May 30, 2016 at 9:53PM

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Shotgun Microphone or Handheld Recorder?

I have a few projects coming up (mainly short films and documentary), and I want to upgrade my audio quality (I don't want to sound like I'm in a tin can anymore!). Just like any student however, I'm on a low-budget.
I've been contemplating between the Rode Videomic Pro, and the Zoom (h1, h4n, maybe h5) recorders. I can only get one, and I've been watching and reading reviews day and night. I can't decide! I know the shotgun mic will be good for documentaries, but I like to have the leverage to move away from my subjects as well--especially when shooting short films. Then again, I never used these devices, so I don't exactly know what they're best for, and how versatile they can be.

Would anyone please help and give me some suggestions?
Thank you!

Also, If I were to get the Zoom Recorders, which should I get? I will be using it for a while, so I want a good one. Should I just close my eyes and get the H5, or is something like the H1 still good (I've read mixed reviews on this one). How about the H4n?

10 Comments

If you want your audio to be clear, without capturing lots of mud from your environment, you need to keep the mic much closer to the subject than any other source of confusing sound. Especially room reflections. Usually this means a max of 1m from the sound source for shotguns in general environments and perhaps 2m in good acoustic environments, and half those distances for non-shotgun mics. Which is why pros use boom poles for sound--they need to place the mics close to the talent but out of the camera's view.

Of course you can shoot without boom poles and you can mount your mic on your camera while you stand 3m-4m away, but you'll get decidedly non-pro sound, and there's no level of recorder or mic or preamp that will fix it, because the problem is not with the equipment, but with how the equipment is being used.

May 30, 2016 at 10:29PM

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Do you suggest I get a recorder then and conceal that in the shots?--that way I can have it record my subjects even if the camera is far in the distant.

Thanks for the advice!

Annie Vuong

May 30, 2016 at 10:34PM

You wrote: "I want to upgrade my audio quality (I don't want to sound like I'm in a tin can anymore!)."

Get a good boom mike, boom stand (and/or pole) and use an external recorder.

There are no shortcuts.

May 30, 2016 at 10:47PM

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Cary Knoop
Member
2146

I also wrote: "Just like any student however, I'm on a low-budget"

You're right, that set-up you suggested is of course most preferable!--or else I wouldn't even be posting this question up, asking for a better alternative.

Thank you.

Annie Vuong

May 30, 2016 at 10:56PM

If you could afford yourself the Rode Videomic Pro, why not go with a Zoom H1 + Rode Videomic GO and a Mini Boompole combo? In my country this combination would cost me only 30$ more than the Rode Videomic Pro and you would have everything except a longer cable (goes also for around 10$) to connect your mic on the boompole with the H1.

May 31, 2016 at 2:42PM

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I would start with the Tascam DR-40 recorder which sells for about $150 US. It has very good quality built-in stereo mics, it works with professional XLR mics, and it can be used at the end of a boom pole.

http://goo.gl/NkeWs

Later on when you can afford it, I would buy the Takstar CM63 condenser mic which is a great indoor mic for dialog or voice-over, and it costs only $60 US on eBay. I have a $600 Audio-Technica AT4053b mic and this $60 Takstar mic sounds almost as good. Absolutely fantastic mic for a very low price.

May 31, 2016 at 3:59PM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
29828

Hey, Guy. First off, thanks for always taking time to spread good advice in this forum.
But just wondering, why do you recommend the 150$ DR-40, when the Tascam DR-60D is only an extra 50$ or so and the DR-70D an extra 100$? I'm planning on buying myself a field recorder, and the DR-40, simply because it lacks knobs for mixing and a better design for mixing while shooting (like the Tascam DR-70D's design) is an absolute no-go for me.

Another thing, what makes you say the Takstar is a great indoor mic? Low pick-up from wall reflections? Better than a typical shotgun mic for that scenario?

José Pedro Pinto

June 1, 2016 at 7:40PM

>>>why do you recommend the 150$ DR-40, when the Tascam DR-60D is only an extra 50$ or so and the DR-70D an extra 100$?

