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Best DAT Recorder For On Location

Published : 21st October 2004

Hi all,

As cameraman I am not too familiar with the current digital sound recording equipment available. I need to buy a recorder for wildlife documentary use, and therefore the need to keep the recorder as small as possible because we are a two man crew at large. With this in mind the features and size of the TASCAM DA-P1 portable DAT recorder seems the most attractive from the selection of brochure's I have, and from here onward I need your help please. Is anyone perhaps making use of this particular recorder at the moment? I find it difficult to buy from a brochure, my biggest concern is environmental durability - dust, static, moist etc. If anyone can point out any shortcomings regarding this recorder, will you be so kind to let me know.

I don't know if this will help but at the moment I use the SDX 900 camera (DVCPro50 25P) to record wild sound on with a selection of Sennheiser microphones (416,418,MK66-short, Radio lapels, etc) SHURE FP32pa mixer and DT48 Beyer Dynamic headphones - 200 ohm.

I thank you,
Jacques Nortier
Wildlife cameraman,
South Africa


Try looking at the new 722T 2-track ($2650) or 744T 4-track with timecode ($4250) hard-disc recorders from SoundDevices :

http://www.sounddevices.com

Dat's I have found can be a problem in dusty areas.

Kurt Daugherty
Production Sound
UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television


Get a lot of professional opinions before you purchase one of these recorders. There have been a few opinions as to whether they're truly ready for prime time. This is the first time Sound Devices has ever made a recorder, so there's some birthing process they are still going through. I understand they run stupid hot, for one.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP


Kurt Daugherty wrote:

>Try looking at the new 722T 2-track ($2650) or 744T 4-track with >timecode ($4250) hard-disc recorders from Sound Devices

Does UCLA own one? Any user experience you could share?

Tom McDonnell
DP/Operator
New Orleans, La


Jacques,

DAT machines are essentially phased out and it is getting increasingly difficult to get technical support. Also, the small DAT recorders like the Tascam DA-P1 are not location friendly, to put it nicely.

Two recorders might be of interest to you, the new Fostex FR-2 is a 2-channel recorder using either PCMCIA 1.8" hard drives or Type II Compact Flash cards as medium. I myself haven't worked with this machine yet but I heard very good stuff about it. The machine is said to have excellent mic pre-amps and is very light weight. Can record up to 192khz, 24 bit, has a prerecord buffer of 10 sec etcetera. And, it's actually available for something like $1200 on the streets (of Los Angeles). BTW a time-code card is announced as supposedly available towards the end of the year.

http://www.fostex.com/index.php?file=products/pfr/fr2

The other, already mentioned, recorder would be the new Sound devices 722. Also announced with or without time-code. Problem with this recorder though are firstly, it was supposed to be available like a year ago and it's still not out there and secondly, the 722 records on the built-in hard drive (with firewire out etc) but to get the sound out of it one needs the recorder. The hard drive is non switchable! that can make life a bit hard IMO. You need now a laptop in the field to get the data out. Its hard drive will hold more data than the small ones used by the Fostex FR-2, but still...

http://www.sounddevices.com/products/7.htm

Sounddevices produces excellent field mixers, the ShureFP mixer you mentioned might be ready for replacement with i.e. the Sounddevices 302 - would won't to look back. What I think is missing in your microphone selection is a omni or (maybe) a cardioid condenser (in the Sennheiser nomenclatura that would be the MKH40 or MKH50, AKG's would be the 480 with CK1 or CK2). These mics would be used for ambient recordings where shotguns like the 416 are too directional to give the right impression.

Also note, that if you don't record more than 2 signals at a time you wouldn't need a mixer by going directly into the recorder.

Good luck,
Karl Lohninger
Sound mixer etc.
Los Angeles


>Get a lot of professional opinions before you purchase one of these >recorders. There have been a few opinions as to whether they're truly >ready for prime time.

Mitch's advice -- get lots of opinions-- makes sense. But note that the Sound Devices recorders aren't shipping yet. I just got off the phone with Jon at Sound Devices. Yes, the prototypes they had at NAB were warm/hot. But he said they're a lot cooler now (different components, drives, whatever). Boy, I really like their mixers (I own two).

