Best SOUND GEAR FOR FILMMAKERS

I'm sure you have heard how Sound is half of  filmmaking or if you have bad sound in your film it immediately makes it seem amateurish, even with great visuals.

 

I don't think I need you over the head with that so with that being said, I created a list for filmmakers to find the best audio gear, microphones for different shooting situations, recorders, and anything in between that you need to build a strong audio kit that can give you the best sound for your film wether you are a lone wolf shooting or have a small or big crew.

In this post we are going to look at the best Shotgun Microphones, Lavaliere mics, and recorders.

 
 

Shotguns mics have an extremely long and narrow pick up pattern and are used for capturing sound in a directional way and are usually positioned right outside of frame.

 

If you are looking for a really really solid mic that can give you a high end sound with a minimal amount of work and set up than this shotgun mic will deliver. 

 

I think it is placed at the perfect price for someone that is trying to beef up their sound capturing methods on set without having to shell out a ton of money and sacrificing on quality.

 

This mic isn't really for run and gun shooters unless they have a dedicated sound recordist as this will deliver the best results when not plugged into a DSLR body directly but rather into an external recorder that can provide phantom power.

 

This mic has a great flat frequency response with a touch of added brightness to give it a touch of character and has a superb and very clean sound quality. The low shelf noise is of 13 dB which is amazing for the price point that this mic is at.

 

The NTG3 has a slightly wider pick up pattern than most other shotgun microphones which results in capturing a bit more of what is your scene rather than just what is directly in front of it. This isn't a bad thing as I sometimes prefer this for realism but it is all a matter of preference.

 

Again, this is a higher end mic than your VideoMic Pro that can plug into your camera so you will need some kind of device to capture sound into and to power the mic (It requires phantom power).

The last section of this post will focus on the best recorders you can get and pair with a microphone such as this one.

 

I really love working with this mic as it produces a beautiful and natural sound while giving you some really clean sounding files to work with. If you have the ability to have a recorder or mixer with you when shooting then this mic is one of the best option for the money.
 

Check out this video by Justin Melson to hear how it sounds:

You can buy the RODE NTG3 here:

 

The brand behind this mic and the Mkh - 416 has had a well known legacy in the movie industry as the go to mic for shooting. It has really grown to be the standard on most movie sets and I keep bumping into professionals that use this mic time and time again.

 

There are some very good reasons for this: the pick up pattern is very flexible in terms of distance and proximity. It is an Ultra-directional mic which means that it can give you great results from short to long distances. 

 

It also does not exaggerate the lower end of sounds the closer they get and keeps them consistent and picks them up incredibly well even at a longer range. This detail has been great for interviews and dialogue where you sometimes can't get the mic directly in front of people's faces.

 

It also does a very nice job at rejecting anything that it is not directly aimed at. It can reject sound at about a 120 degrees field from behind.

 

This mic would be on the top of my list if it wasn't for the price. It is worth the money for the build quality and what sound it has to offer but for the jump in price I would feel more okay with myself when buying the NTG3 instead which still gives amazing results that come imperceptibly close to the quality of the Mkh 416.

ProAV TV has a great video covering why so many professionals choose to use the 416:

 

You can buy the SENNHEISER 416 here:

 

 

In a similar category to the previous two mics reviewed but at a significantly cheaper price, the Audio Technica AT8035 can still deliver great sounds without sacrificing too much of your moneys.

 

This is by no means a perfect mic but it a bit of EQ work you can get it very close to sounding like the other two big boys previously mentioned.

 

Just like the other two mics this is not a plug and play mic and does require a larger camera body or recorder but it can be powered by a AA battery that give it the juice needed for phantom power.

 

The build quality is very good and I really can't complain about the sound in any way since most of these mics during shooting uses will have very little noticeable difference that in my opinion is very negligible.

 

I believe that if you get nitpicky in a review or while testing them you can see why they are priced differently but if you are concerned about money, I would suggest grabbing a mic like this and investing the remaining price difference into a solid mixer or recorder.

