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Old 01-31-2018, 11:21 AM   #1
C9_Pizzaguy
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Question Sound recording devices for starters?

Situation: I'm having a hard time choosing my device(s) to record audio. There are a lot of options.

Needs: Recording dialogue (from whispers to screaming), ambient sounds (like a forest bird orchestra) and sound effects (footsteps). The audio needs to be good enough to not distract from the movie/story, and be able to add something where it has to. Like when accentuating the bad guy's footsteps while you can't see him.

Budget: $100 - $200, preferably less.

Considering: Zoom H1 with lavalier mic. 2x pop filter.

Any tips/feedback/suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Edit: Which is the best lav mic for under $120?

Last edited by C9_Pizzaguy; 01-31-2018 at 02:10 PM. Reason: increase engagement
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Old Today   #1A
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Old 01-31-2018, 03:05 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
Any tips/feedback/suggestions are greatly appreciated!

Quote:
Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
[B]Needs: Recording dialogue (from whispers to screaming), . The audio needs to be good enough to not distract from the movie/story, and be able to add something where it has to. Like when accentuating the bad guy's footsteps while you can't see him.
Okay, the first thing you need to realize is that sound-for-picture is not a one step process, i.e. recording all sounds on the set.

All that should be recorded during production is the dialog. Everything else - "ambient sounds (like a forest bird orchestra) and sound effects (footsteps)" - will be added during audio post. BTW, footsteps are not sound effects, they are Foley; Foley is performing human made sounds (footsteps, punches, kisses, cloth, props handling); sound effects are gun shots, vehicles, ambient sound, etc.


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Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
Budget: $100 - $200, preferably less.
At that budget level all you can afford would be consumer a "toy" that runs at high impedance (Hi-Z). Hi-Z gear is highly susceptible to all kinds of interference (RF, EM, cell phones, etc.). Low impedance (Lo-Z) gear is what is used by professionals.


Quote:
Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
Considering: Zoom H1 with lavalier mic. 2x pop filter.
Most of us audio professional consider low budget Zoom gear (which is Hi-Z) to be disposable junk; when it breaks you throw it away. At the micro-budget level I would go for something like the Tascam DR-40.


Quote:
Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
Which is the best lav mic for under $120?
Most of the time a boomed mic is used, which one (long shotgun, short shotgun, hypercardioid) is determined by the specific situation. Lavs present unique problems all their own. You need one lav for each actor and a separate channel on your audio recorder for each lav. Each lav will need a transmitter and a receiver. The lav will have to be placed properly to capture the voice correctly and not rub, brush, etc. creating unremovable noise.

As far as budget lavs, Rode and Audio Technica make passable budget lavs. Be sure that you get the proper connectors for your mixer/recorder or transmitter.


As always, I recommend that you retain someone to do the sound for you. Monitoring the audio and levels is an extremely important job when on the set. If your production sound is unusable you will have to ADR, which is extremely problematic at the low/no/mini/micro budget level.

You should read this to get some idea of what you are really getting into.

https://www.ricviers.com/location-sound-bible





BTW, just so you know that I have some idea of what I am talking about you may want to check out Last Exit.



I did the entire audio post - production dialog edit, performed and recorded all the Foley, created most of the sound effects, edited the music and did the final mix. Well over 100 hours of work.



Good luck!!!
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Old 01-31-2018, 06:48 PM   #3
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Thank you very much for the detailed response. It has given me new insights, but with that a few new questions.

What problems do low-priced microphones really have? In other words, on what grounds do you judge audio as bad? Is it noise? A weak bass? What is it that most bothers you personally about bad audio?

Also, would you imagine that the average short movie viewer on YouTube/Vimeo would be very bothered by (well recorded) audio from a bad microphone, as to just stop watching the movie?

PS. I really liked your work in Last Exit. Good story overall as well.
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Old 02-01-2018, 09:23 AM   #4
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What problems do low-priced microphones really have?
Okay, I'll explain my thinking a bit.

