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Recording Devices (Dat vs. MD)


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#1 Andrew Jackson

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Posted 11 October 2005 - 09:29 PM

Not too long ago I changed my major to cinematography and I actually started my classes this fall. I'm extremely happy right now and cannot see myself doing anything else, or I should say loving anything as much, and I've decided to try to go ahead and get my own equipment. While I do not want to spend a TON of money, I'm willing to spend about $1000 or so on audio equipment and then about $500 or so on lights.

As far as lights go, I plan to build my own. I want to get my own cans and 3-legged stands and get some high powered lights from somewhere (any suggestions on where to find them online for cheap?) But this topic isn't about lighting, and I'll get into what it is about: sound.

I've been really wanting to get a DAT recorder, but when it comes to spending that much money when I don't very much, I get scared. I want to make sure I'm making the right purchase decisions and that I have enough money left over for a decent microphone or two. I was planning on going for a DAT recorder and just asking for advice on what features I need to have and what would be good. The only way I can think of buying it for cheap would be to use ebay and spend $500 or less. I tried looking up information on the Internet, but random websites are just so hard to trust and understand and I would rather have input from people that have actually used the recorders. I hope to use it for hooking up microphones to and recording on set, recording ambient noise, using it for sound effects, and even maybe ADR. This would all point to me having a portable one, but at the same time I would really like to be able to use it to record music for some local bands as well, which it would seem like that would require more than one mic input. Sounds for film is the most important though, and if I have to make do with only one or two mic inputs, I'll survive (especially if it means saving me some $$).

Well, after I thought my problem was just going to be finding a good dat recorder for a cheap price and learning some stuff about it so I could make an educated buying decision, I heard that MD (mini-disk) format is pretty good. I heard it has the same quality as dat, it's cheaper, and with it being a "CD" it would be easier to put into the computer and can instantly skip to different sections on the disk, without using forward or rewind all of the time. Also, DAT tapes are easier to damage than these minidisks are. Like I said, this is just what I've heard and I have no clue what to believe or where to even start looking. I would much appreciate any help you guys (or gals) could shed on this situation. Thanks!

Edited by Andrew Jackson, 11 October 2005 - 09:31 PM.

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#2 Charlie Seper

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 07:30 AM

I don't know anybody that's ever owned a mini disc recorder. Public Radio uses them in the field quite a bit but this is almost always for voice recording. They sound fine but I would think twice about using them for music, not so much because they won't capture a performance correctly, but because you'll likely dump the material to a DAW set-up where you can manipulate it later i.e.?playing with EQ settings, compression, using volume envelopes, reverb, delay and normalizing. Of course with every change you make you'll be losing information. Starting with a heavily compressed codec to begin with is not a great idea unless you know you won't be making many changes to it. For sound location recording of people talking or street sounds etc., MD wouldn't be bad because you probably wouldn't be changing much of anything except the volume. But if you're going to get into music I'd use something else.

The thing about DAT and the newer units that record to hard disc is that if you want to hire your services out to a film crew that does quality work they'll expect to see these. Yeah, having time code is a waste of time along with half the other features you'll never use nowadays but no one ever accused DP's and directors of being more intelligent than your average dolphin. I could record on a good cassette deck and tell them it was a DAT and they'd never know the difference in terms of sound quality. My studio partner, Kurt, and I got out of radio jingles almost 15 years ago because of all the twinkies that are involved in the business who think they're artists (imagine berets and turtle necks.) You just wouldn't believe the stupidity that goes on in television and radio. Or maybe you would if you own one of either. This radio spot was the last thing we ever did aside from a film soundtrack on hot air ballooning that never aired. It was enough to make us get out and never look back. All I'm saying is, think twice about getting involved in radio, TV or motion pictures if you're working for anyone other than yourself and make sure its something you really want to do.

http://deep.phpwebho.../ag_edwards.wma

If you "do" want to work for the twinks and put up with their nonsense then I'd save my money and go whole hog with something like a Fostex FR2. Yeah, they're nutty expensive, but it?s the latest and greatest. The village morons will eat it up.

http://www.fostex.co...roducts/pfr/fr2

On the other hand, if you want to be a filmmaker yourself and work for free or next to nothing making independent films, how to vids, or freelance commercials (yuck!) then I would seriously consider something like this Fostex MR-8HD that can be had at places like Guitar Center for around $500. It still records to hard drive but at 16/44.1 instead of 16/48 (gee, how hard is it to convert the signal afterwards) and gives you 4-XLR inputs instead of two, has 8-tracks, and can simultaneously record 4 tracks at a time, phantom power, everything you need except one thing?no battery operation. So you'll have to find a way to provide your own power (think generator) in the field.

http://www.fostex.co...s/digital/mr8hd

Tascam and Boss have good units also but tend to be a little more expensive.

