10 Crucial Pieces of Audio Gear Under $500
Filmmaking is an expensive career. Keep your budget in check with these crucial pieces of audio gear under $500.
It’s easy for us filmmakers to become so absorbed in the visual side of production that we lose sight of the audio. In reality, capturing great audio is just as important as capturing great visuals. A great story isn’t just crafted in imagery. It also needs a voice and supporting sound to help flesh it out. So, after conferring with my composer and sound engineer, I’ve compiled a list of ten crucial pieces of audio gear that will help you capture your film’s voice and sound without breaking the bank.
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1. Zoom H6
Before you can capture audio with a microphone, you need something for that mic to connect to. You can go with a shotgun mic that attaches to your camera, but that’s really best for capturing scratch track audio. For your final audio, you want to use a field recorder much like the ol’ reliable Sound Devices 702 recorder. However, if you don’t feel like shelling out 2k for a field recorder, you should consider the Zoom H6.
2. Directional Mic
Now that you have your recorder, let’s get a mic to capture that audio. For my films, our sound engineer runs a directional mic for the majority of the film and for foley work, as it offers the most flexibility when on set. See this article from Film School Online for a breakdown regarding placing mics and booming. While he uses a Rode NTG-8, which can take a chunk out of your budget, he suggests that you can capture quality audio using the Rode NTG4 or NTG-2.
Price: $269 (NTG-2)
Price: $369 (NTG4)
3. Lavalier Mic
So you have your boom mic, which gets you spacial and foley audio, but now you want something that gets you crisper dialogue audio, especially for interview settings. For this you’ll need a lavalier or lapel microphone. There are a lot of options, but as Chad Johnson explains in the video below, the Sanken COS11D is used by most film and television professionals.
4. Wireless System
If you’re conducting a sit down interview, then you really don’t need to worry about a wireless system. However, if you want to mic characters on set and you don’t want to see any wires, then a wireless system is the way to go. There are several types of wireless systems out there; the Sony UWP-D11 and Azden 105 Series are two that I’ve seen several times on set. However, for my sound designer, the Sennheiser G3 is the tool of choice. While it is just slightly north of $500, it does come bundled with the Sennheiser ME2 lavalier microphone. In the video below, Dave Dugdale runs through the wireless systems I’ve mentioned, with the addition of the Shure FP.
5. Rode Blimp 2
So now you have your mics, but you’ve noticed that your directional mic is completely exposed and is getting hammered by wind noise. Not to worry — a solution to cut out all of that noise is easily available by getting a windscreen like the Rode Blimp 2. The Blimp is the industry standard windscreen. It perfectly suspends your directional mic inside its sturdy casing. It has a quick adjustable grip and an XLR input connector at its bottom. The price tag is a little higher than you’d expect, but it’s well worth the investment.
6. Rode Boompole
Boompoles are an absolute must for your directional mic. There are several options for boompoles, such as the K-Tek KEG-100 or Gitzo 3560. But the Rode Boompole is cost effective and solidly built. Check out the following Ric Viers video where he uses a Rode Boompole and gives you a few tips and tricks.
7. XLR Cables
Okay, so now you have your field recorder, your mics, your wind screen, and your boompole. You’re set to record — but how are you connecting your mics and wireless systems to your recorder? You’ll need the cheapest tool of this entire list… XLR cables. Be sure to get an assortment of lengths from 5 feet to 15 or 20 feet, because you never know when you may need them. Extend the life of your XLR cables by remembering to roll them correctly. How does one correctly roll an XLR cable? Randy Coppinger explains below.
We’re just about ready to check our audio levels, so we need a pair of headphones to help us hear the levels. For this, you’ll want a closed-back type of headphone that gives you a flat sound, which allows you to hear the sound close to naturally. There are a ton of options when looking at headphones. Really, it comes down to personal preference. The most widely used prosumer headphones are the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro.
Now you need to add storage to your field recorder so you can save that audio for later processing. Audio files will never rival the size of video files, but you’ll still want a decently sized SD card to slot into your field recorder. For that, let’s look at Monster Digital 64g microSDXC. See the TbonesTech video on SD Card hacks just below.
10. Logic Pro
You have all of your equipment in the field and you’ve captured great audio. Now what do you do with it? You send it along with your video files to whatever NLE system you prefer. But for final mixing, most professionals, especially sound designers, like to use an audio mixing software such as Audacity or Audition. While Pro Tools is still the industry standard for Hollywood, its $899 price tag puts it out of reach for many. Apple Logic has been making strides toward the professional arena, and as my composer told me recently, “its lower cost and ability to do what Pro Tools does makes it a no brainer.” First Institute has a great video where they compare and contrast Pro Tools and Logic Pro X just below.
For more in-depth info on filmmaking gear and tools, take a look at these articles:
- Must Have Cinematography Gear for Under $100
- 10 Essential Filmmaking Tools Under $100
- 12 Essential Filmmaking Tools Under $20
Know of any other crucial audio tools for $500 or less? Help us find these sweet deals! Sound off in the comments below.