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Mixer and Recorder for Film/Field Recorders, Players & Tape Machines
Old 6th August 2014
Here for the gear

Mixer and Recorder for Film/Field

Hey guys,

First time posting in this forum... read through the relevant threads that I could find, but still a newbie at this, so forgive me if I make you at any point. Looking for advice from those more knowledgeable and experienced.

Quick background: I studied film and sound in college (13 years ago), but after that, built a career as a professional musician, and my only real "engineering" experience was in my home studio... until a few years ago, when I began working as a sound recordist for a friend on a doc he was shooting. I didn't know very much, but I managed not to screw up anything too important, and as it turns out, my friend made an excellent film--it won awards at some big festivals, and eventually was nominated for an Oscar. So that was crazy.

Now I've just come off tour at the end of a long record cycle and I'm looking to step away from noise-making for awhile and get back into noise-listening...

To the point: I'm looking to buy a kit that would ideally serve the purposes of documentary/ENG-style sound recording at a pro level, and ambient field recording at a hobbyist level.

I have a pretty good grasp on what I want for my mics (NTG-3 for the shotgun) and accessories. As for the recorder, I want more than two-track capability, but I simply can't spring for the 744T. I have the H4n currently, and love what I've seen of the H6, so I'm thinking of going with that, or possibly the H5.

Now some dumb questions: If I have more than 2 inputs, is there a need for a field mixer? I used one on the film, but I was running sound to the camera. How common is that these days? Will I miss out on a lot of opportunities if I don't have the gear to mix multiple inputs down to two?

(I have to say, coming from a music background, this is a norm that really baffles me. However much time it takes to sync up audio and video in post, isn't it all made up for by the fact that the sound designer has some isolated tracks to mix however he wants?)

The other reason I can think to get a mixer is because of superior pre's and dynamic processing. The H6 seems like a big improvement for Zoom, but maybe still not super pro on its own. So, having said that, is there anything like the SD302 that would have those signal path benefits but more than two outputs? Is it worth it to get the SD302 anyway, to at least have two solid channels with a great pre's and limiting?

Sorry for such a TLDR intro, got a bit carried away, but wanted to make sure I explained it all. Thanks to any who might be able to help!
Old 7th August 2014
I think this is in the wrong forum. This sounds like it should be in the post production forum. They'd be able to answer your question better than we could.
Old 7th August 2014
Here for the gear

hmm, thanks, ok... sorry, I just realized my point might have gotten muddled in all those words. I guess you're saying that the post guys would know better what they expect to be delivered, but since the main point I'm after is a "what do I buy?" gear question for production, I just wanna break it down to a few questions, and let me know if I should still move it:

Do the majority of pro documentary-style shoots (small, mobile crew) require that a sound recordist have a mixer for sending stereo audio to the camera, or is it ok for a recordist to be dependent on multi-tracking to his own recorder? Is there a standard these days?

The Zoom H5 and H6 seem like a big step up and could work as recorders in a pro context. Are the preamps and compression/limiting good enough that I wouldn't need anything else in the signal path, just mics-to-Zoom?

If not, is there a portable hardwire device similar to the Sound Devices mixers which has quality preamps and limiting/compression, but which would provide more than 2 outputs?
Old 7th August 2014
Gear Guru
drBill's Avatar
Originally Posted by jaredthechase View Post
let me know if I should still move it:
Yes. You will get qualified and experienced answers over there.
Old 7th August 2014
Here for the gear

gotcha will do. sorry about that, and cheers, guys, for the guidance!
Old 7th August 2014
Gear Guru
drBill's Avatar
No worries man. Best of luck with it.
Old 7th August 2014
Lives for gear
Sam Watson's Avatar
The Remote Forum will provide good answers as well. Also check out this FB group:

In the meantime - I've done a lot of location sound work which let me make the contacts to get my composing career aloft. I have a SD 744T and other similar gear.

The Zoom is a functional piece of gear and will let you do plenty of work BUT if you are trying to land "pro" gigs as a freelancer most producers will want to hear that you have Sound Devices or Zaxcom for your recorder. If they have a camera that accepts audio then they usually want a feed on camera and want you to roll backup on your mixer/recorder. Most everyone is fine with a stereo file. Only bigger gigs want multitrack ISOs.

Buy gear USED. Here is a reliable source Used Gear Info | Trew Audio They check the gear out and tell you the condition. I've bought nearly all of my kit used over the years. No reason to pay full price. I would stick with your H4n and get a good field mixer to go with it. That way you can feed cameras via the XLR outputs and use the Tape Out to feed your Zoom for recording too. A Shure FP33 is cheap and plenty clean & field proven. Check out PSC. And Sound Devices.

That would let you get a flexible rig and start building up some clients and your gear over time.

Good luck,
Old 7th August 2014
Here for the gear

Sam, thanks for the tips! Great stuff. The FP33 is actually the mixer I used on the film I did, I should revisit that... guess I've been stuck in the mindset that if I was going to get a field mixer, I would need to go with Sound Devices. Wasn't even familiar with PSC. Or the Trew Audio site, for that matter... wish they had a branch in NYC.

In any case, thanks again!
Old 8th August 2014
Lives for gear
Sam Watson's Avatar
Check out Gotham Sound up there in NY too then!

Sound Devices has taken over for good reason. They are great designs, super clean sound and truly pro features. But there are lots of good tools out there that will let you make pro grade recordings for multimedia uses.
Old 9th August 2014
Gear Maniac
K5000's Avatar

You might also check out jwsoundgroup, a forum by Jeff Wexler, a bit like gearslutz but dedicated (mostly) to location sound.

One possible route to start with would be a used Sound Devices 442. It's a 4-channel mixer with (in addition to the 2 main outs) a direct out per channel, which you could use to feed a quality signal to the Zoom H6. It's discontinued and you might find one fairly cheaply. Of course, a Zoom isn't ideal for many other reasons as well - like not having timecode.
Old 9th August 2014
Here for the gear

Guys, thanks, this is all really helpful.

I've been checking out a lot of more location and film-related sound forums recently, and jwsoundgroup seems like a great resource.

This SD 442 is pretty much exactly what I've been looking for... the 552 and above were out of my range, but the 302 didn't give me as many channels as I wanted, and didn't have direct outputs. So thanks especially for that tip!

Good point about the H6 not having timecode. FWIW the main reason I wanted multi-channel capability is not because I expect to be doing big multi-camera shoots and sending ISO's to post, but it's actually because of the hobbyist field recording side. I have an idea for a little homemade double MS rig for getting surround sound field recordings... looks like the 442 going to the H6 will be a perfect for that... in the meantime, in the film context, I would at least be able to send audio to both the H6 and the camera, until I can afford a better recorder.

I would hug you all, but my hands are busy emptying my wallet.
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