purposes even today, assuming that the company paying for the videos don't really care or have their 'knickers in a knot' (do Americans understand this phrase?) on whether it's 4k or above? You know, some people just have to have 4k or they don't think it's good enough, even though no one can really tell the difference looking at it? A lot of our videos would be destined for just average online viewing, possibly even just Instagram. It's possible some could end up on DVD, as we still make and sell DVDs (mainly the US division makes them, not the Australian one but hopefully that will change).

They've done a few cinema-release films, before I joined the company, but at this stage there are none in the planning stages that I know of. It's mostly just small online videos they're talking about. There's a lot about the digital filmmaking world I need to learn, fast.

 

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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2 XLR inputs can be fine if your just doing a simple interview/doc shoot.

Drama productions benefit from more mics you might have a couple of Booms and Lav's on several people. Even a simple scene would benefit from 4 or 5 mics. Sure it's possible to cover the audio on a drama with 1 or 2 mics, but its more difficult and you might miss things requiring more ADR.

The other option is to add a mixer to a 2 Channel recorder, which allow you to use more mics. Its workable but it gives you less options in post to separate out the tracks.

For entry level stuff and doc work a cheap zoom is fine. But on a drama shoot leveling up to something like the Sound Devices Mix Pre 6 (or 3 at a pinch) will give you more flexibility, better sound and they have built in limiters which can save a take if the audio peaks 

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15 hours ago, Jon O'Brien said:

Why is having more than two XLR inputs important? I would have thought two was enough but am all ears to learn more. The H6N is about a hundred bucks AUD more expensive but that should be fine.

Well a lot of times you'll have 2 people on camera, so that's 2 lav's and a boom, 3 inputs total. You can do that with an H4, but you can't adjust all of the levels at once. I really like the H6N, it's a way better recorder with higher quality pre-amps, it sounds a lot better and has less issues of the older model, which I have and it's getting long in the tooth. 

15 hours ago, Jon O'Brien said:

You mention 4k and 6k. Is a 2k or even 1080P camera fine for most purposes even today, assuming that the company paying for the videos don't really care or have their 'knickers in a knot' (do Americans understand this phrase?) on whether it's 4k or above? You know, some people just have to have 4k or they don't think it's good enough, even though no one can really tell the difference looking at it? A lot of our videos would be destined for just average online viewing, possibly even just Instagram. It's possible some could end up on DVD, as we still make and sell DVDs (mainly the US division makes them, not the Australian one but hopefully that will change).

Those are just the names of those two cameras, the blackmagic pocket 4k and blackmagic pocket 6k. They both have hard-mount XLR inputs which is nice for one mic, like doing an interview with someone. 

Here state side, it's hard to get any work with a sub 4k camera. Most people today have a 4k TV at home, so if you tell them their shoot is lower quality than their TV, they usually complain. 4k is also pretty lightweight these days, I can edit any 4k codec on my 16" MBP no problem at all. Add an external GPU and you can do a bunch more work with it. There really isn't a reason to NOT shoot 4k, the ability to punch in is great, having a captured project that is at least future proof is also nice. I think 4k today is what 1080p was 10 years ago. It's become the standard for nearly everything and broadcasters are the only one's behind at this moment. 

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Zoom H6 has 4 XLR inputs, incredible battery life (two 10-hour days compared to 1-2 hours on the Zoom H4), and a user friendly OS. The limiter, though, is its... limitation. It is nothing like the limiter on a Sound Devices mixer, and you will from time to time clip audio. The MixPre 3 II from Sound Devices is $300 more than the H6 and well worth the extra money. It sounds better, has an amazing limiter, and the build quality will keep it around.

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Yeah I'd suggest the H6 way before the H4N.. it feels like the H4N is known so much more because a ton of media programs make them available to their students. H6 has better preamps, better GUI, and 4 inputs if you need to record roundtable situations.
All the audio I've done in the past 3 years has been with an H6 and I've never really had to look elsewhere since.

However if Neve, Motu, or Neumann start making portable audio recorders then my H6 is going directly on eBay because the preamps still leave a bit to be desired if you work audio regularly.

As for shotgun microphone It's really the Sennheiser MKH 416 or nothing at all (Schoeps has a nice one for too much money in my opinion). I see you're Australian but Rode microphones are trash, please do not buy an NTG mic.

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Thank you Max, I will check out the Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun mic. Great to have your opinion on it. It's interesting to read your view on Rode mics. I have no experience with them, but one of my friends who's a professional musician and has done a lot of music recording says they're great. I will look into it some more. Hey, I'm Australian, gotta buy Australian if I can 🙂

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I've done lots of jobs like this, and I'd seriously suggest getting a camera with XLR inputs instead of a separate audio recorder. It will save you tons of time and headaches. 

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Rode mics are emphatically not trash!  However, avoid the NTG2. Very low sensitivity. An NTG3 is a very viable alternative to the 416

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6 hours ago, Patrick Baldwin said:

Rode mics are emphatically not trash!  However, avoid the NTG2. Very low sensitivity. An NTG3 is a very viable alternative to the 416

Given that MKH416s on the used market are within a couple hundred dollars to NTG3s, it's a no brainer to go with Sennheiser. Literally every Rode mic I've used is thinner than it's competitors at a similar price point, natural bass retention is essential the farther you move from the subject (is essential for the human voice in general to be honest).

German engineering is undefeated.

Edited by Max Field

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On 2/9/2020 at 12:26 AM, Robin R Probyn said:

WW2... ?  

German engineers can't help their leader's insanity leading to self-sabotage.

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19 hours ago, Max Field said:

German engineers can't help their leader's insanity leading to self-sabotage.

oh Yeah.. then what about the 1966 World Cup .. we showed Jerry a thing or two !  another defeat for the Krauts..   gave the Hun a good hiding .. 

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