The key thing is that they are only how starting to get a few units out to testers. Then come dealer samples, then come sales units. Availability to end users: August or so.

I'm totally intrigued by these recorders (and also somewhat by the less expensive Fostex FR-2 2-track recorder). But they ain't available yet.

More Sound Devices information, and fun videos available here :


http://www.sounddevices.com/products/7.htm

Fostex FR-2


http://www.fostex.com/index.php?file=products/pfr/fr2

>I strongly suggest that whatever hard disk recorder you look at >purchasing be compatible with numerous post facilities.

Yes, that is an issue. But hopefully will be less so soon. Seems like BWF mono and poly have a good chance of becoming standards.

>I would look at the Fostex PD-6,Zaxcom DEVA or the Aaton Cantor.

Note that those cost about US$8000 to US $16,000 or so. Overkill for some. Worth it for others.

Here's a short rundown of many of the hard disk recorders available or coming soon :

http://newsletter.trewaudio.com/nab2004.htm

Jim Feeley
POV Media
http://www.povmedia.com


Not yet but hope to have a 744T along with the Fostex FR-2 to run through production sometime in July. Had a chance to take a long look at both units at NAB and they looked very good especially for the money.

But what ever you get I still would not head out to the bush without a back-up unless you plan on sending the audio to the camera as back-up.

Kurt Daugherty
UCLA School of Theatre, Film and Television


>Not yet but hope to have a 744T along with the Fostex FR-2 to run >through production sometime in July.

Sounds like that 744T would be a late pre-production unit. But still will be interesting to try. Also, is the FR-2 timecode card available now?

>P.S. I do believe that the Sound Devices units also have a micro drive >removable recording medium along with the internal hard-drive.

The specs are available on the Sound Devices website. They include a hard drive and a "CF slot (type I, II, and micro drive compatible) for removable secondary recording medium."

And the magazine where I work, DV magazine < www.dv.com > intends to have one of our writers who's a CAS guy write a review of a bunch of these recorders. So the information will become available.

Jim Feeley
POV Media


Jim Feeley wrote:

>...The specs are available on the Sound Devices website. They include >a hard drive and a "CF slot (type I, II, and micro drive compatible) for >removable secondary recording medium"

I'm not an audio person, but have had some experience with microdrives in digital still cameras and I would be cautious about depending on them in any recorder. They are a beautiful piece of design, but fragile. You have to avoid dropping, squeezing or even writing on the face of the drive for fear of causing it to fail. Photographers carry them in "safes". We're phasing them out in favor of cards.

Go with a large capacity card.

Wade K. Ramsey, DP
Dept. of Cinema & Video Production
Bob Jones University
Greenville, SC 29614


What about the Cantar, by Aaton? Anyone use one?

Steven Gladstone
New York Based D.P.
www.gladstonefilms.com
East Coast CML List administrator


>What about the Cantar, by Aaton? Anyone use one?

It's US$16,000 or so. I've only played with one, but am acquainted with a mixer in Europe who loves his, once he got the hang of it.

Beautiful. But complex and idiosyncratic. Definitely not a "rent it and run it" item.

http://www.aaton.com/products/sound/cantar/index.php

Jim Feeley
POV Media


What are the thoughts in this forum on using Sony mini-disc recorders instead of a DAT?

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas


Jeffery Haas writes :

>What are the thoughts in this forum on using Sony mini-disc recorders >instead of a DAT?

Problem is, it's a compressed format.

I've been looking at the Marantz solid state recorder, since it's fairly affordable at $700 But how much do cards cost?...

http://www.d-mpro.com/users/folder.asp

John Babl
Miami


Jim Feeley wrote :

>And the magazine where I work, DV magazine www.dv.com intends to >have one of our writers who's a CAS guy write a review of a bunch of >these recorders.

Jay Rose's articles are excellent.

Tom McDonnell
DP/Operator
New Orleans, La


J. Haas wrote:

>What are the thoughts in this forum on using Sony mini-disc recorders >instead of a DAT?

