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    Zoom H4n - best settings for recording dialog
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    What are the recommended settings (ie. Stereo, 4CH or Mtr mode as well as various settings, etc.) on the Zoom H4n when recording dialog?

    It is my understanding that mono audio is best suited for dialog instead of stereo audio. Is this correct?


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    mono, 24bit/48khz (96 if possible)


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    I suppose that to switch to mono I need to be in MTR mode?


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    Senior Member Sam Mallery's Avatar
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    I don't use MTR mode on the H4n. That's the multi-track mode, made for overdubbing. Why mess with that when you don't have to?

    I set mine at 48kHz 24bit, and use Stereo mode, even if I'm only plugging in one mono microphone. It's not stereo if there is only one channel. It may be recording a blank track, but blank tracks don't eat up very much space on a memory card. 4CH mode is usually unnecessary. It doesn't do the production much good to have a recording of stereo sound away from the action on the built-in mics in my bag.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Mallery View Post
    4CH mode is usually unnecessary. It doesn't do the production much good to have a recording of stereo sound away from the action on the built-in mics in my bag.
    I use 4 channel mode all the time now (that I've been schooled on another forum) to track 4 isos out of my 552. I usually only use 4 tracks on a "normal" day. I have the 552 direct outs setup as mic-level pre-fade when using the H4n.

    There's a mini-TRS (3.5mm) plug underneath the unit below the on-board mics which, when used, allows for input of two additional channels. CORRECTION: replaces the on-board mic channels with external inputs. Thus it becomes quite the decent 4-channel backup recorder. It's just in case the mix sent to camera needs some kind of fixing but I've found the recordings to be useable.

    I had a custom cable made for the job; if you're a do-it-yourselfer (and using an SD mixer) you need to short pin 1 and 3 on both XLR inputs and tie them to the sleeve of the mini TRS jack. Then Tip-Left hot (Pin 2), Ring-Right hot (Pin 2). The cable I had ordered came with the cold terminals of the XLR inputs floated and I had to modify them to get rid of some awful ringing.

    Now, however, it's been tested and works wonderfully. For anyone using a 552 (or a 442 or 302 I imagine) my H4n "gain" settings are 27 for the "mic" input and "41" on the XLR inputs when the signals from the mixer are mic-level. At this point -20dBFS lines up on both units and the 552 input limiters (if engaged) kick in just before the H4n clips. I can now just hook it up and go!
    Last edited by Petros Kolyvas; 01-18-2011 at 12:37 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sam Mallery View Post
    It may be recording a blank track, but blank tracks don't eat up very much space on a memory card.
    I believe this is not correct (although someone can chime in if I am wrong). Recording a blank audio track as a WAV will use the exact same amount of space as recording someone talking. It is still recording the same numbers of 1's and 0's, although since it is blank, it will be all 0's. This may not be the same if you are recording an MP3, but you shouldn't be doing that if you are recording professional audio anyway.


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    Quote Originally Posted by markblasco View Post
    I believe this is not correct (although someone can chime in if I am wrong). Recording a blank audio track as a WAV will use the exact same amount of space as recording someone talking. It is still recording the same numbers of 1's and 0's, although since it is blank, it will be all 0's. This may not be the same if you are recording an MP3, but you shouldn't be doing that if you are recording professional audio anyway.
    You are correct (on both counts now that I pay closer attention - file sizes and not using MP3s). Recording uncompressed PCM audio will result in silence that takes up exactly as much space as, uh, not silence (?). ;)
    There is no intuitive interface, not even the nipple. It's all learned. -Bruce Ediger

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    Senior Member Chadfish's Avatar
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    That's right Mark. A blank audio file takes up the same space as one with sound. It's only space-saving if the tracks are recorded as discreet mono files. With the H4N you will get a stereo file with one channel having audio. Then you have to go edit that to take the mono side off the stereo file, and make a new mono file. It's not good to blend the 2 channels to do this either, as the "empty" side of the file can have noise. My H4 would record an odd digital sound on the unused track. I would take the file into an audio editor, select the used side of the file, then make a new mono track. Then take that mono track and place it in your timeline.

    And the "settings" depend on the sensitivity of the mic, if you are talking about recording levels. People will try (and rightly so) to steer you to 24 bit recording because at that setting you can record at a much quieter level, and have much less risk of clipping. So the norm is 24 bit / 48k. Going higher will result in more battery drain, as it takes more processing to record at higher sample rates. 16 bit / 44.1 is, I believe what you get in 4 track mode. But you want 48k for video, not 44.1. Why not just buy a good sized card, and record at the proper setting of 24/48? Maybe invest in a preamp too when you get the money. That will help your sound too by getting the signal louder, which lets you turn down the H4N's recording level. That's where your hiss is at - when you use the recorder to pump up the level rather than a mixer.

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    Admin Luis Caffesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmk396 View Post
    I suppose that to switch to mono I need to be in MTR mode?
    Just FYI - to record dual mono on the H4n you have to choose "mono mix" from the INPUT menu while in Stereo Mode, I think.
    I can't remember exactly as I don't have my zoom handy (no pun intended).
    I'm pretty sure everyone is right thought that it won't increase your recording time at all, seeing as you're still recording to both channels.


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    Senior Member bill totolo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chadfish View Post
    That's right Mark. A blank audio file takes up the same space as one with sound. It's only space-saving if the tracks are recorded as discreet mono files. With the H4N you will get a stereo file with one channel having audio. Then you have to go edit that to take the mono side off the stereo file, and make a new mono file. It's not good to blend the 2 channels to do this either, as the "empty" side of the file can have noise. My H4 would record an odd digital sound on the unused track. I would take the file into an audio editor, select the used side of the file, then make a new mono track. Then take that mono track and place it in your timeline.

    And the "settings" depend on the sensitivity of the mic, if you are talking about recording levels. People will try (and rightly so) to steer you to 24 bit recording because at that setting you can record at a much quieter level, and have much less risk of clipping. So the norm is 24 bit / 48k. Going higher will result in more battery drain, as it takes more processing to record at higher sample rates. 16 bit / 44.1 is, I believe what you get in 4 track mode. But you want 48k for video, not 44.1. Why not just buy a good sized card, and record at the proper setting of 24/48? Maybe invest in a preamp too when you get the money. That will help your sound too by getting the signal louder, which lets you turn down the H4N's recording level. That's where your hiss is at - when you use the recorder to pump up the level rather than a mixer.

    Cheers
    Great info, but I have a couple follow up questions.
    1) Will recording in mono mix mitigate the need to delete a blank track?
    2) If you end up with a blank track is a NLE appropriate to delete the existing blank track? I'd imagine I could put the wav file on a timeline and simply select, and delete the unused track.

    Thanks,
    Bill Totolo
    DP/LA

    http://alphasonic.net


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