O'Brian takes a look at how this mic sounds and it can give you a pretty good idea at how this mic sounds:

 

You can buy the AT8035 here:

 

This is by far my most used and favorite mic. It made it this far down the list simply because the sound quality is not as great as the other shotgun microphones mentioned above.

 

With that being said, this is still an amazing mic that can offer great options and a great soundthat can be directly captured from the mic jack of your DSLR or Mirrorless camera body.

 

The new VideoMic Pro from Rode offers a ton of great and much needed improvements. 

 

The battery is now easily detachable and can even be charged while still plugged into the mic itself.

 

It also offers a few Low and high end adjustments as buttons on the back of the mic as well as 3 different dB levels that you can change depending on what you are recording.

 

Another small but massive improvement is the ability for the mic to automatically turn off when the camera gets powered off to save battery and to turn on when the camera gets turned on.

This alone is a huge and well welcomed improvement as I have gotten so mad at myself in the past when forgetting to turn on the mic when shooting and getting no audio as a result. This feature alone can save you from your own forgetfulness and to me that is a huge plus.

Phenomenal Creations made a solid video showing how this mic behaves under different shooting distances:

 

You can buy the RODE VIDEO MIC PRO + here:

 

If you are looking for something that is still affordable as the VideoMic Pro but want something that has a smaller form factor then this might be the perfect mic for you.

 

I have seen this especially used on smaller camera bodies like the Sony a6500 which can make for excellent B cameras or BTS cameras.

 

The quality on this mic is surprisingly good considering its size and price and can definitely recomend this to anyone starting out or that needs something small to add to their rig.

Here's a video from Caleb Wojcik testing this out:

 

You can buy the RODE VIDEO MICRO here:

 

Lavaliere mics are omni directional mics typically clipped or tapped directly onto the subject's chest area and work great for dialogue when placed in close proximity to the talent's voice.

 

This is my favorite and most used Lavalier mic not so much because of its quality but for the accessibility and ease of use this cheap lav offers. 

 

It plugs directly into you smart phone which makes this a very handy tool to have with you without having to worry about wireless transmitters and receivers or having mixers/recorders or any other means of getting the sound to your camera. This of course means that you will have to sync things later in post but for the convenience you get while shooting I think that is alright.

 

The quality isn't as good as a the other lavs we will soon look at but you can't expect greatness in sound from anything coming out of a smart phone.

 

I personally own two of these and they have been amazing for my documentary work or when 
traveling and wanting to capture a clear source from the subjects without having to carry an entire sound bag with me.

 

If you are a run and gun shooter where your priority is on efficiency then there is no better portable lav out there for the price.

Curtis Judd has an excellent overview of this lav: 

You can buy the RODE SMARTLAV+ here:

 

Get ready because things are about to get expensive. When it comes to Wireless lav mics there is nothing out there that has dominated this market and that can offer as good of a quality as the Sennheiser Ew 100 eng g4-a (That is a very long name). 

 

They have been industry standard for a very long time and I keep seeing these on sets.

 

For this high price you get two receivers, a transforming converter for XLR mics and the lav with its clip on.

 

They have a nice graphic display that lights up which makes controlling these a breeze.

They run with AA batteries which last a decent amount of time.

 

The transmitter and receiver communicate with AF frequencies and do a really solid job at not allowing any outside interference to disturb the signal.

 

This is why they are so expensive, they give you reliability and confidence when using them which is not always the case with other wireless pieces of equipment - especially when it comes to audio.

Ray Ortega shows how even with a 60D you can still get great quality audio with these wireless lavs:

You can buy the SENNHEISER EW 100 ENG G3-A here:

 

The Sanken Cos 11d can't be beat and has become industry standard for many sound professionals. 

 

This is a very high end lav that offers a lot of great qualities. The sound is seriously great.

 

The pick up pattern is omnidirectional like most other lavs and has a -9 dB reduced sensitivity level. It has some RF noise protection and also has a wide frequency response.

 

The downside of this expensive lav other than the price is that it is a wired mic so you won't be transmitting wirelessly to your camera or recorder which is a big downside for me.