Most of the beginners here on IndieTalk have aspirations of making quality low/no/mini/micro budget projects and beyond. So when buying gear you're making an investment in your career/future. You may as well get something of decent quality that will last a while. That's my aversion to consumer products; they have no upgradeability to the future and are usually unfixable when broken.


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on what grounds do you judge audio as bad? Is it noise? A weak bass? What is it that most bothers you personally about bad audio?
Bad audio is poorly recorded audio. Production sound is truly an art, just like cinematography. The entire concept is to capture the best dialog possible under the given circumstances. The best sound for human voice on a film set is to have the mic about 12" in front of and 12" above the actor(s) pointed at the notch at the base of the throat to pick up chest resonance in addition to what comes out of the mouth. The boom-op has one of the toughest jobs on the set. That's why I recommend retaining someone to do sound for you.

If you get consumer stuff, at least get DECENT consumer stuff. Rode and Audio Technica make good consumer products, both mics and lavs. For a recorder you'll probably do okay with a Zoom H1 as I understand that Tascam Products are hard to get in Europe.


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Also, would you imagine that the average short movie viewer on YouTube/Vimeo would be very bothered by (well recorded) audio from a bad microphone, as to just stop watching the movie?
No. But your ambition is to be a filmmaker, correct? Get into good habits early. Crappy production sound kills more otherwise technically solid projects than any other reason. But the quality of the mic is not a huge issue IF PROPERLY USED.

Your project will only look as good as it sounds, because
"Sound is half of the experience"

If your film looks terrible but has great sound, people might just think it's your aesthetic.
If your film looks great and has bad sound, people will think you're an amateur.
Sound is the first indicator to the industry that you know what you're doing.



Quote:
Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
PS. I really liked your work in Last Exit. Good story overall as well.
Thanx; Thomas gave me an excellent canvas to play with. The entire project is an example of what can be done on a modest budget.
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Old 02-01-2018, 03:30 PM   #5
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Alcove Audio knows what he's talking about. I’m reading that book.
It can be hard to understand how much impact audio has on a film because you don’t usually notice good audio, you only notice if it’s bad. You really have to consciously listen to study how clear it is & how all its elements work together.

I didn't know what good audio recording was until I compared my recorded dialog with other people's. You can probably find some YouTube videos that compare good & bad audio. I was surprised how bad video with good audio seemed okay, but good video with bad audio was harder to sit through. I think one reason the video part is forgiving is because many people watch on small phones, but they’re in places with surrounding noise so your audio has to be clear enough to play at a good volume for them to understand what’s going on.
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Old 02-01-2018, 05:09 PM   #6
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I think one reason the video part is forgiving is because many people watch on small phones, but theyíre in places with surrounding noise so your audio has to be clear enough to play at a good volume for them to understand whatís going on.
Nope. This concept or whatever you want to call it existed long before phones. Bad video can be chalked up to stylistic. Bad audio is just bad.
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Old 02-01-2018, 06:51 PM   #7
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You're right.
I was just talking from personal experience.
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Old 02-01-2018, 07:34 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by buscando View Post
It can be hard to understand how much impact audio has on a film because you donít usually notice good audio, you only notice if itís bad.
Filmmaking is the art of the invisible; if anybody notices your work you haven't done your job correctly.
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Old 02-02-2018, 01:33 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Alcove Audio View Post
The boom-op has one of the toughest jobs on the set.
I'm not alone when I say that I didn't understand this until well into
my "starters" career. I even tried this job a few times thinking there
wasn't much too it other than aiming in the right direction.

Especially for people just starting and for all ultra-low budget filmmakers
the boom op (and mixer) will (not can, WILL) make a noticeable difference.
AND make the sound mix much easier even if you are doing the basic
minimum as a beginner.

And the mic is important. From my experience and NOT from the perspective
of the audio person (like Alcove) save your money and wait until you can
afford a good mic. I'm still using a $300 Sennheiser I bought in the 1980's.
Not currently using any camera I bought in the 80's...
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Old 02-02-2018, 04:46 PM   #10
C9_Pizzaguy
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Idea

Thank you Alcove Audio, Buscando, Indietalk & Directorik. Really appreciate your time and effort in responding to this beginner filmmaker.

