Sound And The Video D-SLR, Part 1

Zoom H4n

Today, the popularity of D-SLRs is spawning a resurgence in double-system sound, but utilizing much smaller, inexpensive, yet high-quality digital recording devices. Utilizing one of the BeachTek or juicedLink audio interfaces will increase the audio quality over what you’re experiencing now, but if you feel that you still need better-quality audio than the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is capable of, the next step is to bypass using the audio on the 5D Mark II altogether and record double-system sound. The sound from the separate recorder is combined with the picture from the 5D Mark II in post. There are several advantages to recording with double-system sound over using the audio from the 5D Mark II. Even with a better interface, the audio quality on D-SLRs isn’t as good as most separate recorders.

The EOS 5D Mark II supports only two audio channels. Some digital recorders offer more than two audio channels to record a greater number of subjects, each through more microphones recorded to a separate channel.

Marantz PMD661

There are many different small digital recorders on the market that are well- suited for recording double-system sound with the 5D Mark II. Just realize that when you decide to use this workflow, everything you record must be logged and notated and then matched up with the picture in post. This increases your labor and the time needed to adopt this workflow, but the end result is better sound quality and more flexibility when shooting.

Following are some of the most popular recorders I’m seeing used for this application:

 The Zoom H4n seems to be one of the most popular double-system sound recorders used with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It features four-channel audio recording at up to 24-bit/96 kHz. The H4n also features balanced XLR inputs, records to SD cards and features up to 24-bit/96 kHz recording of .WAV or MP3 formats. The suggested retail price is $609.99.
 The M-Audio MicroTrack II is another small digital recorder popular with D-SLR shooters. It features storage using CompactFlash cards or Microdrives, separate left and right input level controls with signal and peak indicators, professional balanced TRS inputs capable of mic or line-level signals, dual microphone preamps with 48V phantom power for studio microphones and S/PDIF coaxial input for digital transfers. The suggested retail price is $495.
 Marantz has introduced the PMD661, a two-track portable digital audio recorder. It features digital recording at 44.1/48/96 kHz sample rate at 16- or 24-bit quantization. The PMD661 uses SD or SDHC memory cards to record standard WAV (Broadcast WAV File) or MP3 files and features dual XLR inputs, mic/line switchable with +48V phantom power. The suggested retail price is $799.

Here are some useful tips when shooting double-system sound:
 Use a clapperboard, handclap or other audio cue at the beginning of each take. This will help you sync the two sources faster and easier in post.
 The more you can notate scenes, takes and sound comments while shooting, the less time you’ll have to spend locating, logging and organizing the audio clips and their corresponding video clips when preparing to edit. Sound reports should be used whenever possible.
 Although not always practical, whenever possible, try to change the audio recorders media whenever you change out your visual media. A 1:1 relation between the SD or CF cards containing your audio clips and the video media (tape or solid state) is simpler to track, label and manage.

Editor’s Note: Part two will cover double-system sound in postproduction. Stay tuned!

Send your audio technical questions to [email protected] or mail them to Audio Assist, HDVideoPro Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025.