 

A great solution to this could be using something as small as a Zoom H1 which can even fit in someone's pocket. We are going to look at this recorder as well as others later in this post.

 

One of the reasons why this mic is so expensive apart from its unmatched sound is the build quality. It is water resistant and also has a very advanced Lectrosonics Transmitters built inside of the tiny mic. 

 

If you have the money to spend and need an excellent wired lav then this is your mic.

I linked a quick overview from B&H for this lav:

You can buy the SANKEN COS 11D here:

 

The Countryman B6 is another wired lav mic and my main reason for including this type of lav on this list is because it is the smallest lav you can get while still getting a very good sound.

 

This lav is incredibly small which is great for situations where you don't want the lav to be detected.

 

They are as small as a hair pin and can be easily hidden. They also come in different colors to match skin tones so you can really get creative in hiding this mic.

 

The quality is just incredible considering the size. This mic has a very low distortion and can really reduce any surrounding noise. 

 

If you are looking for a non invasive lav mic that can still give you great results the Countryman B6 is the right mic for the job.

Curtis Judd has a great review video on what this wired lavaliere mic can offer:

You can buy the COUNTRYMAN B6 here:

 

Some microphones require Phantom power and can't be plugged in directly into a camera body which is why you need an audio recorder. This is also a good idea to have in general since a dedicated audio recorder will have pre amps and features like limiters and internal mixers that you camera body might not have. We are going to take a look at not only the best recorders but also audio recorders that can fit different types of budgets and shooting situations.

 

I have used the Zoom H5 recorder many times on shoots from low budget to higher budgets and it is a great tool to have and comes in handy in many shooting situations.

 

I know talking about recorders isn't the most exciting think in the world so I'm going to quickly list what I like about the Zoom H5:

 

It's very portable and even has a very good XY stereo mic on top which are unidirectional condenser microphones set at a 90 degree angle.

 

This recorder has an LCD screen with a side controller that navigates you through the very comprehensive menus. 

 

Let's talk about inputs. The H5 has two inputs for you to plug in microphones which can work in conjunction with the stereo mic on top of the recorder.

 

The build quality is great and I love the rubber feeling grip it has. The metal bar over the analog dials is a nice touch, especially if you are using it and placing it in pockets or bags while recording audio.

 

For the price this is a great all around audio recorder that is useful for many shooting scenarios.

Channel 8 talks a bit about the features this audio recorder offers:

You can buy the ZOOM H5 here:

 

If you are concerned with size and want something you can place in a pocket or have something extremely portable then the H1 might be a better option than the slightly larger H5.

 

For a smaller size and cheaper price you are sacrificing a few options and have a slight drop in build quality.

 

The menu system is still very accessible and easy to use and still offers a ton of great options.

It has a low cut filter you can adjust as well as a built in limiter with auto levels you can customize.

 

It can record WAV files up to 24bit as well as much smaller files for longer interviews or ambience recordings with MP3 at 320 kb/s.

 

You don't have as many inputs as the H5 but it still offers a 3.5mm mic/line input as well as a headphone jack for you to monitor your sound.

 

The H1 records its audio files onto a Micro SD card which can be transferred with a Usb cable.

 

Zoom really optimized many settings for you to be able to just pull out the H1 and use it in virtually any shooting scenario and still get a great recording.

 

I personally would recommend grabbing the H5 for multiple mics and the H1 for quick run and gun and travel situations.

Andy Slye talks about the Zoom H1 and its many uses:

You can buy the ZOOM H1 here:

 

I have used this recorder a few times and although I'm not a fan of the size or how it looks to mount a camera on top of this brick I really appreciate what it has to offer for its price. There are not that many options out there that can delivery the quality and amount of control the Tascam DR-60 mk II offers.

 

One of the best features this recorder has is the ability to record four channels from four external inputs simultaneously.

 

It can record up to 24bit WAV or BWF files which is similar to most other recorders on this list.

 

I know I said I don't like how it looks when you mount a camera on this thing but it is really nice to have a 1/4 inch screw on the top for camera mounting and a 1/4 inch thread on the bottom for mounting it on a tripod. Also if you have a camera rig and place this behind the camera body it can look pretty bad ass. Obviously you would need an external monitor as this would block your video from the Camera screen unless you flip it out if you have a GH5. Ok I'm digressing.

