Cheap Intro Audio Gear ($100-$250)

Okay so i've searched the forums here and read most of Alcove Audio's posts.
I thought rather than hijacking someone else's thread, i'd begin my own here.

what i'm after is a stand alone audio recorder and a mic to go with it. my budget is AU$100 to $250.

Now that you have stopped laughing, let me give you a little more info.
the camera will probably be using (discussed in THIS thead) has no audio input, and as such, we will need to capture audio externally.

We are shooting a 'zombie' short film, and hope to lay down some atmospheric music throughout most of it, hopefully this can help cover up the low quality of the audio. There will be a mix of indoor and outdoor environments, and we are willing to put in extra time and care to get the most out of the equipment that we can.

Any advise would be appreciated. Please keep in mind we are in Australia, and as such would prefer to source equipment from local suppliers (i realise this may not be possible)
 
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It always seems like I am the party pooper when it comes to audio.

You are not going to be able to capture audio acceptable to most audiences on such a minimal budget, no matter how much you try to cover it up with music, ambiences or sound FX.

You are going to need an audio recorder and a passable shotgun mic, each of which will cost a minimum of AU$250. You will also need a boom pole, cables, headphones and wind protection. Oh yeah, you'll also need someone who has at least some idea of what they are doing - proper boom technique, signal chain/levels, etc. Don't forget to do meticulous slates and logs as well or you are going to have one hell of a time syncing everything in post.

My only suggestion on that budget is to look for some used deals on a DAT recorder (although you will also have to buy tapes which are increasingly more expensive) and a used mic (which has probably been beaten to death).


Fixing it in post is not an easy or inexpensive alternative. I spend anywhere from one to three hours per linear minute cleaning up and editing well recorded production sound - and I have the proper tools and quite a bit of experience.


My advice would be to buy a really cheap camcorder and spend the bulk of your budget on the sound kit. Or, find an up-and-coming sound person (who should have at least have a rudimentary sound kit) who might like to work with you on a pro bono basis for the experience.
 

Uranium City

Pro Member
indiePRO
Like with your camera, if you are up to the challenge and can get creative, you can still get decent audio with things you could probably check out from the AV department at the local high school. None of it is traditional, but thinking in new directions will help you go a long way to solving your problems. Some ideas/points to ponder:

1. Get microphones real close, as close as you can without being in the frame. Even $10 karaoke mics from a department store placed 20 inches from your actor's lips will be an immense improvement over the camera mic 20 feet away.

2. If you can find even an analog tape recorder with 1/4" mic inputs like you used to see all the time in the early '80s, you can record dialog using that. You won't be able to record very long scenes as the analog/digital signals will drift, but 5 to 10 second bits should be fine. And you'll also need an audio card that can record line-level inputs on your computer to render .wav files for use in your editing software. This kind of rag-tag setup would be a lot easier/realistic to accomplish on stationary interior sets. It won't work for run-and-gun action scenes.

3. Consider altering your screenplay. This is often the most overlooked part of solving audio issues. If you can tell your story with NO or VERY LIMITED dialog, then you don't have to worry about recording audible dialog. You mention wanting to make a film with atmospheric music...what about a silent movie with only atmospheric music? (Most first time indie films have way too much dialog anyway.)

Its a challenge, but with enough prior setup/planning you should be able to get something decent and have a lot of fun along the way. Plus the problem-solving you'll experience will be great education.
 
I know that for $300 US I could get a used SD MiniDV camcorder WITH mic in and one of those rode video mics.. few hours with a hack saw and $1.99 PVC fitting and I have a shock mount. another 10 bucks on a ext. cable and a few more for DIY boom handles etc.

Do you have an ipod? Some widgets let you use them as recorders.. might not be great, but might be easy..
 
I hear(no pun intended) where you are coming from sound wise.

My first short(which I hope to get up this week finally), was 10 min with no dialogue or music, just ambivent sounds-which was fine for my camera mic at the time. I know any films I do in future are going to need a decent mic and sound set up, but I'm budgeting for that. Also doesn't help I have very few people to help with me my films-friends can't commit and I don't have the money to pay :(.

As Alcove Audio said, see if you can find a somewhat affordable shotgun mic for starters. Getting a pole helps too. I tried early in my filming to use the camera mic for speaking.....lovely echo effect about the room-sounded like it was coming rom a well(Lassie, Timmy's fallen down a well! Get help!:lol:)

BTW(and maybe Alcove or others can answer this); why is using a personal mic(one that attaches to a collar for example) frowned upon? Is it the wires being visible, or is it because if there's moving around the sound may not come across as even, which is why they are used for sit down interviews?
 
why is using a personal mic (one that attaches to a collar for example) frowned upon? Is it the wires being visible, or is it because if there's moving around the sound may not come across as even, which is why they are used for sit down interviews?
It's not frowned upon; it presents a whole different set of problems, not to mention being even more expensive than a shotgun mic and/or a cardioid mic.

A decent mic, transmitter and receiver start at about $400 per set, and you will need at least two, so that's $800 at the minimum. Yes there are much cheaper units, but the mics are of poor quality and the trans/rec system will be very prone to RF interference and drop outs, not to mention that the mic and transmitter units are usually much bulkier - making them harder to hide - than pricier units.

Lav mics are difficult to hide properly. It is common practice to run the mic & cable through the clothing; most indie actors supply their own costumes and don't like them being cut-up/altered (many would be surprised at how much the costumers and sound department interact). Even when the lav is properly hidden in, say, the left collar of a jacket, when the actor turns their head to the right they can be well off mic. And they are very prone to clothing rustle even when properly hidden.


Oh, BTW, iPods do not record at 16bit/48kHz. They use a compressed audio format, usually some variant of MP3.
 
It's not frowned upon; it presents a whole different set of problems, not to mention being even more expensive than a shotgun mic and/or a cardioid mic.

A decent mic, transmitter and receiver start at about $400 per set, and you will need at least two, so that's $800 at the minimum. Yes there are much cheaper units, but the mics are of poor quality and the trans/rec system will be very prone to RF interference and drop outs, not to mention that the mic and transmitter units are usually much bulkier - making them harder to hide - than pricier units.

Lav mics are difficult to hide properly. It is common practice to run the mic & cable through the clothing; most indie actors supply their own costumes and don't like them being cut-up/altered (many would be surprised at how much the costumers and sound department interact). Even when the lav is properly hidden in, say, the left collar of a jacket, when the actor turns their head to the right they can be well off mic. And they are very prone to clothing rustle even when properly hidden.


Oh, BTW, iPods do not record at 16bit/48kHz. They use a compressed audio format, usually some variant of MP3.
Okay, thanks, it makes sense put that way-it's cheaper just to go with the old mic/pole setup-keeps out of the picture and get a clearer sound. I'll have to remember your name when I have sound issues :)
 
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