It’s really easy to overlook the importance of good audio when shooting video. Unfortunately, it’s audio that is often the cause of a ruined shoot. A bad microphone connection, battery loss, background noise, and any number of other issues can hurt a video. This is why I am a firm believer in doubling up on everything: two cameras (if possible) and two audio tracks for each video. Trusting a camcorder to deliver everything in one package is like trusting a hardware company to make exceptional software. It happens, but not often enough.
The addition of visual content adds a lot to both the work and the detail required for content production. Audio is, by contrast, fairly simple. An audio engineer would argue otherwise, but there’s no question that video makes things much more complicated.
Dedicated audio recorders typically have more features available to them, which enable much better audio recording. Compressors, limiters, and gain control are just a few things that a dedicated audio recorder can bring to the table that very few video cameras can. Even the use of high-quality external microphones on camcorders can introduce issues. It takes one bad connection or failed save to make you throw an entire segment out.
A second audio capture can save you time and money in post-production.
Nothing is worse than asking someone to repeat an interview or try to recreate a perfect scene because audio didn’t capture correctly. Post-editing can only fix so many problems before obvious dubbing and other artificial adjustments have to be made. Even a mediocre secondary recording can save you from countless hours of fixing a single bad track.
Dedicated audio recorders also give you direct control over how the audio is captured. Whether you’re using built-in microphones or an external mic fed into the unit, your ability to adjust the gain and make minor tweaks to the input is significantly increased by having a device that does nothing but give you this ability.
A good portable audio recorder is like having a sound studio in your hand. It should be the workhorse of your production rig (aside of the camera) and is free to be placed anywhere additional audio is needed. You can even incorporate a lavaliere microphone and keep the recorder itself in your subject’s pocket. This can save you a lot of money on quality wireless gear.
No matter what type of video you’re producing, you should always double up on everything that’s important. If you bring one camera to a wedding, there’s nothing you can do if your primary camera fails. The same goes for audio. Trusting a device that’s designed to capture video with audio is often a bad bet.
What dedicated audio recorders would you recommend? I recently purchased a Zoom H2n for this purpose, and would recommend it in cases where a boom mic isn’t enough. It sounds great and has plenty of quality-enhancing features. If you’re looking for something with a bit more in terms of features, the H4n is an excellent upgrade.