 

This recorder has pretty great pre amps for the price which will always help the quality of your recordings from your microphones. 

 

It also has an internal digital mixer which allows you to pan and control the levels of each track.

 

As far as inputs you have two combinations of XLR or TRS line or mic ins with Phantom power and a stereo 1/8 inch mic input which can also supply power to whatever mic is plugged into it.

 

Aside from all the input recording options, the DR 60D mk II gives you a lot of output options. You can output to a camera and even have a dedicated adjustable level control which is great since you can't always adjust this from your camera body or can be really annoying to do so. Looking at you Sony menus.

 

I really like this product because Tascam understood the needs of DSLR filmmakers and gave us a product that fixes a lot of the shortcomings of the DSLR shooter world.

Curtis Justin back at it again with another great review video:

You can buy the TASCAM DR 60 MKII here:

 

This isn't really a recorder but it can replace one and allow you to use microphones wirelessly and plug them directly into your camera.

 

This makes your post workflow faster since you don't have to sync the audio in post which is something I absolutely hate. Sure there are fast and easy ways to solve this but I still hate it.

 

For a very affordable price you get an RX Wireless Receiver, a TX Wireless Transmitter, a Lavaliere mic and a Captive TRS cable.

 

My favorite aspect about this kit is that it is not just wireless, but it is actually a good solid and secure way of transmitting your sound from your mic to your camera.

This is because the RodeLink Filmmaker Kit uses a Series II 2.4 GHz 128-bit encrypted digital transmission signal that is always constantly  monitoring frequencies and picks the best to use to transmit your audio data.

 

The filmmaker kit has a great signal to noise ratio and has an incredible high resolution 24 bit 44.1 kHz digital transmission of lossless audio. This is really impressive considering the price range of this system. 

 

You can even use multiple microphones, either shotgun mics or lavs, and transmit their signals to one or more receivers for one or more camera.

 

The range of the pieces to communicate with each other is up to 100 meters. Let google how many feet that is... ok that is 328.084 feet (or foot to say it correctly).

 

As far as power you can either power them with AA batteries or via Usb power.

 

I really love this option since it allows you to scale this up to a small or big crew or even use this if you shoot videos yourself.

IPhonedo in typical iPhonedo fashion has. great high energy review video of the Rode Link Wireless Filmmaker Kit:

You can buy the RODELINK FILMMAKER KIT here:

 

This is one of the more expensive recorders on this list but it also offers the most options while still being very affordable considering the market it stands in and its competitors.

 

As the name suggests, this recorder has 8 XLR/TRS inputs. That is simply incredible considering this sits way below the thousand dollar range.

 

Some of my favorite features on this recorder is the ability to dual record and have a back up. You can set different levels for those recordings which is great when having really loud sounds or dialogue that fluctuates from low speaking tones to screaming. Having two levels of recordings for those situations allows you to capture great detail in quieter moments while not risking any distortion or clipping thanks to your alternate recording set at a lower level.

 

The Zoom F8 has a built in limiter that ranges up to 10 dB. This is another great feature to avoid clipping.

 

You can power pretty much any microphone of your choosing since it has two options for Phantom power: +24V or 48V.

 

The F8 has lockable XLR/TRS inputs on both sides of the recorder and can record up to 24bit and 192 kHz. You can even record up to 10 tracks at once with the 8 channels the recorder offers as well as a stereo mix.

 

You can also output your sound to camera and still monitor it and make adjustments from the recorder itself.

 

This thing is seriously a beast for productions and offers a ton of inputs and options that allow you to have a small mixer and recorder set up everywhere you go.

 

Here is a great review of the Zoom F8 Multitrack Recorder by Oliver J Hughs:

You can buy the ZOOM F8 RECORDER here:

Do you agree with the audio gear on this list? Let me know if you have any microphones or recorders that you really like and feel free to share your thoughts on them in the comments below!

 

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