How to Record Audio Outside the Studio with Field Mixing

Mark covers the basics of field mixing.

Video Transcript

So what do you do if you’re in a situation with a lot of microphones and you need to get that into your camcorder? Well, this week we’re gonna show you how to use a field audio mixer on tips and tricks.

Hi, I’m Mark Montgomery for Video Maker. So we’re gonna show you how to use a field audio mixer but before we get into it I just wanted to show you, here’s a studio mixer, we were talking about this last week, and this is perfect for a studio situation or maybe it’s your garage, or you have an audio environment where it’s pretty locked down, but what if you want to go mobile or you’re out in the field and you’re not sure how many mics you’re gonna need?

Well you’re gonna want the flexibility of a field audio mixer and here’s one right here by Sign Video. This is the ENG 44. It’s got four-channel input and it goes out stereo to your camcorder. So let’s jump right into it and talk about how we’re actually gonna use this with your camcorder.

First step, you’re gonna want to make sure that you set your levels for both devices. What that means is on this particular device we have a tone switch, and I flip that switch on and it sends a tone to my camcorder and what I will do is set the tone to zero dB here on my mixer and then match that, set the audio levels on my camcorder to zero dB and actually I’ll set the camcorder levels just a little bit shorter – short to give me some headroom.

And what that does, it ensures that when I’m actually recording audio out in the field and I see something peaking near zero it ensures that that’s also peaking near zero on my camcorder and that way I know what I see is what I’m getting on the camcorder and what I’m hearing is what I’m getting as well. So that’s the first thing to do is set your levels between your field mixer and your camcorder.

Now what if you don’t have a tone button? Some audio mixers don’t have a tone switch that’ll pass tone to your camcorder. Second tip here, if you don’t have a tone switch you can eyeball it. That means get somebody on a microphone saying the alphabet and set your level so it’s just below zero decibels on your field mixer and then set up your levels on your camcorder so it’s just below zero decibels. You’re gonna have to monitor those peeks really closely and eyeball it as close as you can get. It’ll get you in the ballpark but it certainly isn’t as precise as a tone switch.

Now that we showed you how to set your audio levels with tone and how to eyeball it let’s actually show you what to do with this device now. The most important tip we can share with you right now is to monitor your audio. Always do that, right? And of course you’ve got your headphones and you’re gonna use them and listen to your audio but what’s nice about a field mixer is that you can actually watch them and as you can see my levels are actually moving up and down here on this display.

So you not only get to listen to the quality of the sound, you also get to see the intensity of the sound coming into the mixer and what’s also great about a field mixer is you’ve got multiple input. So I’m just plugged in one microphone here in this situation but I could have three more microphones in use here and each channel, each microphone channel has a gain so I can move up and down my volume levels or anybody else’s independently. I can also force each mic channel into a stereo channel. So for example I could have my mic on stereo left and somebody else’s mic on stereo right, or I can take a channel and duplicate them in both left and right stereo.

That gives you more flexibility and post when you’re editing your audio. So all these things make a great tool for capturing the best, most precise audio in the field. Let’s take a look at those tips one more time. Make sure to set your audio levels with the tone switch to get the most precise audio. If you can’t do that, eyeball it, monitor the piques and do the best you can, and the most important tip, always monitor your audio and not only on the headphones but use the VU meter on your field mixer as well.

All those tips should help you get the best audio out in the field. For Video Maker, I’m Mark Montgomery.

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