I own a bunch of Tascam recorders, including the DR-40 and the DR-70D models. I recommend the DR-40 as the least expensive recorder you can buy that will work with professional XLR microphones, and because it can be operated by the person handling the boom, so you don't have to run a cable back to your camera. Yes, you will have to sync your audio in post ( something very easy to do with modern audio / NLE software ), but it gives the boom person a lot more freedom to move around the set to get the best sound and not have to worry about snaking somebody with a XLR cable.

The main drawbacks to the DR-40 are short battery life when supplying 48 volt phantom power to a mic ( you can use external batteries to fix this problem ) and that the built-in mic preamps are not that strong ( just like every other low cost recorder ) so you need to use mics that supply a strong signal to get a top notch recording. My choice for low cost mics would be the Takstar CM63 for indoor dialog/voice-over work and the Sennheiser MKE600 for outdoor recording with some form of wind-protection. The MKE600 mic can be used indoors but it's not as good as the $60 Takstar CM63 mic.

I haven't tried the new Rode NTG-4 and NTG-4+ mics, but I suspect they are pretty much the equal to the Sennheiser MKE600 mic. ( I am not a fan of the NTG-1 or NTG-2 Rode mics because they don't have a great "high" end, so things can sound a little muffled compared to the MKE600 mic )

>>>I'm planning on buying myself a field recorder, and the DR-40, simply because it lacks knobs for mixing and a better design for mixing while shooting (like the Tascam DR-70D's design) is an absolute no-go for me.

I find that if you record at 48 kHz 24-bit there is enough dynamic range in the recording to handle the differences in recording volume ( unless you are recording something with intermittent loud noises at the same time ) so riding the levels is not needed most of the time. Also the "gain" knobs on the DR-60 recorder are not smooth continuous "gain" but rather "gain" detents, where you jump from one "gain" level to another and it does not sound smooth. So they are good to reset your level if the sound levels change, but not good for "riding" the levels of your recording.

One thing to keep in mind with the Tascam DR-70D is that you need to use a Sescom mini-plug cable with a 25 dB audio PAD if you want to pass the audio through to your camera. ( i.e. record internally with the DR-70D and your camera at the same time ) Tascam screwed up with the hardware in the DR-70D when it comes to adjusting the camera OUT from this unit, so if you use the internal DR-70D level adjustment your noise-floor drops to -55 dB, where if you use the Sescom cable with the 25 dB audio PAD your noise-floor is -75 dB or better. ( so 20 dB quieter recording with the Sescom cable )

If you really want to have somebody "ride" the levels you need a good mixer with proper controls ( I use a Sound Devices MixPre-D for this ), but usually you can't do this if you are also operating the camera.

>>>Another thing, what makes you say the Takstar is a great indoor mic? Low pick-up from wall reflections? Better than a typical shotgun mic for that scenario?

1- Great sound. Significantly better than any shotgun mic under $500 US.

2- Almost zero off-axis sound, so you can shoot in highly reflective noisy environments but still get high quality audio if you keep the mic within 2 feet of the person speaking. ( usually boomed from above )

3- Strong signal output. Even the cheapie Tascam DR-40 can easily record a great signal from this mic and produce truly professional sounding recordings.

4- It's very compact, so you can get it into smaller spaces without bumping into anything or bothering anybody.

5- It's very low cost, so you can afford to own 2 of them and boom 2 people at the same time if you've got the people or stands to hold the mics. It would bother me a lot less if I accidentally damaged a $60 mic over a $400+ mic.

June 2, 2016 at 8:49AM, Edited June 2, 8:53AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
29828

Good points about the DR-40. I'll also definitely be looking into that Takstar mic.
Thanks once again Guy, for going above and beyond in helping us youngsters.

José Pedro Pinto

June 2, 2016 at 4:51PM, Edited June 2, 4:50PM

I second the dr-40 (or H4n) and VideoMicro combo. for now, you can use boom mount the recorder just above your subject (you can't ride levels with it floating in the air, but you'll be a heck of a lot closer to your subject than an on-camera mic). When you upgrade to a budget shotgun, now you've got XLR inputs.
*drop the $30 for a Redhead windscreen for the recorder. It'll save you a lot of frustration
VideoMicro is light, doesn't need 9v batteries, and is really inexpensive. For nat sound, it'll cut your handling and wind noise significantly.

June 2, 2016 at 9:34PM

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