A low budget audio solution with the blackmagic micro cinema camera.

Capturing good clean audio is an important part of any video or film production, perhaps the most important part. I’m sure you’ve heard that people are more willing to watch something with mediocre picture quality and great audio quality than something with great picture quality and mediocre audio quality. 

Recently, I had been looking into upgrading my audio gear. I thought I was due for an upgrade. I’ve been using the popular Rode video mic pro for quite a long time now, and I also have a Zoom H1N recorder which I picked up a little more recently for recording sound effects. The cost of a decent XLR shotgun microphone and mixer would have cost me somewhere from around six hundred to well over a thousand dollars. The rode video mic pro will never sound as good as a professional XLR microphone recorded to a high quality mixer, however it is still a very capable little microphone that can produce excellent results.  I decided that it just wasn’t worth it for me right now to upgrade and that I could use the tools I have available to me to produce sufficient results for the work that I’m doing.  But this may not be the case for everyone.

I’ve always liked to keep things simple by recording my audio straight into the camera. It makes things a lot easier in post but you do sacrifice some quality because of the camera’s lower quality pre amps. I had never tried using my Zoom H1n as a mixer for the camera until now.  Setting it up was very simple, all I needed was a standard 3.5mm stereo audio cable. It plugs into the headphone output of the H1N and then into the camera’s 3.5mm mic input. I played a test tone on the H1N and then adjusted the settings on the camera so that the levels matched up. By using this setup you do lose the headphone monitoring from the H1N however the Feelworld MA 5 monitor that I use has a headphone jack that allows me to monitor the audio. You can also buy more expensive cables that have a headphone connection if you need it. In theory running the Rode video mic pro through the H1N and then into the camera should produce better audio quality as the preamps in the H1N will be much better than those coming straight from the camera. The thing that I like the most about this setup is being able to easily adjust the gain with the knob on the H1N. 

Regardless of the gear, one of the best ways to capture better audio is to have good mic placement by getting it as close as possible to the subject. I made myself a boom pole from a broom I had lying around and I picked up a heavy duty light stand for around $100 on amazon to use with with a cheap boom buddy and 15 foot extension cable.

You may need a pair of good quality headphones to tell the difference but to my ears this setup does give a small but noticeable boost in quality. The signal to noise ratio could be a little better but overall it’s quite good for an easy and inexpensive setup.

The most important thing is that you make most of whatever you have available to you. Your gear should never hold you back from creating and from telling the story you want to tell. Use whatever you have, get creative, and go make something amazing.

Take care,

Spencer Hetherington