For any type of movie, audio quality is crucial. It doesn’t matter whether you need to record an interview or a concert, the sound must be as good as you can possibly get it. If people are asked about the difference between a professionally created video and the experiment of a dilettante, they invariably find the audio to be the deal breaker. Well recorded sound makes a good movie stand out. Good sound is even more important for videos meant to be played on Youtube or Vimeo.
To get perfect sound, you can buy a top-of-the-range audio recorder and microphone. Chances are you’ll need a budget for sound alone of about €1500 at the least. But all you really need is a flight case to protect the equipment you are probably already using when editing sound on your Mac.
The list below contains the tools I use when I’m recording a product video for companies (usually interviews in very loud and large production or demo halls). Practically everything I use in the field is equipment I also use when I’m editing on the Mac — maximising my investment.
- B+W type 61 flight case or a Pelican case or HPRC case
This German brand “Pelican case” will protect equipment against all kinds of damages, including water and breakage. I’m starting my list with the flight case, because the equipment I’m using has one disadvantage over dedicated sound recording equipment: it’s more fragile. I went for a case with foam cubes.
- Apple iPad
You’ll need an iPad with iOS 8 to work with the Duet and its apps. Should I expand on the benefits of the iPad? The iPad stays in the flight case at all times to keep it safe and sound.
- Apogee Duet Mac/iOS
You can also take with you an Apogee Mic, but the €680 Duet Mac/iOS has better pre-amps and offers you the ability to record to two channels, which is great when capturing an interview, for example. The B+W case is large enough to keep the Duet next to the iPad at all times, so it doesn’t become too dirty or scratched. The Duet powers all kinds of mics, delivering 48V phantom-power over its break-out cable.
- Studio microphone or camera mountable microphone
A studio mic is big and unwieldy, but a good one captures full-bodied sound while a similarly priced video mic might sound thin. sE Electronics is my favourite microphone manufacturer. You can buy a phantom-powered sE2200a for €290, but since a couple of months the company is also carrying a brilliantly sounding video mic, the €130 ProMic Laser, which doesn’t need to be powered from the Duet. I reviewed the ProMic Laser here.
- Apogee Maestro and Metarecorder for iOS
You’ll need the free to download Apogee Maestro app for iPad from the Apogee site to control the Duet while it’s connected to the iPad. The necessary lightning cables for older as well as the newest iPads are included with the Duet. Apogee’s MetaRecorder for iOS is really developed for iPhones — you can only use it in portrait mode — but it looks good on iPads too. It records your sound to a maximum sample rate of 96kHz and can output a Final Cut Pro X XML file together with the AIFF sound file it records to. Both capabilities are rather exceptional for a sound recording app, which is why it’s my favourite.
- XLR cables
You will need to connect your microphones to the Duet using XLR cables. With a studio mic that’s not a problem, as you can only connect those through XLR anyway. However, with a video mic like the ProMic Laser or Røde’s Videomic Pro, you’ll also need a minijack female to XLR male adapter. Most good music equipment stores sell those for a couple of Euros. By the way, XLR cables are “balanced”, meaning you can have very long cables with no quality loss whatsoever.
- Powermonkey Extreme 12V battery
You must run the Duet iPad/Mac off the mains when using it with an iPad because the Duet provides power to the iPad and the mic’s phantom power, but I found it pays to also have your iPad fully loaded before you start recording. A Powermonkey Extreme 12V is a good solution to have on standby. It keeps your iPad powered at full capacity at all times. It can be solar charged while you’re on the road and has enough power to charge an iPad to 100%, coming from 30% or so.
- Two Joby large Gorillapods
If you’re going to work with a studio mic, the Joby Gorillapods “Focus” will effortlessly hold the microphone in its shockmount. They offer a lot of flexibility with regards to where you can place the mic, while being lightweight and small enough to fit in the flight case. If you’re using a much smaller video mic, a smaller Joby will suffice. If you’ll be shooting in “difficult” places like I usually am — e.g. a manufacturing plant or a construction site — you might want to consider taking a few Dinkum Systems mounts with you. You can fix those where you want.