Recently I shot a short film but needed to do this film with NO budget. I was able to get a camera for free as well as someone to shoot it - Sound however became a problem. Very few sound guys are eager or willing to "sponsor" equipment for a day and then further than that to work on-set and mix for free. I ended up using a Sony IC Recorder icd mx20 - I took this route partly for budget reasons (I got it for free) but mostly as an experiment in independent film making. Im not really happy with the sound I got from it, actually its terrible, so I was wondering what other alternative or innovative ways there are to record sound (read dialogue) on a small film set.

Things that I did like about the recorder though was the versatility of such a small device - I taped it to a boom pole, dropped it in the actors pocket or could go hand-held at any moment - I am looking for something like this that actually records good sound!


5 Answers 5


If you're looking for a very cheap option without compromising too much on quality, then I think the Zoom H2 could be a good option. Here's why:

  • It costs around $150
  • It's very small
  • it can record at high quality: 24bit; 96kHz
  • Apparently the battery life is good
  • Your only limitation on recording space is the size of the SD card you put in
  • You can screw it onto a boompole or tripod, no need to tape it :-)
  • You can hook up an external mic. This way you can add a mic more suited to recording dialogue (such as a shotgun mic or a lapel)
  • The on-board mics sound pretty good. Not ideal for dialogue as they are stereo, but usable.
  • The on-board mics pickup patterns are 90º, 180º or 360º.
  • You can record nice ambiances with it, or plug it directly into your computer to record VO
  • It records up to 4 channels (it mixes them onto 2 channels though)

Here's a video of someone using this setup, however I really don't recommend using the stereo mics for dialogue recording unless you have to. And I don't think you need that fancy mount as the Zoom H2 has a standard tripod connector at the bottom, you might need an adapter ring to get the right size thread for the boom.


So considering your needs, I think it could be a good recorder to have as an independent filmmaker.


I own and love a Zoom H2, and a Sound Devices 702, which I also love but for totally different reasons. The biggest problem with putting an H2 on a boom pole is that you can't effectively ride the levels to prevent maximum gain without clipping, because your level meters are way out there on the pole with your mics! The H2 would do best with a mic run to the end of the pole, but do know that the H2's built-in mics have lower noise than the external mic input...the H4n is better noise-wise. It's really just a question of ergonomics more than anything else. Be sure to put a windscreen, like the foam bit and a Rycote mini windjammer, if you're gonna swing it on a boom!

  • I totally agree - the lack of gain control, access to meters & inability to use a decent shotgun mic make the H2 far from ideal for this purpose. Try to use a similar recorder that has mic inputs with phantom power & beg/borrow a decent shotgun mic... if you ask a local production sound recordist for advice they may well offer to loan you a spare shotgun mic... if they do & don't want payment, make sure you buy them a bottle of wine or something... goodwill deserves reward!
    – user49
    Mar 3, 2010 at 22:11
  • If you're worried about noise you could also use an external mic preamp plugged into the external 1/8" input.
    – endolith
    Mar 9, 2010 at 3:19

I use a Zoom H2, for the price and what it does, it's pretty ace. Like Mr. Spitz said, not ideal for dialogue recording, but with a tight budget, I think it would work. As he said, the battery life is pretty awesome. I record lectures at school with it, and I get about three hours out of one fully charged set of Nickel Metal Hydrides. It's robust, too. Mine's been dropped several times, and it's still tickin'. It's not going to sound like a SD744T with a Neumann RSM 191 plugged into it, but for entry level gear that sounds good, it'll work pretty darned well.

As well, if you're using Pro Tools, and have an MBox, the MBox + an SM58 + a notebook with a good battery life can act as a recorder in a pinch.

  • Sounds great! thanks for the feedback - Ill be sure to log this into my book of production notes>
    – jozua
    Mar 2, 2010 at 7:57

To record audio well, that is to say that the audio sounds as close to the original voice and is appropriate to the picture, it is very simple. A good mic + a good mic preamp + a good recorder = good audio. Now, that is at its very basic form. An experienced sound mixer is absolutely your best tool in the shed. A good sound mixer will know how to use good gear appropriately. I'm sorry but a Zoom H2 or H4 is NOT a good recorder. The mic preamps are crap, the clock is shaky, and the reliability is a joke. Do they record sound at 24 bit with high sample rates? Sure. But, there is FAR more to getting a quality, true sound than sample rate and bit depth.

So often I hear people ask "how can I get a great sounding recording for cheap?" The simple truth is, you can't. Good audio equipment isn't cheap. A good sound mixer/recordist isnt someone who was a boom op on a few student projects. Cheap audio equipment is cheap, but not good. You can record HD video with a Flip cam but on a big screen it looks bad.

Remember, nothing screams indie movie like bad audio!


I did some recording with the Sony PCM-90 and the quality really surprised me...don't really know how much is worth nowadays and where do you live.

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