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However sound is said to be 70% of your production, visuals can be forgiven with a good story, but bad sound will kill your film no matter how good it is. So the solution is easy! Make a silent movie…no problems!
Ok, you don’t have a ton of money in the bank, but you got a film to make and you need good sound. This is my cheap sound kit…and is the absolute bare minimum if you want to do everything. If you saying it doesn’t look that cheap your right, but this kit replaces the 1000+ kit that you could buy from Rode or Sennhiser which doesn’t comes with the H4N recorder. Yes the boom pole is blue, so you pay a small penalty in looks. That’s it. Honestly, and if you ask me…kit quality it’s pretty close to the best out there. Buy an additional prossesional Telescopic boom pole($110), and you just went pro where no one else can tell the different. Still, I’m cheap and would be happier saving that 110 dollars.
My cheap Indie Sound Kit:
Total: $615 to 743 (give or take, the blimp and ebay prices fluctuation, so shop for the best deal! )
PS…these items are cheap enough to be bought over time, so don’t worry if it feels overwhelming at first. Invest in the H4N sound recorder first, and try to buy it second hand on amazon or eBay and save ($80 or more bucks). This way you have a mic, and a recorder and can get to work while you buy the rest of the gear as your budget provides.
Here is this kit in detail:
Zoom H4N Sound Recorder $299 (or 200 on ebay)
Here you can record quality audio independently from your camera.
RODE NTG2 Shotgun Mic $269 (Or 220 on ebay)
I have this mic, and use it religiously. It’s a great contender, and a marvel for the money. You have to invest in sound, and you make that here without forking over a ton of cash.
Proaim Blimp $129(40cm)-$150(60cm) (Name brands cost, so we’re going Generic!)
This was an absolute steel, you can’t move a shotgun mic or hold it without handling noise. You you need to suspend it with rubber bands. RODE pro blimps are like 300 bucks, with nothing else like boom pole, or cabling. So you can get a 40cm blimp made in india for $129 bucks, or about $150 for a 60cm blimp. And they are universial to boot, and will fit with any diameter shot gun mic. (Do check length, past 40cm you need to get the 60cm model)
For $20 bucks at home depot you can’t go wrong, rugged and with the below adapter works like a charm. Just be sure to attach the adapter to the Blimp first, then put it on the Home Depot Telescopic pole. Beat that for the money
This adapter is so you can turn any telescoping pole, broom, windshield wiper into a boom pole. It’s well made, and will last you a lifetime.
$615 to $743 (Used or New)
Note: STUDIO HEAD PHONES! You though I forgot, nope. Yes, you still have to hear your sound, any pair of headphones will do on an indie budget. But you will want to get a pair of studio head phones as they are designed to more accurately represent what your mic is recording, where normal headphones are trying to make your audio sound better, which can be a little deceiving. I say little because you will still hear noise, bums, cars, and whatever with normal headphones. Studio headphones don’t have to be expensive, so its ok to live within your budget.
My Cheaper Indie Sound Kit:
Total: $239 Bucks, & a $3 dollar Margarita. Sounds Awesome!
This is my second cheap sound kit for film making, everyone needs a lavalier to record with. You need two things, $139 bucks for a decent lavalier microphone, and $100 bucks for a quality sound recorder. You get great pro quality audio, no $600+ dollar transmitters needed here. Just mic up your talent, and throw that sound recorder into your talent’s pocket.
I originally came up with this setup for my dad’s school video production, turns out I wasn’t the only one. This is a very popular way to setup a lavalier mic on your talent. A lot of filmmakers use this setup.
ME-2 is a very popular Lav Mic, modestly priced and with a quality name brand like Sennheiser you can’t go wrong. You can cut corners a lot of places, but Lavalier mics are not one of them. Since they are so small, you want to invest in quality, because that tiny mic is going to be capturing the voice of your talent. And you want the best voice capture you can for you quality production. Lav mics are vital because they are so close to the talent’s mouth, which is key to getting great sound. Shotgun mics loose some of those tones being so far away. That’s why the shotgun/lavalier style shooting is so popular. Both can work fine on there own, but but combined in a NLE, you have movie/broadcast quality sound. Still the Zoom H1 & ME-2 Lavalier mic system is a great way to record sound as a stand alone system. And a awesome cheat, wireless systems cost upward of a 1000 dollars, and sometimes over. (And forget it if you have more that one person who needs to be mic’ed up. It can get expensive fast.)