Don't worry about time code when you're working for yourself. Just always be sure to record a signal to the built-in mics of whatever cam unit you're working with so you can match up the wave graph with the one from your DAT (or whatever) in a DAW later. That couldn't be easier.

Anyway, lots of luck, and don't let the twinks bite you in the tush. I mean really, you can't argue with them. Just read through some of the threads around here. You've got some good guys here but sites like these are always gonna generate a fair amount of twinkies who'll do their best to draw you into an interminable argument. Just look the other way if you can and don't allow people to waste your time. Yeah, easier said than done.

Edited by Charlie Seper, 13 October 2005 - 07:35 AM.

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#3 Dickson Sorensen

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 11:29 AM

[quote name='Charlie Seper' date='Oct 13 2005, 04:30 AM' post='70864']
I don't know anybody that's ever owned a mini disc recorder.


I have used a mini disc for recording sound for film. It worked fine and we were able to get the recorder into situations that it would have been difficult otherwise, i.e. on a rollercaoster. I 'm not a sound man and don't pretend to be one but I have worked with some of the best. What I have noticed is that it's not so much what they are recording to as what they are recording. Microphone choice and placement makes a bigger difference than this recorder or that one. Good mikes, a good mixer, are the expencive items. Price them then see how much money you have left for a recorder.
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#4 Andrew Jackson

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 11:35 AM

Thanks for the help man. I think I'll definately be looking towards DAT now, but I still have a BUNCH to learn about recording audio. I do not know too much about sound equipment right now, like all of the mumbo jumbo and what is actually what. I need to start searching for sites to teach myself. Any good links that explain all the technical info well?
As far as audio recording, I definately want to specialize more in film and would rather have a great device to record sounds for film (dialogue, sound effects, ambient sound) than a device that would be just decent for both music and movies. I really want a DAT recorder for using in my own films (which are going to be shot on miniDV) and then for my class projects that will be filmed on Super 8 and 16. I also plan on using this as an "in" for other student filmmakers on campus looking for someone to help them with capturing sound, so the more I know about it all and the better quality the recorder has, the better. I really want to be director, but I could use the DAT as a means of networking and meeting people that are passionate about movies just like I am, and therefore have some help doing my own projects when it comes to me needing actors, camera people, lighting people, etc. There are many films being shot on campus for class projects and I would like to help out with as many as possible. Besides using this as a way to get "in" with other filmmakers on campus, I thought it would help to know the most about everything when it came to actually being a director for my own films/Hollywood films (WHEN I make it - hah!). Anyways, I figured the more I know about sound and what is required, as well as the more I know about lighting, and other things such as prosthetics that I'm trying to learn, the better.
As far as pricing goes, if anyone wants to mention any units that are great but very expensive, feel free to. I'll be looking on Ebay A BUNCH and I could look for that model recommended or even a model below it that would probably still be very good. Oh, I know that just because I have a good recorder doesn't mean I'll have good sound (good microphones are also needed), but I'll tackle that when it comes. Right now I'm just interested in DAT recorders and the knowledge. Thanks again Mr. Seper, and if anyone else has any input, I'd appreciate it! Oh, and as far as DAT, would a portable one or a umm....regular size one be the best way to go? Oh, and I really do not know how to power one with a generator. I mean, I know how, but I don't know if I would want to spend a bunch of money on a generator. It would be best to have one that is both powered off of batteries and if they die, a generator can be used. But I guess I might as well look into generators more and try to find a good place to get them. Thanks!

EDIT: I didn't see Dickson's post before posting mine. As far as mics, I really don't know what to get either. I'm guessing a unidirectional for a boom and maybe a shotgun mic or two? I found one on Ebay that the sellers CLAIMED to retail at $250. It was a good unidirectional (appeared to be anyways) and they were selling it for about $50. I can't remember the brand or model though...

Edited by Andrew Jackson, 13 October 2005 - 11:38 AM.

