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Ask any festival programmer what’s the fastest way to get your movie rejected, and they’ll probably tell you “bad sound”. Filmmakers passionate about their vision may forget about sound, but when it does, it’s the first thing the viewer notices. In other words, good sound can sometimes improve a movie’s narration, but bad sound always ruin. In recent years, cinema has become more democratized than ever, a welcome development for the industry. “You can shoot a movie on an iPhone” has become a cliche, but there is certainly some truth behind it. That said, there is absolutely no way you can shoot a movie with audio only from your iPhone (or your camera, for that matter). Good quality external sound equipment is always a must. In fact, if you have a little cash in your budget, there is arguably no better return on your investment than improving the sound configuration of your production. This is what separates the pros from the amateurs.
While the sound can’t be ignored, it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. From audio recorders and microphones to headphones and accessories, there is a wide selection of fantastic gear that is good enough for seasoned filmmakers and affordable for beginners. To make it a bit easier for you, we’ve rounded up some of the best budget sound equipment you can get on Amazon. And thanks to the magic of Amazon Prime, you can usually get it delivered in two days or less. A Prime membership costs $ 12.99 per month, but Amazon currently offers a 30-day free trial for new subscribers. Besides fast shipping, the subscription gives you instant access to tons of perks, including discounted prices, Prime Gaming, and Prime Video.
Read on for our list of cheap sound reinforcement equipment to buy, and if you’re looking for more gear, check out our list of the best cameras for any budget.
Boya BY-M1 Lavalier
If you are making any type of documentary or documentary film, omnidirectional lapel microphones are an absolute must. They can be clipped onto your subject’s clothing to easily capture dialogue, while still allowing for movement and spontaneity. If you don’t mind hiding microphones or have a Brechtian tendency, clip-on lavallières are a great option that can make your life easier. This affordable Boya device can be plugged into a DSLR camera, portable recorder, or even your smartphone.
Rode Smartlab + Lavalier
IPhone filmmakers are taking note. Rode made a microphone specifically for integration with consumer electronics, and the results are surprisingly good. Plugging the Rode Smartlab + into your phone or laptop allows you to record crisp audio even on the most relaxed set. Containing little more than a lanyard, a clip, a small microphone and a foam windproof cover, this adorable little gadget is definitely worth owning.
Audio-Technica AT875R shotgun microphone
Ties are great for documentaries, but narrative filmmakers need to be able to hide their microphones out of the frame. Enter the shotgun microphone. If you are looking for a clear and reliable microphone to attach to your boom, there is no better budget option than the Audio-Technica AT875R. This unidirectional mic is short, unobtrusive, and captures excellent sound.
MBP 7000 boom post on stage
Now that you have your Audio-Technica AT875R, you need to attach it to something. This On-Stage boom is light enough to hold up for 16 hour shoots, sturdy enough to keep your microphone in good shape, and inexpensive enough to keep your movie under budget. There are many aspects of cinema that are worth rethinking, but this one is not one of them. The purchase of the On-Stage MBP 700 is obvious.
Zoom H5 audio recorder
The first item in putting together a sound kit is a great audio recorder. The best microphone in the world will do you no good with nothing to store its images. The Zoom H5 is a discreet and portable option that can be held or attached to a DSLR camera. It contains two microphone inputs and can record four audio tracks at a time. Its small size and impressive accuracy also make it useful for interviews, podcasts, independent film projects, and more. Don’t be fooled by its unpretentious appearance, this thing captures a lot of sound.
Tascam DR-60DMKII portable audio recorder
If you’re ready to upgrade your sound recorder to something slightly larger without taking on a second mortgage, consider the Tascam DR-60DMKII. It costs slightly more than some of the more compact options on the market, but the professional-grade recorder won’t need to be upgraded as your productions get bigger. In the long run, it’s still a great choice for the budget. This cube can record up to four audio channels, and the buttons on either side ensure that every inch is used more efficiently. Sporting a slightly different shape than many other audio recorders on the market, it is designed to be attached to the bottom of a camera. So if you want to save money and space when building your rig look no further.
Micro Blimp 40cm windshield PROAIM
Shotgun microphones are sensitive enough to pick up dialogue and room tone much more effectively than your camera. But the downside is that they also pick up the sounds you don’t want. Like the wind. Before your next shot outdoors, be sure to cover your mics with a windshield, like this excellent one from PROAIM, to make sure your dialogue stays crisp. It’s a small price to pay to protect your investment, both in the microphone and the lengths you traveled to get your footage.
Audio-Technica ATH-M20X Headphones
Now that you have all the right gear, make sure you get the most out of it. There is no sense in buying a good set of sound recording instruments without being able to hear what they are picking up. In an incredibly sensitive art form where detail is essential, wearing headphones while taking allows you to make adjustments on the fly. These on-ear headphones from Audio-Technica certainly get the job done. The only downside is that their sound is so good that you might start to hate your actors with loud voices (just kidding).
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