Utilizing an External Recorder 

By Kraig Kirchem     Posted: October 2, 2015

“My alarm didn’t go off.”

“I got a flat tire.”

“My dog ate it.”

These classic excuses may work sometimes but not always… especially not in video production.  If you miss the money shot or your microphone dies during an interview, no excuse you provide will resurrect your client’s 100% trust in your abilities.   Stuff happens.  It’s almost a guarantee when working with electronic equipment.  But there are also safeguards you can take that can turn a production disaster into an amusing anecdote.


It is always a good idea to have a contingency plan. It’s especially important with audio.  Wireless microphones are great.  They allow the shooter to roam free all while capturing clean audio.  But don’t cross that invisible distance threshold or you’ll start hearing the dreaded hiss of the wireless microphone.  You are now “out of range.”

Whenever I anticipate a filming situation where my camera and wireless transmitter could be too far apart, I back up my wireless audio with a portable audio recorder.  These audio recorders are popular with DSLR cameras for their reliability in capturing clean, professional audio.  They also work well even if you have XLR audio inputs on your rig.

My M.O. on a shoot is to move around…go where the action is to make the viewer feel like they are there.  This was the case on a recent shoot of an outdoor yoga class. I needed clean audio from a PA system.  Well before the shoot, I checked with my client to see if there would be an audio board on site that I could tap into.  I also got the contact info of the board operator to ask him the capabilities of the board feeding out. Prepare! Prepare! Prepare!


When I arrived on location, one of the first things I did was search out the audio board.  I plugged in my Zoom H4n via XLR and asked the board operator to pipe in some audio (music or tone.)  After adjusting audio levels on the recorder, I pressed record and focused on the visuals.

I moved wherever the action took me, no matter how far.  After about an hour of gathering footage, I walked back to the audio recorder and stopped recording.  Later in post, I synced the video and clean audio from the portable audio recorder.  It worked like a charm and I didn’t need to worry about wireless microphone range or frequency issues.

I still use wireless microphones on practically all of my projects but there are times I need a fail safe.  When I do, I know where to go.

Here’s the final product:

Kraig Kirchem is a Dallas/Fort Worth based director, producer, videographer, writer, and consultant who operates Kirchem Creative, a full-service media production company. He previously worked in broadcast journalism at TV stations across the country earning industry recognition including multiple Peabodys and duPont Awards. Full Bio