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#5 Charlie Seper

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Posted 13 October 2005 - 09:28 PM

http://www.sounddude.com/Sounddude.htm

If you click on his "Equipment" tab on the left to bring up that frame, some of the links within the new frame page don't work. But if you look to the left in the menu frame under "New" some of the same equipment is listed there and I believe they all are working. Rob's the best video sound guy around.
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#6 Matt Jeppsen

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Posted 16 October 2005 - 10:50 AM

Cheap DAT-alternatives are Sony MD or iRiver flash recorders (700 & 800 series work great). Timecode synch can be a bitch though.

Recently a a nice DAT-replacement at a VERY reasonable price has become available: the Tascam HD-P2 field audio recorder.
This device is under $1000, and includes an unprecedented number of pro features at this price point. It records HD-quality audio to CF cards, and offers plenty of timecode synch options.

* 44.1kHz to 192kHz recording resolution at 16- or 24-bit
* Time-stamped Broadcast WAVE file format
* Retake button - re-do the last recording with a single button press
* XLR mic inputs feature phantom power
* Unbalanced stereo RCA I/O
* S/PDIF digital I/O
.....and a ton of other features. Check it out.

-MJ
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#7 Andrew Jackson

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Posted 16 October 2005 - 03:14 PM

Nice! I'm definately going to look into that more.


So I noticed it just records onto compact flash, am I correct? If so, how much can 1 gig hold when recording say, 44.1kHz at 24-bit? And, is is that what you normally record at?
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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 17 October 2005 - 04:45 AM

Hi,

I often work with the FR2. It is, frankly, several widely-variegated kinds of great.

I would seriously consider whether you really want to use DAT. Because a DAT deck has a lot of complicated, high-precision mechanics in it, the prices for portables are usually up there with the FR2 and you don't get the convenience of CF recording - plus the higher sample rates, if you need to impress someone with numbers.

Should you find yourself in a situation where someone's demanding timecode, there's also a timecode board for it which isn't hopelessly expensive.

Phil
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#9 Christopher Heston

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 04:55 PM

Cheap DAT-alternatives are Sony MD or iRiver flash recorders (700 & 800 series work great). Timecode synch can be a bitch though.

Recently a a nice DAT-replacement at a VERY reasonable price has become available: the Tascam HD-P2 field audio recorder.
This device is under $1000, and includes an unprecedented number of pro features at this price point. It records HD-quality audio to CF cards, and offers plenty of timecode synch options.

* 44.1kHz to 192kHz recording resolution at 16- or 24-bit
* Time-stamped Broadcast WAVE file format
* Retake button - re-do the last recording with a single button press
* XLR mic inputs feature phantom power
* Unbalanced stereo RCA I/O
* S/PDIF digital I/O
.....and a ton of other features. Check it out.

-MJ




What do you mean you can use the irivers as recorders??? All they have is built in mics right?

-Chris
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#10 Matt Jeppsen

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 05:25 PM

What do you mean you can use the irivers as recorders??? All they have is built in mics right?


In addition to the (crappy) onboard mic, the iRiver 700 and 800 IFP series have Line-In also (which is software-switchable to a Mic-level input as well). You can select bitrates up to 320 in stereo, 160 in mono.
Note that the iRiver is wired slightly non-standard, so a typical mono mic will not work with it (it doesn't correctly identify the mic as mono, and record a single channel of audio). For event lapel-variety recording, Darrell at Giant Squid Audio Lab wires a special mic for the iRiver recorders that allows it to use a mono mic to record just one stereo channel, therefore virtually doubling your recording capacity (if that's your bag).
If you don't want to mess with mono recording, pretty much any stereo mic will work, the Azden 503 is well-suited for event work (lapel) and the price is right around $25 at B&H.

With capacities from 256 up to 1GB, the iRivers make excellent recorders and the price is phenomenal. I recently snagged a few refurb 790's (512MB) for under $75/each.

Matthew Jeppsen
www.FresHDV.com
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#11 Sol Train Saihati

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Posted 11 November 2005 - 03:51 AM

Dat is old news - Md is not the way to go for too many reasons to list, most of which are highlighted above: Like the man says, the future is now! http://www.hhb.co.uk...ail.asp?ID=1521

With Radio Mics, accessories, a boom and alternative Microphones you may not quite come in on budget but in the long term you'll save yourself some money on Dat tapes at least.

Good Luck!
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