I now have a great many questions and am very much wondering how much incorrect information on audio (and anything else for that matter) I've received in the past.

And in further answers, could you please give names of some cost-efficient devices. I won't yet be able to apply all the technical information it to find the exact right mic. Thanks in advance.

Also, @directorik , may I ask which Sennheiser you're using and if it's still holding up? And is the only reason it works your Audio Recorder, or would it be great with a different/cheaper recorder?
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Old 02-02-2018, 07:11 PM   #11
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please give names of some cost-efficient devices
It's probably outside your budget but for a recorder, I find it hard to suggest anything lower than the Sound Devices MixPre-3.
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Old 02-02-2018, 07:15 PM   #12
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save your money and wait until you can afford a good mic. I'm still using a $300 Sennheiser I bought in the 1980's. Not currently using any camera I bought in the 80's...
A microphone of even reasonable quality can last for many, many years. I was a working musician for almost 25 years. I have a Shure SM-58 that is over 40 years old (high school!) and still sounds fine. Most of my mic collection is well over 10 years old. Not that I am currently considering selling any of my mics, but it's comfort to know that they have a solid resale value. My keyboard stand held a variety of keyboards over the years, my rack cases held changing assortment of gear over the years, and my amplification system changed very little over the last 10 years of my performing career. The point is that some gear, if carefully selected and maintained, can last you for many years of use.

As far as your request for an equipment list it is very difficult to make suggestions without a definitive budget, and not knowing what gear is available in the Netherlands makes it even harder. I have already made some suggestions as to brands:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alcove Audio View Post
If you get consumer stuff, at least get DECENT consumer stuff. Rode and Audio Technica make good consumer products, both mics and lavs. For a recorder you'll probably do okay with a Zoom H1 as I understand that Tascam Products are hard to get in Europe.
You could also take some time to actually read "The Location Sound Bible" to provide you with the baseline information that you need.

Just for fun, here's Uncle Bobs "Buying Guide".


Shotgun mic kits will have the shotgun mic, boom-pole, shock-mount and simple wind protection (softie).

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...icrophone.html

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Condenser.html


Hypercardioid mic:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ET_Pencil.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...ith_100hz.html



Audio recorders:

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...recording.html

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ..._for_dslr.html

Any decent audio recorder with XLR inputs will do the job, but these are "aimed" at indie filmmakers.



Headphones:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Headphone.html

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...D_25_1_II.html



You'll also need cables, cases, battery packs and other miscellaneous items - about $200 to $500.



As always, I suggest that you retain someone to do sound for you.
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Old 02-03-2018, 11:26 AM   #13
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Post

I'll give my thoughts on everything said in this long post. No offense, I would just like to develop myself and have a healthy discussion.

----------------------

Alcove Audio
Quote:
At that budget level all you can afford would be consumer a "toy" that runs at high impedance (Hi-Z). Hi-Z gear is highly susceptible to all kinds of interference (RF, EM, cell phones, etc.). Low impedance (Lo-Z) gear is what is used by professionals.
- As long as it's not constant (which it clearly isn't or they're all unusable for even simple home video) I'm okay with having a tiny percentage of my takes fail. It's part of the struggle and not worth 200% more in cost.

Quote:
Most of us audio professional consider low budget Zoom gear (which is Hi-Z) to be disposable junk; when it breaks you throw it away. At the micro-budget level I would go for something like the Tascam DR-40.
- I'm not sure I'm rich or an avid credit card user. I wouldn't throw away anything over $20, unless the fixing costs are higher than buying a new one.
- The Tascam DR-40 is a nice recommendation. I'll look into it.

Quote:
Most of the time a boomed mic is used, which one (long shotgun, short shotgun, hypercardioid) is determined by the specific situation. Lavs present unique problems all their own. You need one lav for each actor and a separate channel on your audio recorder for each lav. Each lav will need a transmitter and a receiver. The lav will have to be placed properly to capture the voice correctly and not rub, brush, etc. creating unremovable noise.

