The Zoom H2n is the latest addition to my video production kit. It provides excellent audio pickup and an impressive array of onboard features to make capturing the best audio possible. It is currently one of the best values in terms of dedicated portable audio recorders on the market today.
There are a few ways you can put it to use for you during video shoots. It’s typically recommended that any professional video production have audio contingencies in the event that something goes wrong during production you might not notice until editing. In cases such as field recording and conducting interviews, asking your subjects to repeat themselves after the fact is generally not a reliable backup plan.
If you want to use the H2n for video production, it’s actually quite easy. There are a few ways to go about it.
Using an External Wired or Wireless Microphone
On the left side of the Zoom H2n is a Line In jack which you can use to plug in an external wireless receiver for a lavaliere, handheld, or boom microphone. Audio captured through this line is automatically recorded into a track and saved as though you were capturing audio from the built-in microphones. The trick here is making sure that you have the right options set.
If your external microphone requires power, you can give it some through this port by heading to Menu, then Input, then Plug-in Power. This option will enable you to turn on and off phantom power which some microphones require to do their thing. Do a test first, though.
Once you plug the microphone into the device, it should indicate a detection with a little 3.5 mm icon on the upper-left area of the monitor. A mono microphone will only produce audio on the left channel while a stereo mic will utilize both right and left. Adjust the analog gain dial with headphones in the headphone jack to get the audio levels right. Automatic gain control is iffy with some microphones. I have one lavaliere that does not work well with it and another that sound excellent on it. When it doubt, do it manually.
Placed Near the Subject
The H2n has five internal microphones that pick up audio in a variety of ways. For video, it’s almost universally true that you’ll want to use Mid-Side or XY over two or four channel surround sound. This is due to the noise that happens on the camera’s side of a scene. The trick is to mount the H2n on a tripod located somewhere near the subjects without it appearing in the shot. The internal mics pick up a lot of sound from a very long distance with the right gain settings, and you can pick up fairly stunning audio from a distance of 2-3 feet if you can get it there.
The plastic tripod mount on the bottom may not leave you very confident as to the H2n’s stability, but the threading has held up quite nicely through a series of stress tests I put the H2n through this weekend.
The important thing is not to knock or touch the H2n during recording. The plastic body relays sound directly to the pickups and the slightest tap of a finger can come through an audio recording.
Rubberized feet on the bottom of the H2n make it a great (and sturdy) stand-alone device. You can sit it behind an object in the scene so it’s out of view of the camera fairly easily. I personally prefer to have it sitting directly in front of a subject on a table that sits just out of frame, but every shot is different.
As a Backup
Always have a backup. The H2n could easily be used as a backup recording device with a simple Y connector or line out to line in between it and the camera. Never trust a video camera to capture essential audio, especially in critical shoots. You can hide bad video behind graphics, but you can’t always do the same with audio.
I tested using it in a chain with a male-male 3.5mm connection between the line out on the camera and the line in on the H2n. From there, I plugged a pair of headphones in to monitor the audio in real time. It worked well, though the gain control had to be knocked way down.
No matter how you opt to use the H2n, keep it handy and use it often. It could be a lifesaver when you least expect it to be.