I’m in the middle of writing reviews of some of the kit we use, starting with the Zoom H4n sound recorder. And this brought to mind a bit of advice I see often on filmmaking forums.
When beginners ask the inevitable question, ‘what audio gear should I buy’, sure as eggs is eggs someone will pop up and say, ‘don’t buy gear – spend the money on hiring an audio professional who will have professional-level equipment and know how to use it’.
Makes a lot of sense, right? Well, not necessarily. It makes sense only if two crucial conditions are met:
- You live in a place where audio professionals can be found (doesn’t apply to us).
- You’re making only one movie.
Our audio kit has cost us something in the region of €1,200. I haven’t added it up exactly, partly because it would make me wince and partly because I don’t want the wife to know (she’ll never read this blog, right?). But that figure is close and the true one may actually be slightly less.
That includes audio recorder (the Zoom), mic (Rode NTG-2), blimp with dead wombat, boom pole, inline pre-amp and cables, plus a few other bits and bobs. So far, we have done at least 30 days’ worth of shooting, including films and workshops. So let’s call that, for the sake of round figures, €40 per day. How many professional sound recordists could we get for that rate, do you think? And all the gear is still working fine, ready to go on to capture sound for more films.
I’ve also used the gear for other purposes – for example, the Zoom wasn’t bought for filmmaking but for podcasting, so the cost has also been amortised over (so far) around 35 podcasts.
And it turns out there’s another very important condition I didn’t mention above: you should call in the professionals only if you don’t want the enjoyment, experience and education that comes from doing it yourself.
If all that matters is the final result – the film – and it’s critical that it meets professional standards with regard to sound, then by all means spend your limited budget on a professional.
But for us, it’s not just about the final result (as important as that is) – it’s also about the journey. Learning about how to make a movie is a major part of the motivation for doing this. Discovering the techniques and learning by actually doing it is hugely enjoyable – far more so that the pleasure to be derived from perfect sound achieved by someone else who is there just to do a job. Making mistakes (and finding out how to work around them) is also part of the fun.
We’re not trying to make fortunes or win Oscars: we’re expressing creative ideas through film and enjoying ourselves along the way by being engaged in the process – all of it.
And the satisfaction and pleasure to be derived from this is somehow heightened by being part of a team, learning and experiencing this together.