I’ve been shooting still for quite a long time now, about 18 years. But videos are really new to me. And it turns out that there is a learning curve. While I feel pretty confident about composition, exposure and stuff like this, some aspects are completely new to me.
Being on a shoot a few days ago, I learned a few tips the hard way. Weirdly enough, they all have to more with audio, and the Zoom H1 in specific, than with video.
Gaff tape the switches so they don’t change
I am using the Zoom H1 which is really a bang for the buck. I know it is a matter of taste, but I love the rich sound that the internal microphone provides and the ease of operation. On the bottom of the recorder there is a bank of switches to control various options like auto gain and noise reduction. I always use the zoom H1 on manual gain since the auto gain is too unpredictable.
Sadly enough those switches are so delicate that if you are not really careful they will change position just from rubbing against your pocket. My solution Gaff tape!
Note the “out” volume when connecting to the camera
One of the nice things about the H1 is that you can connect the headphone out line to an external recorder (like the in port on the D7000). I use a simple long cable with two male 3.5mm ends.
Here is the thing, the D7000 is pretty limited in how it handles audio and there are no levels or clipping displays, so you can’t tell if your audio goes out of rage. That means that even if your levels are set correctly on the zoom, you (I) still need to double check that the headphone volume is set reasonably low so the camera get something it can use.
(And yes, I set the D7000 levels to manual as well – for some reasons the engineers decided to limit the scale to low – medium – high, rather than provide a continuous rage).
Don’t worry about batteries, just leave all the microphones on
For some of the shots I used an Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lav mic. It was just too windy to use the built in mic that the zoom comes with. For some stupid reason, I was concerned about wasting the battery, and turned the mic off when we went on breaks. The results, a few takes were 100% silent till I remembered to turn the mic back on.
In fact, this lesson struck so hard that I only turned the mic off a few minutes ago when taking the picture above. Guess what? It was still running.
The immediate lesson that follows is to keep a spare battery for anything you have on location.
Those are my lessons from my first experiences with using the Zoom H1. I am pretty positive that they are pretty trivial to anyone who has done a video or two. Yet, I love my zoom and will continue to use it with care and attention.
It is always important to watch your video and audio on location after you shoot, sometimes it is impossible (or nearly impossible) to retake a shot once you torn down the setup.
If you are considering improving your audio, consider an external microphone, almost any external mic close to you will give waaaaay better results than the in-camera mic. This is what I use, it is on the basic/frugal end of the spectrum, but does a decent job.
The Zoom H1 was my first purchase in the realm of sound. I am very happy that it was. While it has a very small feature set, the audio that it provides is great. And for a novice like me, the simplicity of use was a great way to enter external recorders.