As far as budget lavs, Rode and Audio Technica make passable budget lavs. Be sure that you get the proper connectors for your mixer/recorder or transmitter.


As always, I recommend that you retain someone to do the sound for you. Monitoring the audio and levels is an extremely important job when on the set. If your production sound is unusable you will have to ADR, which is extremely problematic at the low/no/mini/micro budget level.

You should read this to get some idea of what you are really getting into.

https://www.ricviers.com/location-sound-bible
- I do agree that I need a boom mic. Lav mics will always have a problem with clothing, no matter the budget. You can just learn to place it properly or use some accessoires. I believe Rode made some.
If you're creative you can use 1 lav mic to do all the dialogue. So you will also only need 1 recorder.
- Yes, ADR is hard. I agree. But even that isn't fully down to the gear. With experience and creativity you can create acceptable ADR on a tiny budget (youtu.be/rk6Cpe3KG8M?t=27m30s)
- I will read that book.

Quote:
Most of the beginners here on IndieTalk have aspirations of making quality low/no/mini/micro budget projects and beyond. So when buying gear you're making an investment in your career/future. You may as well get something of decent quality that will last a while. That's my aversion to consumer products; they have no upgradeability to the future and are usually unfixable when broken.
- As long as the only variable is budget, then the lower the budget the worse the movie will be.
- I don't want to make a big investment. I'm only working on my first story.
- How does one upgrade gear? Never knew audio gear by big brands like Rode were like PC's. Do you mean that one can add accessoires to it?
- I don't plan to destroy my gear. And within my $200 budget, plastic remains plastic.

Quote:
Bad audio is poorly recorded audio. Production sound is truly an art, just like cinematography. The entire concept is to capture the best dialog possible under the given circumstances. The best sound for human voice on a film set is to have the mic about 12" in front of and 12" above the actor(s) pointed at the notch at the base of the throat to pick up chest resonance in addition to what comes out of the mouth. The boom-op has one of the toughest jobs on the set. That's why I recommend retaining someone to do sound for you.

If you get consumer stuff, at least get DECENT consumer stuff. Rode and Audio Technica make good consumer products, both mics and lavs. For a recorder you'll probably do okay with a Zoom H1 as I understand that Tascam Products are hard to get in Europe.
- So you're saying: Learn how to use your gear. That would mean that expensive gear isn't that important.
- I will try to get someone to do my sound for me once I've gotten grasp of it myself. I need to know the limitations that my crew are working with or I won't be able to guide them to create the story needed.
- You're saying: Get something that's been proven to work, and get the Zoom H1 - it's actually not that bad if you use it well. Right?

Quote:
No. But your ambition is to be a filmmaker, correct? Get into good habits early. Crappy production sound kills more otherwise technically solid projects than any other reason. But the quality of the mic is not a huge issue IF PROPERLY USED.
- My ambition is not to serve experts and blow my cash. As long as the general audience doesn't get disturbed, I won't spend 200% more to get a few more people to like my stuff a tiny bit better. It's simply not a good business move. Added to that is that I'm not 100% sure I'll be making movies for the rest of my life.
- And again, you're saying: Just make sure you use it properly. Right? And so every device will be good in some type of situation. Not?

Quote:
Your project will only look as good as it sounds, because
"Sound is half of the experience"

If your film looks terrible but has great sound, people might just think it's your aesthetic.
If your film looks great and has bad sound, people will think you're an amateur.
Sound is the first indicator to the industry that you know what you're doing.
- I agree completely.

----------------------

Buscando
Quote:
Alcove Audio knows what he's talking about. I’m reading that book.
It can be hard to understand how much impact audio has on a film because you don’t usually notice good audio, you only notice if it’s bad. You really have to consciously listen to study how clear it is & how all its elements work together.
- Sure, audio has a lot of impact. But if you don't notice it while casually watching on a normal volume, then to me, the audio is good enough. Audio is part of the experience of the movie. If the experience is good, then the audio is good.

