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Looking to buy field recorder


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#1 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 13 December 2007 - 06:39 PM

I'm looking to move up from recording sound directly into my DVX and onto something a little higher quality. I've looked at things like the Edirol R-4, and a few others, but I really don't know what's good.

I'm not looking to spend $10,000, but I'm not looking for a $300 H4 either. (Obviously, right, if I've been looking atht Edirol R-4).

I shoot short films and feature length documentaries, so I'm looking for something that will hopefully one day find the big screen, and the closer I can get to that quality the better.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.
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#2 James Baker

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Posted 15 December 2007 - 03:39 PM

I'm looking to move up from recording sound directly into my DVX and onto something a little higher quality. I've looked at things like the Edirol R-4, and a few others, but I really don't know what's good.

I'm not looking to spend $10,000, but I'm not looking for a $300 H4 either. (Obviously, right, if I've been looking atht Edirol R-4).

I shoot short films and feature length documentaries, so I'm looking for something that will hopefully one day find the big screen, and the closer I can get to that quality the better.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.



Unfortunately it's not just the recorder that gets you better quality but, as you probably realize, there's the mics, a mixer, booms, windjammers, cables, blah, blah. It can add up really quickly if you are looking for high end audio, or "big screen quality" as you say.

Figure 2k for something like a Sound Devices recorder, 1k for a SD mixer (depending on channels needed) then another 2-3k for mics, 1k for booms/cables, etc.. And then somebody skilled to do sound while you shoot.

Which brings me to this: What about hiring an experienced person, who has good equipment, to work with you on important projects? This might end up being less expensive and you will have the added benefit of somebody who really knows sound (and can help in post.) Good equipment sounds better but also requires a lot more skill to make use of that quality. And you might end up finding you don't have the time (or desire) to learn that skill set.

Just a suggestion.
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#3 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 10:23 AM

Yeah, I know what you're saying. And I was sort of expecting someone to post a response in that regard.

I do realize the importance of those things, and you're completely right in that I don't want to learn 'sound' myself. There's too much there to learn, considering everything else I already need to work on.

Having said that, I do want our production values to increase with every picture. So, from what I have heard, going from 16 to 24-bit sound (even with the same mics and the same professional sound mixer) would be an improvement. If I'm wrong, I'd love to know that, and what's a better option. If I'm right (and I realize there are degrees here), I'd like to get a good, economic but efficient 24-bit sound recorder that will hopefully last me a while.
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#4 James Baker

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 02:00 PM

Take a look at this resource: www.24bitfaq.org

It should answer all your questions. But, again, the bigger issue is do you personally want to get into this, or let someone else who has already spent the time do it for you?

Don't get me wrong, I think it's really great that you take some time to understand audio and learn as much as you can.

But there's just so much involved in getting "big screen" audio. Handling the boom, how to cable properly to eliminate noise, knowing the different characteristics of each type and manufacture of microphones, mixing skills, post work, the list goes on and on....

It's going to take a long time to learn by yourself and it's probably the time you really need to write, direct and produce your projects. On the other hand, you can learn a lot by hiring a really experienced person even for just one time and observing how they do it and ask questions. You could also go to your local sound pro shop and ask if someone is willing to give you advice and some hands-on-training in exchange for a couple hundred dollars or so.

If you're set on buying a recorder yourself, Sound Devices build high end recorders that won't break the bank (starting at around $2400 for the 702T.) I recommend them but based only on my own experience ---and I have not used Cantars or Devas which are really too expensive to own (unless you are a sound engineer making good money, of course.)
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#5 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 02:45 PM

As I mentioned in my last post, I don't really want to learn sound. That's not my goal. My goal is to have the highest quality production I can, on a limited budget. I don't mind buying equipment, but I only want to buy it if it's going to be something that I'm going to keep long enough to justify buying and not just renting.

You seem to know a lot about audio, James, and I wonder if you think what I'm trying to do is a reasonable thing? I mean, either way I'm going to find someone else to do the audio recording and mixing. I'm just providing them tools. And working in Boise, Idaho, there isn't much to rent around here. Actually, there's nothing local.

So, if you think this would be a good investment for someone in my position, I'd like to know. If you think I should take another route, I'm up for the advice. I'm not looking at going out and spending the money today. Not until I understand what it is I'm getting into (on at least a broad level, not on a sound technician's level).

Thanks,

Tim.
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#6 James Baker

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Posted 17 December 2007 - 07:03 PM

Tim, as I said I think it's really great that you learn as much as you can; that will always be to your advantage.

Should you buy the equipment? It doesn't hurt if you have the budget. But if you have to pay someone to use it, why not hire someone skilled and already equipped --and who intimately knows the quirks of their own equipment?

I think one of the problems with all this is that our idea of what is high quality changes as we get better with the material. So, an inexpensive recorder with noisy preamps might sound okay --until we hear something that sounds much better. But we've already bought the recorder and now we're stuck with it. Not knowing the real world of audio, we get into that loop of feeling comfortable only with something that we know costs a lot of money but without knowing if it's really what we actually need.

So, we buy the expensive recorder. But then end up with noisy mics and eventually it all goes south. Then we buy the most expensive mics but there's some hum that we can't figure out. We get a $500 Rycote. And then we buy new expensive cables. Now there's noise from the boom. So we buy a really expensive carbon fiber pole ---but maybe we should have really just bought some gloves...

There are so many variables in achieving great quality audio. It's many, many links in a big chain.

A good recorder such as a Sound Devices is a solid "investment" and it will have good resale value, too. You can feel comfortable knowing that it's not a Marantz but accepting that it's not an Aaton, either. But again, there you are with a great recorder. Then what? Which mics? If you can't rent mics, then you are relying only on other's subjective advice (and don't forget my advice is subjective, too!) Mics are expensive (the usable ones for "big screen" quality) and that can make or break things....

Bad sound is bad and good sound is good but what's better than good? It's all somewhat subjective.....

I still say keep studying and hire someone for a try out. Even if you have to pay a few hundred bucks for a day, you will learn a lot just watching them. If you bought your own (expensive) equipment you still need to find someone skilled who can use the equipment properly (even improperly holding a boom can render useless audio even with the best of equipment.) I venture to say that anyone whose good with audio should have decent equipment themselves.

Sorry for the polemic, but I just would hate to see you spend good money on something that you have to invest a lot of time with in order to use to its fullest capabilities. Unless you're willing to do so (and there's nothing wrong with that.)

You'll get plenty advice on what equipment is "good" or "bad." That's easy. And you can search all over the net, there's plenty out there. Buying something just takes money, anybody can buy something. But in the end, you'll never know what **you** really need until you **know** what you really need. And that's the part you'll figure out in time.......
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