I have used MD many times. It's a compact compressed format but to my ear sounds great. I primarily record dialog and natural sound with mine. I think at this stage a FR-2 is in my future. I called Sound Devices today. The 722 HD recorder, which is in my price range, is not upgradeable to timecode later, the FR-2 is. The big question really is how good are the onboard mic-preamps.

Wade is right stay away from Micro hard drives. The 2Gig CF cards are getting reasonable.

Tom McDonnell
DP/Operator
New Orleans, La


>The 722 HD recorder, which is in my price range, is not upgradeable to >timecode later, the FR-2 is. The big question really is how good are the >onboard mic-preamps.

---I can't understand the apparent refusal on the part of manufacturers to include time code on a digital audio recorder of ANY type. I just don’t buy into any justification they might have. It's digital audio and time code should be a foregone conclusion.

In fact I didn’t even understand it when they tried leaving it out of high end analog recorders, like the idea of time code might be an afterthought.

One should never have to go through hell just to upgrade to something that is an absolute necessity.

We don’t edit digital audio with a razor blade, do we?

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas


John Babl writes :

>Problem is, [MiniDisc] is a compressed format.

The latest generation of MiniDisc is pretty clean. You don't want to do high-end music recording on them because the ATRAC compression reduces "transparency" and finesse. But for video production, professional MD recorders (the HHB, for example) should be fine. Radio reporters like them because they let you edit right on the disc. The main problem with MDs (as with DATs and analog tape) is that you have to transfer them into your NLE in real time.

>I've been looking at the Marantz solid state recorder, since it's fairly >affordable at $700

Haven't used the Marantz yet but it looks like a really nice unit. It should be able to dump into your PC very quickly via USB. And of course it's dustproof, shockproof, etc., and has very good battery life. You can use Hitachi/IBM 1GB micro-drive cards as well, if you don't need the absolute bulletproofness of solid-state chips.

>But how much do cards cost?...

See (for example) :

http://www.flash-memory-store.com/cf.html

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


We've used an HHB PortaDisc as a backup or to gather some wild sound, but the lack of timecode makes it a non-starter for most applications.

Went to NAB to look at the Fostex FR-2, but the 744T was what really grabbed my attention - I'll wait to get my hands on one of these before making a buying decision. I really like the 4-channel option, and it's a benefit I can sell to producers who are still debating whether or not to just record sound on the camera. My main application is video-originated docs & TV, and the odd film commercial or short...Not a market that can support a Cantar...

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada


---Of course all the talk about time code has reminded me of the fact that I used to have an old battery operated Horita TC generator/reader and I used to "commandeer" one channel on multi-track recorders and use it for time code.

With the eight track portables it was sometimes necessary to leave another track open as "guard band" due to the crosstalk that was generated.

This leads me to wonder :

Would it not be possible, on a multi channel digital hard disk recorder, to simply tack on one of these old Horitas and devote a channel to time code, or is this all too weird sounding to today's audio professionals?

Respectfully,

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas


Jeffery J. Haas wrote :

>Of course all the talk about time code has reminded me of the fact that I >used to have an old battery operated Horita TC generator/reader and I >used to "commandeer" one channel on multi-track recorders and use it >for time code.

Ahhh the old non-BVU 3/4 inch timecode option. Timecode into channel 1 and nats on 2. That made for some ugly sounding audio.

I have always wanted to try this with my MD recorder for laughs. Guess I wouldn't be laughing if it worked.

Tom McDonnell
DP/Operator
New Orleans, La


>Ahhh the old non-BVU 3/4 inch timecode option. Timecode into >channel 1 and nats on 2. That made for some ugly sounding audio.

---Actually.....it does, and quite well, too!

That's the whole reason I asked about MD in the first place. I did some tests and it worked like a champ, and that ugly crosstalk was absent...amazingly enough. For a poor man shooting miniDV it's like having a poor man's wannabe Nagra...(okay not a Nagra!)

Jeffery Haas
freelance editor, camera operator
Dallas, Texas


Thank you for all the references, I've decided to wait a little longer before I purchase any sound recording equipment

I thank you

Jacques Nortier -
Wildlife cameraman, South Africa


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