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Recording with Zoom H4n

Okay so a big issue with the 5D is getting good audio.  It’s generally agreed that using some sort of external recording device is the best way to manage the workflow, but that leaves you with the mess of having to sync up all the sound in post.  On bigger shoots, where dual system is the norm, that’s not a big deal; and the onboard recorded audio is just used as a reference track anyway.  But what if you need a quick turnaround or a client is asking to not have to sync all the sound in post?

For the most part, even with firmware 2.0.4 you can easily get a good audio recording using the dual system technique but if you try to send any sort of signal back into the 5D mark II it is still blowing out, and the auto function doesn’t seem to be that great at stopping peaking either.  I recently went out on a Doc gig where the producers didn’t want to sync up the audio in post and therefore needed good sound sent right into the 5D.  That’s all good and fine, but I also wanted to figure out a way where I could record both good sound on the Zoom H4n and the 5D at the same time.   So here’s the solution I came up with:

You need to set the 5D to manual Audio control and then turn it down all the way.  Then move the clicker one notch to the right.

Set it one notch away from being all the way to the right

Set it there, and then back out of the menu.

Next you need to turn on your H4n and set the Vol, the button on the left side to ’55.’

Set the 'volume' button on the left side to 55

Once you’ve set the volume button to 55, don’t touch it.  This is the sweet spot you want the Zoom to be set at where you will be able to both monitor the audio on your Headphones effectively and also get a good signal that wont peak to your 5D.

Once that’s set, you can set up the rig however you like.  I have a 1/8th inch splitter coming out of my Zoom with one  jack going to my headphones and one going to my 5D.

I plug my headphones into one jack and the 5D into the other.

Then I can plug whatever sort of mic setup I want to use, Shotgun, Lav, etc. into the zoom.

****IMPORTANT: Now to adjust the level of the mic, only use the ‘Rec Level” buttons on the right of the Zoom H4n.  You should have enough room at these settings to get a good recording using the Rec Level buttons.

You’ll notice that at these settings when the audio is hitting -6db on the Zoom it is also hitting -6db on the 5D.  So if you have a peak on either, just watch the zoom monitor to find out.  Now, by only adjusting the rec level on the right side of the zoom (kinda using the zoom as a poor mans mixer) you will have clean audio to both the 5D recording and the Zoom’s internal recording.

I hope this helps, let me know if I didn’t explain something well enough or you have any questions.





So this is the first entry on this site and I guess I just wanted to give a little rundown on what we’re all about and what this site is trying to be about.  Andy and I are two DP’s working in Los Angeles.  We both went to school together at Ohio University and generally work on one another’s projects which has led us to frequent collaboration.

John Veleta and AC Sam Butt work on Trailerpark

Andy films a burning Trailer for the feature Trailerpark

We grew up alongside the digital revolution which has allowed us to explore ourselves as filmmakers in a way that wasn’t previously possible; and while we’re classically trained on both film and video, we feel that we’d like to share our projects and processes with anyone out there that’s willing to listen.  Hopefully any of you that are bored enough to follow alongside us will gain something from our technical failures/successes, experiments, and general nerdom.

We own our own 5D and 7D camera rigs which we often use on shoots and we wanted to have a place to muse about our work and solving the issues that arise with this new generation of cameras.

You can visit either of our professional sites at:  and

We hope you all enjoy and feel free to email or comment with any questions and musings of your own.


So to start off the nerdom I wanted to share some interesting information regarding the 5D’s different ISO settings.  I can’t remember if I’ve shared this before or not, so in the name of more knowledge being good here we go:

The short of it all is that apparently the 5D reacts better, Ie. less noise, in ISO settings that are multiples of 160.  It has something to do with the fact that the native sensor is shooting always in multiples of 100 (200, 400, 800, etc.) and when you pick an ISO like 160 it is taking the ISO 200 and digitally bringing down the image to 160, which in turn lowers the amount of noise.  So in theory, ISO 160 has less noise than ISO 100, which would go against common sense, but in actuality, is true.  ISOs like 250 and 500 on the other hand should be avoided due to a ‘digital enhancement’ from their lower native ISOs (200 enhanced to 250, 400 enhanced to 500, etc) which results in more noise.

A fellow OU Alum and DP, Devin Doyle sent me this email about this information.  He got the tip from Bodie Orman, who is one of Shane Hurlbuts assistants that constantly is going out on jobs with Shane’s 5D rigs.

From Devin Doyle, who probably hates wordpress more than slow AC’s:

“5D Homies,

Some of you may know Bodie Orman – I worked with him over the weekend with some of Shane Hurlbut’s 5D gear and he dropped a little gem on me. While doing tests for Hurlbut’s Bandito Bros. Navy Seal extravaganza he mentioned that the camera’s ISO was cleanest at 160 and all settings derived thereof (320, 640, etc.). Interested I did a little research myself and found this cinema 5D thread that shed some light on the subject. This may be old news to some of you, but I thought I’d share just in case. The noise graph further on in the thread is really eye-opening. The tests also put to bed the idea of using highlight priority to preserve highlights in bright exteriors – the noise introduced in lowlights seems pretty aggressive.

Also thought I’d share this little article on using picture profile settings to gather a RAW, low-con image to paint in post. Interesting how it slightly decreases the moire…”

Interesting stuff.  I know that I’ve been keeping my ISO at multiples of 160 whenever I can since I found this out.