Capturing studio quality sound for your videos – the Zoom H4N sound recorder

Written by Gary on August 1st, 2009

Now that we are getting cameras with HD video capability and some of us are getting enthused into the prospects of becoming videographers as well as photographers, we need to also look at the other half – the audio recording which is also a critically important aspect of the video but which is rather neglected by the current cameras.

The Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera does its best to make it possible to capture good quality audio without any accessories or post-production.

The GH-1 is the only digital camera with interchangeable lenses which has a built-in stereo mic, external mic input, and a superbly quiet lens, BUT even this camera does not give you adequate control over your audio (unless firmware updates correct this – and hopefully they will soon) – there is no audio level meter and no method to alter these levels as the camera always uses an automatic level.

In addition, no matter how quiet the lens, if one wishes to adjust any other feature on the camera during recording such as manual exposure, the on-board mics will pick up the clicks.

The situation is worse on the other dSLRs with video, as none have silent lenses for AF, and none have built-in stereo mics, only some have an external mic port, and none have manual audio level controls (unless you use the unauthorised, warranty-breaking hack firmware for the Canon 5DMII).

One of the best solutions appears to be using a stand alone audio recording device to simultaneously record audio while the camera records both video and audio. The files can then be easily synchronised in video editing software and the camera’s audio muted.

With this in mind, I have decided to purchase the highly recommended audio recorder – the Zoom H4N which can produce incredible sound with its special stereo mics and with the option of using 2 external mics via XLR inputs including phantom powered mics.

Zoom H4N

This device then allows you to get it close to your subject and away from your camera’s noise (and your noise) and can even record 4 channels and mix them with special effects and preamps before saving them on a SD card as high quality WAV or MP3 files.

The Zoom H4N was particularly designed for musicians so they can plug in their guitars, and there is built-in metronome and tuners to assist them which adds to its versatility.

You can also use this for lectures, etc as it has a nice auto record function which starts recording when a sound level is reached and stops it when silence occurs.

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