Zoom H4 mobile recorder

For field recording, sampling, recording practices and performances, video production, and a lot of other purposes, just about everyone wants an ideal digital mobile recorder. If you haven’t been following comments, we’ve had an extended discussion by readers on the Zoom H4 mobile recorder, its upcoming smaller sibling the H2, and competitive devices like Edirol’s R09.

Now, the excellent new blog bleeps has had some hands-on time with the H4 in movie production:
10 reasons a Zoom H4 is handy on a movie set!

Interestingly, the main issue other readers have had with the H4 — difficulty accessing mic level controls — wasn’t really a problem in this application. The basic internal stereo mics did just fine for stereo imaging. And there’s no shortage of uses:

  • Recording primary on-location sound in stereo (even with the built-in mics, though the H4 also has XLRs)
  • On-the-fly foley / sound effects
  • Ambient audio, room tone, etc.
  • On-location audio playback
  • Lots of storage for interviews, extra tracks
  • It’s not a camera.

Be sure to check out the full writeup for more details.

“It’s not a camera” may seem an obvious point, but you might be surprised by how big an issue this is, even on larger productions. Video production staff have a nasty habit of trying to record everything to cameras. That means pricey cameras dedicated to nothing but recording audio, with non-standard batteries (the H4 does AA’s) and extremely limited storage on arcane storage formats. That and, of course, most cameras are lousy audio recorders.

Those of you doing on-location video production, what do you use? Some readers here are using higher-end recorders for audio from Marantz and others. What readers are not doing is fancy SMPTE sync to the cameras, because virtually no productions have the time or interest in fiddling with something like that.

In other news, I bought the bullet and bit an H4 — wait a minute. Reverse that. Anyway, I’ll let you know how it goes; I’ll be using it on location for a couple of things later this week I think you’ll enjoy. More soon.