----------------------
directorik
Quote:
I'm not alone when I say that I didn't understand this until well into
my "starters" career. I even tried this job a few times thinking there
wasn't much too it other than aiming in the right direction.
Right. There is this whole technical aspect. And it goes further than just gear. You need to understand what type of mic works in what type of situation.

Quote:
Especially for people just starting and for all ultra-low budget filmmakers
the boom op (and mixer) will (not can, WILL) make a noticeable difference.
AND make the sound mix much easier even if you are doing the basic
minimum as a beginner.
They will make a difference. It's just that I have to know the basics, so I know what my crew can do for me. Also, having 0 budget and 0 reputation, it's not so easy finding someone to do the sound. And having someone with 0 passion and 0 experience with audio manage all my sound, won't be a good idea either. They can hold the pole at max.

Quote:
And the mic is important. From my experience and NOT from the perspective
of the audio person (like Alcove) save your money and wait until you can
afford a good mic. I'm still using a $300 Sennheiser I bought in the 1980's.
Not currently using any camera I bought in the 80's...
I have the money, but it's not worth the risk. When audio is mostly about technique and style anyway, why would I splash the cash on 1 part of my setup? Adding to that, I'm just starting out and don't know my future. It would be like investing in stocks, when you're predicted to die in 4 weeks.

----------------------

Sweetie
Quote:
It's probably outside your budget but for a recorder, I find it hard to suggest anything lower than the Sound Devices MixPre-3.
- I reckon that would be because you know all the ins and outs of audio. You may have a studio headset. You would maybe never like the audio from a Zoom H1. The average movie watcher wouldn't mind as long as you use the gear well.

----------------------

Alcove Audio
Quote:
A microphone of even reasonable quality can last for many, many years. I was a working musician for almost 25 years. I have a Shure SM-58 that is over 40 years old (high school!) and still sounds fine. Most of my mic collection is well over 10 years old. Not that I am currently considering selling any of my mics, but it's comfort to know that they have a solid resale value. My keyboard stand held a variety of keyboards over the years, my rack cases held changing assortment of gear over the years, and my amplification system changed very little over the last 10 years of my performing career. The point is that some gear, if carefully selected and maintained, can last you for many years of use.

As far as your request for an equipment list it is very difficult to make suggestions without a definitive budget, and not knowing what gear is available in the Netherlands makes it even harder. I have already made some suggestions as to brands:
- I agree that if you get great stuff it will last. I just want the stuff that's most efficient for what I'm getting. Same thing with my pc. I bought the best parts, until the increase in price didn't justify the increase in performance. So when audio gear gets me a 5% bigger audience, I'm not willing to spend +200%. I basically just need audio gear that can do more than close-up speaking, which is the only thing that the in-build camera mic can handle and sound half-decent after editing. (Sure, not cinema level, but average at-home watcher level)
- Budget = $200 to 250 for all audio gear combined, excluding accessoires is preferred. It can be more, but absolute max is $150 per piece of gear and no more than $300 in total for all. In any way (200 or 300), it needs to set me up for dialogue, foley and sound effects in a way in which the average at-home movie-watcher will not be distracted/like the audio.
- In the Netherlands we can get pretty much everything, but all for a bit more because of shipping costs. And retail business also sell it for more, since they have to ship it. Some things aren't sold by retailers in the Netherlands, so it becomes $50+ more for shipping costs.
- I will look into the brands Rode and Audiotechnica.

Quote:
You could also take some time to actually read "The Location Sound Bible" to provide you with the baseline information that you need.

Just for fun, here's Uncle Bobs "Buying Guide".
- I will read that book.
- And thanks for this. It's just outside of how much I want to spend. This is good stuff for when I've created a few movies and know that I want to keep on making them.

Quote:
You'll also need cables, cases, battery packs and other miscellaneous items - about $200 to $500.

