Every nonentity blogs about the latest cameras, lenses and gadgets like the Mövi
. When it comes to audio, there are much less articles. Experience reports about usable audio setups for mobile recording in the fields of ENG (news, etc.) and reportage are quite rare. That’s why I write this blogpost – to share some thoughts, experiences and recommendations in terms of mobile audio recording.
The basic problem: one has to mix several audio sources down to a stereo signal and send this signal to the camera and – as a backup – to an external audio recorder (a.k.a. field recorder). The whole setup has to be compact, mobile and has to have enough battery power for long shooting days. After some experimentation this is my setup:
The “heart” is a Sound Devices 302 Field Mixer
. It has three XLR inputs and two outpots (e.g. one for a camera and one for a recorder), a perfectly readable LED-meter (with adjustable brightness) and is perfectly suited for my purposes. The mixer is solid and perfectly crafted – best analog-quality, which won’t be killed by digital stuff so fast.
After removing the sidewall of the bag you can see the cabling. On the left side all the inputs go into the mixer, on the right side the final stereo signal is sent to the camera and the field recorder. The fourth cable on the right side is the power cable (alternatively the mixer can be powered by three AA batteries).
The Zoom H6
is my mobile field recorder. It has four XLR/TRS-combo inputs (there is an add-on with two additional inputs) and can be powered by four AA batteries or via USB. Recording quality and workmanship are top. This device enables you to record more channels than the mixer can process (which might be useful sometimes).
All devices can be powered by AA batteries, but this can be quite annoying (you have to carry a lot of spare batteries with you and always have to check each device). My solution is a big NP-L60
battery that fits perfectly into the sidepocket (which has special openings for cables). It powers the mixer and the recorder – nearly forever.
The battery is connected to a power distributor by Remote Audio
. Up to six devices can be powered, additionally there is a USB-port – perfect for the Zoom H6 (or my iPhone, if the shooting day lasts longer). The distributor is normally hidden under a double bottom inside the bag and is switched on and off by a remote
The bag itself is by Petrol Bags (Deca Eargonizer Large
). Compared to my previous bag by PortaBrace it can be hung around one’s neck and also stand alone (the PortaBrace bag always fell over). It has a big compartment for accessoires and variable sections with openings for cables. The external mini-bag for wireless receivers is great (there are four of these mini-bags included).
To relief the cable to the camera from tractive forces, I attached a small Mammut-carabine
(normally used as a keyring) with a cable fixer to the cable – works perfectly!
The handle of the bag can be attached to the side so that they don’t disturb you while working – really smart!
The big compartment in the front is perfect for all the plugs, connectors and cables you have to carry along. I use colored cables a lot – as everyone else normally uses black cables, I can find my cables quickly when shooting on location.
This is how the workflow looks like: On the left side there are two audio sources (as examples: a Røde NTG-3
and a Sennheiser wireless
), in the middle there is the mixer with attached headphones and the field recorder and on the right side there is the cable that is connected to the camera.
As the bag is not really lightweight, I often use a harness
to distribute the weight to both shoulders. Otherwise my back would kill me after a while (during longer shots).
Last but not least the only disadvantage: the price. The whole set (bag, mixer, recorder, mics, accessoires) is not really cheap. For many productions this is sort of an overkill – for DSLRs there is a great recorder by Tascam
, which even automatically starts recording when the camera does so – but for me this is a reasonable investment in the long run – to record audio in a constant high quality at any possible location.