Zoom H1 is a great recorder, it doesn’t have XLR inputs like the H4N, but as a Lavalier recorder its an amazing option. You save $600 bucks over the wireless option you’ll see below. This is a cheap and easy way to get sound from your talent.
Total Cost: $239 bucks
PRO SOUND GEAR FOR FILMMAKING:
Going pro, when you in this game long enough it is inevitable. So eventually you are going to need to invest in your gear or rent a sound guy. I like to own, I’ll starve to save up money for this stuff. Anyway its always fun to invest in some serious gear, because it sets you apart as a professional. Pros have pro gear, and their productions reflect that.
RODE NTG-3 Pro ShotGun Mic
Now the NTG-3 and NTG-2 sound almost the same to the untrained ear, which is great because that’s what makes buying the NTG-2 such a great deal! The NTG-3 has more capabilities as you would expect from a pro shotgun mic. But unlike other shotgun mics that cost in the thousands, the NTG-3 is priced to own. $699 is in everyone’s realm of possibility if you really want it. The RODE NTG-3 is a great mic, great bass sound, weather proof, and is a huge asset in anyone’s sound gear arsenal.
The HEIL PR-40
Thanks to the podcast answer man, I was introduced to his incredible microphone! This is the microphone you see sitting on David Letterman’s desk, Radio Talk Hosts across the world literally swear by this microphone. And that isn’t hype, it’s fact. This is a great dynamic microphone which makes your voice sound incredible, you don’t think about that when you are mic shopping figuring you just sound how you sound.
This dynamic microphone brings out the bass in your voice! Just enough to really never have to worry how you sound. Whether you are podcasting, a radio host, doing voice over work, this mic is one of the best kept secrets in the radio industry. Do the research, it’s an amazing mic. I discovered this microphone years ago just surfing the web about podcasting, and I found the Podcast Answer Man website. And he sold me on the HEIL PR-40.
Best part is, this isn’t a 1000+ dollar microphone. You can grab it for $289.99 on B & H, even less second hand on places like eBay or Amazon. I used it for podcasting, voice over, ADR. Beats having to do everything with a shotgun mic, and using a dynamic mic it only pics up your voice instead of a pin drop of everything else like condenser mics. Scratch you leg, touch the table, tie your shoe and the condenser mic pics up all of that terrible background noise. This makes tight pick up pattern microphones essential to quality recording, and you get that and more with the HEIL PR-40 Microphone.
Download the Podcast Answer Man PR40 Episode, and listen to HEIL himself talk about this microphone!
Wireless communications is how the pros do sound, with lavaliers. Typically using a combination of lavalier sound along with sound recorded with your shotgun mic. Combining the sound from both produces the best of both worlds when it comes to sound quality. As well as redundancy if something goes wrong. They used the Shotgun/Lavalier combo when filming the show HOUSE. Another great recording option is using a hand held dynamic mics (Like the PR22) with a transmitter that plugs in straight to the 3 prong XLR input at the bottom.
Description (from Sennheiser): This ENG set offers a great amount of flexibility for portable recording indoors or outdoors. Its SKP 100 G3 plug-on transmitter transforms XLR equipped devices (such as microphones and mixing consoles) into wireless devices by simply plugging the unit in. The bodypack transmitter, as well as the plug on, can be synced up to the receiver with the simple push of a button. A very small high-quality omni-directional clip-on microphone completes this set.
The PR22 is made to be a live performance mic, where a singer will carry it on a noisy stage. The reason people love them is they don’t have handling noise, so you just hear your voice coming over the microphone. It’s also a great interview mic, especially in a crowded or noisy area because the mic has a narrow pickup pattern right in front of the mic. Another bonus, is it only costs $169 bucks! You don’t have to spend a ton, to get great vocals. Or interview people at an Expo. Plus with the above Wireless Microphone Combo System, you can plug straight into the bottom of the mic for wireless recording.