As always, I suggest that you retain someone to do sound for you.
- I'll spend that much on cables etc. but only over time and once I'm sure I want to keep on making films. At this point, I'm only starting out.
- I'll try to get someone after I've gotten some base experience. But I fear it will be hard being in the situation I am in, like I said before.

----------------------

Like I said at the start: Just want to have a healthy discussion and if we end up disagreeing: That's alright.

Last edited by C9_Pizzaguy; 02-03-2018 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 02-03-2018, 11:50 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
Also, @directorik , may I ask which Sennheiser you're using and if it's still holding up? And is the only reason it works your Audio Recorder, or would it be great with a different/cheaper recorder?
In the 1980's I used it with a Sony Cassette recorder. I purchased a used
Nagra 4.2 that I used for many years. I've plugged it directly into my
Beaulieu 5008 (a super 8 camera), my Sony Hi8 camera, my JVC DV550
and currently into a Zoom H6. The mic is great with all of them. That
investment has worked out to $10 per year. Even then I knew that my
future was not in audio - but it was well worth the cost.

There are a few cameras I should have not purchased....

Quote:
Originally Posted by C9_Pizzaguy View Post
I have the money, but it's not worth the risk. When audio is mostly about technique and style anyway, why would I splash the cash on 1 part of my setup? Adding to that, I'm just starting out and don't know my future. It would be like investing in stocks, when you're predicted to die in 4 weeks.
In that case then it does seem better for you to buy cheaper equipment
now and see if this is something you want to pursue in the future.

I think you have a very healthy attitude towards this. It's great to know
your options. I didn't start with professional equipment; like you I couldn't
afford it but I learned a lot with what I did have. Get what you can afford
now, make a dozen shorts movies and learn. Then when you have a bit of
a reputation get an audio person who already has the pro gear and work
with them.

I hope you stick around here and show us your future work.
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Old 02-03-2018, 01:57 PM   #15
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Quote:
In the 1980's I used it with a Sony Cassette recorder. I purchased a used
Nagra 4.2 that I used for many years. I've plugged it directly into my
Beaulieu 5008 (a super 8 camera), my Sony Hi8 camera, my JVC DV550
and currently into a Zoom H6. The mic is great with all of them. That
investment has worked out to $10 per year. Even then I knew that my
future was not in audio - but it was well worth the cost.

There are a few cameras I should have not purchased....
Interesting that you changed your gear around the one mic so much.
And also that it worked in many combinations. Isn't it that each audio
recorder has it's own sound, even when the source is from a XLR cable
mic? I know it's true for 3.5 plugs with the so called preamps.

And you probably forgot to answer, but which exact mic from Sennheiser
is it, @directorik?


Quote:
In that case then it does seem better for you to buy cheaper equipment
now and see if this is something you want to pursue in the future.
Yeah. That is the thinking I was trying to communicate. And to then get
some kind of recommendations for gear. I have 1 big question remaining:
Which type of mic is best for recording ambient sound, and can you give
me a recommendation for one specifically, that costs less than $140?


Quote:
I think you have a very healthy attitude towards this. It's great to know
your options. I didn't start with professional equipment; like you I couldn't
afford it but I learned a lot with what I did have. Get what you can afford
now, make a dozen shorts movies and learn. Then when you have a bit of
a reputation get an audio person who already has the pro gear and work
with them.
Thank you very much. My current plan is to make some micro shorts (around 1 minute)
until I feel comfortable making a short film. Around that time I may try to get
an audio person, and if that isn't possible, then I'll upgrade my gear. Then do
a certain amount of short films until I find myself comfortable to make a feature length film.

Of course you'll never truly be comfortable to make a step in anything in life.
It's more a case of: If I don't hate my own movies or viewers like them, I'll make the step up.

Quote:
I hope you stick around here and show us your future work.
As long as I stay on my journey making films I'll come back here, as long as
my schedule allows it. It's really a great community and you all have helped me
out a bunch.

I'll definitely share my stuff here once I have something I think others could enjoy.
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