In order to record sound on location for film, television, commercials, and documentaries, you need the right equipment. Essential location sound gear includes portable recorders and accessories such as mixers and microphones (both wired and wireless), wireless microphones for ENG (electronic news gathering), and IFB (interruptible foldback), which enables one-way communication between directors and camera operators or journalists in the field.
The sound recorder is arguably the most important piece of location sound equipment in audio systems. Modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras deliver outstanding still and motion pictures, but seldom produce superior audio. Using a separate high-end sound recorder ensures your videos and images are accompanied by high-quality audio.
Portable recorders come in many forms, each with its own specific features. If you also shoot video, you'll need a unit with an integrated microphone for basic audio, or inputs for higher-quality mics.
ENG microphones are handheld units used specifically by journalists. They have internal shock mounts that minimize handling noise, a common problem as many journalists operate in busy, loud environments. Many models include screens to reduce wind sounds and long shafts for easy attachment of station flags for identification. Wireless microphones offer great flexibility, while wired ENG microphones offer superior sound quality.
A portable field mixer lets you mix your audio on location instead of needing a studio. Its prime task is to combine the inputs from multiple microphones and other sound sources and mix them into a single stream. Many models offer multiple outputs to deliver the signal to headphones, cameras, and recorders.
Another key function of a portable field mixer is to provide technicians with accurate reads while on location. This allows immediate adjustment of gain, level, and other key sound metrics. Location sound professionals often put their field mixers, preamps, and accessories in a bag and attach it to their bodies for ease of operation.
A camcorder XLR adapter enables the attachment of more than one audio source to any camera that features a 3.5mm mini plug. They feature transformers that optimize the signal flow from several microphones and avoid impedance imbalance problems. An XLR adapter usually takes the form of a small box, which fits on the tripod thread beneath a camcorder.
Find your ideal location sound equipment for any project at B&H Photo Video.