The Art of Audio at ARC, Part 1: Recorders and Mixers

Posted in Equipment, Video by atifhashmi on April 6, 2011

Imagine you’re at ARC. You’ve reserved the camera you have been dying to use. You have a light for every contingency. You even managed to get that bizarre lens you’ve always wanted to use… You know the one. You’re about to check out, and you are gearing up in your head for the shoot, thinking, “I’m going to kill this film.” You go up to the counter with your treasure. You open the bag. It’s all there. Glorious. You turn to leave, when something pulls you back, it’s the hand of your friendly Adorama employee, who simply asks, “Will you be recording sound?” Uh oh.

Sound: the thorn in the side of freelance videographers and filmmakers. How do you do it? Does it even matter? Maybe just make the images pretty, and no one will notice the static hum. Maybe the camera has sound recording built-in?

Sound separates the amateur film from the professional one. It instantly boosts production value and determines if you get another job. Sound recording is an integral facet of filmmaking and needs to be met with same level of expertise and enthusiasm as image recording. In the end, are we not as filmmakers dealing with two primary senses, sight and sound?

First off, you need to ask yourself some questions. What is my end product? Am I shooting a music video? A short narrative? A documentary? Am I shooting an interview that’s going to end up online? Where will people be listening to it?

This is an integral part of the sound mixing process, finding out exactly what the end result will be, as much as resolution of image is concerned. Another major consideration is do you want to record sound in camera, or separately. Other important questions: who am I shooting? Where is the subject in relation to the camera? Is it a long lens shot of a couple walking along the water? Is it a diner scene with basic three shot coverage? An infomercial? An interview where the host is standing with a variety of guests in a crowd and will be seen from waist up and needs to have a hand mic? These concerns are an essential part of the filmmaking process and need to be given proper attention.

You have a plethora of sound recording tools to help you achieve your vision at Adorama Rentals. In the next few posts I’ll be explaining them by category, with a brief description of its best use and troubleshooting tips.

Important note: in the lineup of equipment necessary for recording sound the end quality of the sound is only as good as the weakest element in the chain, so if you have a great recorder but are using consumer grade mics, don’t be surprised if the end sound is still squashed.

Adorama has a team of talented rental specialists, however it is your responsibility to know what to do with the equipment you rent, so it is recommended that you rent something you haven’t used before a job, to get a sense of the tool and how to use it on location. After looking through this list of equipment, you should know that audio recording is a specialized and very important art form that, similar to photography, requires both a technical knowledge and artistic “eye”.


Zoom H4N

Zoom H4n
A popular recording device originally intended to be used by musicians for recording sessions and for journalists conducting interviews with more than two voices of interest. The device’s operation is simple enough, and the manual provided with the rental package details everything you need to know for basic operation.

Since the built-in microphones are calibrated for music, voices can become an issue when just using the device on its own, leading to distortion. For better recording, try setting the device to 4 channel mode, which enables you to record using both the attached mics as well as your choice of microphones using XLR inputs. These include the variety of microphones found at Adorama, and you can think of this device as both a recorder and mixer when looking for available kits. Although not nearly as good as the 702T recorder in use with the 302 sound mixer, it is a solid device and able to work well for most interior scenarios. Not for use with professional 5.1 Dolby digital. Ideal end products are web video, interviews for TV and short films with low to medium budgets.

Sound Devices 702T digital recorder

Sound Devices 702T digital recorder & Sound Devices 302 sound mixer
This combination is the standard for professional sound mixing and recording, and requires both to manage the type of audio file that is being recorded. To operate you need the proper  sound bag and XLR cable to connect to a microphone. In sound recording, the audio signal requires a mixer to gauge the proper levels and determine which source needs to be assisted (mixers are especially helpful for use with multiple mics. The recorder can record up to 4 channels either in separate mixes or a gauged master mix if recording for a quick turnaround.

Up next: Mics and Lavs.


Atif Hashmi is a filmmaker based in New York City.

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  1. […] In the last post we covered sound recorders and mixers. […]

  2. […] Glass, Atif Hashmi contributes the first two installments of our audio recording primer, part 1 on recorders and mixers and part 2 on microphones and lavalier mics; I write about ARC client Jonathan Mannion‘s […]

  3. […] our first two posts on sound recording, we covered recorders and mixers and mics and lavs. Now we’ll cover the humble but essential accessories in a sound engineers […]

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