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The Metaphorical “Budget” Allocation

These series of videos (#3 & #4 coming soon) are not reviews of field recorders or recording mediums, but are solely intended for the purpose of discussing the choices, advantages & disadvantages, and selection of hardware depending on job applications. Hence, I’ve enlisted the interview type scenario with my colleague, Greg Simmons, an experienced field, sound & location recordist, to talk about audio acquisition. It’s important to note that this sound series was designed for aspiring filmmakers who want to further explore audio recording fundamentals.

Greg and I discussed this at great length, and that is, what constitutes a great sound recording? Is it how much money you should spend on an audio kit? I often ask aspiring filmmakers a simple question. “Would you buy something that cost around $400 to utilize as your main camera to shoot a feature, indie short, documentary, etc, and expect the little thing to capture gorgeous footage?” Well, there are smart phones, compact pov cameras, etc that will stack up if you’re doing web content. Regardless, it seems like while we spend bucket loads of money on new cameras, we treat audio acquisition like “spare change”.

Today, the likes of Zoom, Tascam, Roland, etc seem to be all the rage for cost effective solutions, while the Nagra, Aaton Cantar, Sound Devices, Zaxcom recorders etc, are the staple choice for industry professionals. Watch part 1 below.

So does this mean that the more money you spend, the better your recordings will be? Well, as Greg stated, this matter can appear quite subjective. Nowadays, solid state & digital technology has enabled us to capture sounds, and the differences in results are often negligible to the untrained ear. High-end manufacturers often argue that compact or surface mount technology units are usually inferior compared to larger ones. The more you pay for something; you’d expect it to yield better results. So, through extensive testing, Greg and I came to this metaphorical conclusion of budget allocation. Your “front end” such as a great mic makes a massive difference. See part 2 below now!

In part 3 of this video series (coming soon), we came up with priorities of components that followed in this order. Your final sound is the result of percentages with the microphone bearing 85%, 10% being the quality of pre-amps on your recorder and 5% allocated to your analog to digital converters.

I’d like to reassess that conclusion and perhaps suggest that it should look something like this: 50% is the USER 35% your mic, 10% Pre-Amps & 5% your A/D converters. Get my drift? I realize this opinion may differ amongst individuals, but it’s certainly a good place to start thinking about your gear selection, recording methods and workflow.

Coming soon will be video #3 and #4. Stay tuned!

 

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One Response to “The Metaphorical “Budget” Allocation”

  1. FILM LTK – Filmmaking Links, Tutorials & Knowledge (2013) | U, S and Toby on March 9th, 2013 9:14 pm

    […] Sound Equipment is Money Well Spent: http://www.zacuto.com/metaphorical-budget-allocation – a very true fact to most amateur and student filmmakers is the attitude to “save on […]

About the Author


A cinematographer, filmmaker, producer and audio recording engineer, Clinton’s peers & colleagues regard him as a “Renaissance” man, as his passion for creative technology has seen him delve into almost every facet of creative & artistic media content. After years of being entrenched & producing work for the music industry, 2013 will finally see Clinton shoot his first full length feature film, which is currently in production, with a 2015 scheduled release. His recent endeavors includes working as camera operator and AC to Rodney Charters ASC, known for lensing numerous TV dramas such as 24, Dallas, Shameless, Roswell, and many more.

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