Using the Zoom H2n For Great Audio on Your Videos

The built-in microphone on the Canon Vixia HF R600 is surprisingly good. If you’re speaking within eight feet of the camera, if the wind’s not blowing, and if there’s not a great deal of noise nearby, the quality of the audio should be just fine. Sometimes, though, you can’t count on all those “ifs” to be true. Does that mean you can’t shoot? Honestly, if this is your first video, it probably does. There’s enough to think about on your first video without having to worry about a digital audio recorder, so it probably would be better to wait until conditions improve.

Once you have a couple of videos under your belt, though, don’t let a little challenge like wind noise or distance from the camera deter you from producing a great video. That’s why we have the digital audio recorder. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll have great audio to go with those beautiful pictures even when conditions are difficult.

Use the camcorder’s microphone too

You don’t need to do anything to make this happen, because whenever you shoot video with the Canon HF R600 it will record audio with its onboard microphone. And you may find for any number of reasons that the camcorder’s microphone is better for some or all of your program. It’s a great insurance policy.

Control handling noise

The Zoom H2n is a high-quality recorder, and it’s extremely sensitive. Unfortunately, that sensitivity extends to the case; if you touch it or rub it in any way while it’s recording, you’ll hear it on the recording. You can easily prevent handling noise either of two ways:

  1. Use the lavaliere microphone (see below)
  2. Use the “handle” (actually a tiny tripod with one of its legs broken off) in the front compartment of the equipment case.

Set the gain on the H2n

The camcorder’s audio volume will be adjusted automatically for the best sound, but you need to do it manually with the H2n. While your talent is speaking from the same distance and at the same volume as will be used when you record, adjust the audio gain on the side of the H2n until the signal peaks reliably at or near -3 db. If possible, keep an eye on the meters while you’re shooting to make sure you’re still shooting at about the right level.

Make it easy to sync in post

The Canon HF R600 will automatically synchronize its audio with its video, so you won’t need to worry about it when you use the onboard microphone. When you use the H2n, though, the audio signal produced by the H2n will need to be synchronized with the Canon’s video for you to be able to use them together. The easy way to do this as you are shooting is to remember, every time you stop and restart either the camcorder or the H2n, to create an audio slate mark. With both the camcorder and the digital audio recorder running, use short, staccato syllables to say “1, 2, 3, Mark!” These short syllables will be recorded on both the camcorder’s audio and the H2n’s audio, and you’ll be able to use them in editing to line them up with each other.

If you have an editor that provides visual waveforms for audio files, you can line them up visually. If not, you can synchronize them using the technique described in this video. Make sure you view it full screen and using the highest resolution. After the video and the audio are synchronized, you can vary the volume of the camcorder and the H2n as you see fit to get the best, most useful sound.

Using the lavaliere microphone

Camga owns a tiny but excellent quality lavaliere microphone. You’ll find it in the pill bottle in the front pocket of the video equipment case, and it plugs into the receptacle on the side of the Zoom H2n that says “LINE IN.” Set the H2n on XY, and don’t worry about the fact that the signal shows up on only one channel; that’s the way it’s supposed to work. You can place the H2n in the talent’s pocket and thread the lavaliere microphone cord up through their blouse or shirt so that the only thing that shows is the microphone itself, clipped onto the talent’s clothing. The microphone works fine without the black foam windscreen, but please leave it on so we won’t lose it.

Dealing with wind noise

h2n-with-windscreen-225x300The lavaliere microphone always has its windscreen attached, so if you are using the lavaliere microphone, you’re already doing everything you can do to control wind noise. If you’re using the H2n’s onboard microphone, you can attach the windscreen stored in the front pocket of the equipment case. The windscreen for the H2n works well. Yes, it’s grotesquely ugly, but you’ll be far better off with your audience seeing an ugly windscreen than hearing ugly wind noise. The windscreen does nothing to prevent handling noise (see above), so you’ll still need to use the “handle” even when the windscreen is attached.


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