Saturday, 3 February 2007

Audio Recording On The Go

I've recently expanded my photographic interests into producing my own multimedia stories, merging still photography and ambient sound (generally recorded live while I am photographing), and musical soundtracks. This was influenced to an enormous degree by the availability of Soundslides software (which I wrote about in an earlier post), and by non-expensive lightweight audio recorders needing only a Compact-Flash memory card.

The M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 is the recorder I chose for my work in the field. It's quite easy to use, and is small and inexpensive enough to be viable for many purposes. I found it to be perfect as a lightweight field recorder for recording interviews, capturing live performances at festivals or ethnic music, recording ambient sounds to provide aural 'texture' to my images, allowing me to record vocal notes to myself while photographing, etc. Its sound quality is better than expected for such a small package, and I imagine that, if fitted to a pro microphone, it would sound even better. I use a 250mb CF card with it, which is more than enough to record hours and hours of sound.

What I don't like about it is this: its seperate microphone (it looks like a T) is flimsy, and is not part of the unit which means I'm bound to lose it one day; the controls are somewhat fiddly, and lastly its batteries are not replaceable except by the manufacturer.

I found that the size of this recorder (and its tiny mic) doesn't intimidate whoever I interview or record, which is a big plus when working in the field. I used it in India to interview a number of widows in Vrindavan, and not having a huge microphone and machine waved at their faces, made things much simpler and they didn't shy away from it.

There's a new guy on the block, and that's the Zoom H4. I hear good things about it as well, especially that it runs on regular AA batteries and it has built-in mics.

For those of you who are still tentative about expanding their travel and/or their documentary photography into the multimedia sphere, I really encourage you to do so.

Here's a review for the M-Audio:M-Audio Microtrack

And another for the Zoom H4: Zoom H4