If you are recording in a serious production you need to know if you are getting great quality audio. These studio headphones aren’t going to break the bank but will definitely ensure you know exactly what you microphone is recording. This is key if you are shooting dialogue, as you want to record everything on set because ADR is absolute death in post. Actors hate it. So be smart, and if there is a problem with the audio speak up. With these headphones, you’ll know.
This thing has timecode so you can sync your slate to it, which is great for multi-track, multi-mic recording. You can add phantom power to 4 separate mics, while recording at the highest quality uncompressed recording. The expensive pre-amplifiers in this baby makes all your mics sing! And a 160GB SATA HDD, you will never run out of recording space. You could film an entire movie’s audio on this thing. And see your levels for all your mics to make sure you aren’t peaking to over modulation. These are pro-features, and comes with a really pro price tag of $4095 dollars. If you are going to grab one, grab two and I’ll pay ya back after I finish my movie!
Pro Cost: $4095 bucks. (They are rent-able too!)
I don’t know how they do it, but they design the sound recording to mimic surround sound. It’s downright amazing, you can record it on a single stereo microphone. This isn’t a cheap mmmm I guess it’s like surround sound, it really sells that you are on location. Hearing is believing, checkout the video below.
Quick story about the picture above, Vincent Laforet was sent a 3D Mic Pro to review, and he used to get ambient sound when he was out on a shoot. This mic is great for that, so you can submerge your audience in the scene, with sound! I discovered this mic on his gear page, and I had to check it out. I definitely was quick to add this to my personal sound recording arsenal!
Video Commentary: To really hear how amazing this is, you need stereo headphones!
Cost: $995.00 for the Pro ( $695 for the 3D Mic Indie)
Sound Devices 302 Portable 3 Channel Field Mixer
Having a mixer gives you control over your sound, you have Low-cut Filter Switches to get fix of unwanted noise, gain control, quality mic pre-amps, Polarity (Phase) Reverse Switch, Input and Output Limiting , and quality electronics built to be rugged in the field and can transcend the quality of your production. This is a lot less than the 744T option, and is still pro sound equipment.
Sound Devices 552 Portable 5-Channel Production Mixer and Stereo Recorder
The 552 ups the anty when it comes to sound recording, this is a standard in the industry for in field recording. This is major sound gear for filmmakers looking to step up to professional recording. 5 Channels verse the prior’s 3, with all the features and more than the prior 442.
Vasst Training DVD: “Now Hear This! “Superior Sound for Digital Video”
All this sound gear is great, but if your new it can feel like trying to find an outlet in the dark. (Insert curse word!) What do you really need? When you get it how do you use it? 5 hours of training will get you through the learning curve, and you will be able to use all the gear we went over here. Douglas Spotted Eagle is a great teacher, and I have been through this DVD program and it wasn’t the least bit boring to watch. Maybe that was because I am a die hard for film production, but Douglas does a great job! Too many times you have a boring training program that you can’t endure more than an hour without going completely nuts. I flew through this video, and have gone back to it many times to brush up. Especially as you grow your gear inventory, you will come back to let the expert show you how it’s done. Great vid!
Alright sound gear for filmmakers has been my longest article yet. But we had a lot to cover, this will give you a great picture of the things you will need to get started on doing professional sound recording on a budget, or with pro gear. I have both. But it’s been a long journey, again I highly recommend the above program for the novice. It will get you started, and give you a direction if you coming at this new. And I hope you have a love for this industry like I do, not everyone can grab some gear, setup a camera, and do a production. I mean anywhere, you can head over to your huge outlet mall interviewing random people for a YouTube show! I always get a real kick out of that, and sky’s the limit! Especially when you are doing serious broadcast projects. All the gear here will get it done, and if the visuals aren’t cutting it, that’s ok just mesmerize them with great quality sound!