I did more than three months of research, because I wanted to make better videos with the violin using some added reverb and mild equalizing, without having to do any edits or audio syncing on my computer.
There are surprisingly few alternatives when it comes to hardware and there are lots of pitfalls, poorly written manuals and a lack of documentation (but there are some tricks which can be really helpful!)
Of course, if you are recording in a great concert hall or church, it is easy to get a good sound, but if you want to use a hotel room or something similar and you want it to actually sound good enough to use (as opposed to too dry) my research may be of use to you.
If you actually like to sync sound and picture on a computer or edit your footage, then this advice is not needed for you!
I prefer light weight options, due to constant travelling and the cheapest alternative I have found is the Tascam DR-05 (around €100) used with a detachable 3.5mm audio cable from the "line-out" of the Tascam, to your video camera's mic "line-in".
You can then monitor the video camera's headphone output, if it has one, to hear whether it sounds ok. Most video cameras have bad pre-amps, so it's best to keep the gain level low on the video camera and higher on the Tascam recorder "line-out" in order to achieve the best results. Although, too high a level in the "line-out" can give distortion on the Tascam DR-05, even if file itself is not peaking and it could also be too high for the video camera you are using.
I used the out-of-production Canon Legria (Vixia in America) Mini X, which is the smallest I have managed to find with both microphone and headphone ports (only 205 grams). You can still purchase these devices used and they are also still available new, here and there.
The Canon Legria is more like an audio recorder (with added video capabilities) and with the help of a splitter that has volume controls, alongside an additional microphone, I can now also produce videos where the music has reverb, but the speech does not. However, I did not do this in the video examples below.
Tascam is maybe the only company who let you choose - on four current models - whether to have reverb on the "line-out" whilst still saving the original file without reverb or to have the option of adding reverb to the recorded .wav file. This means that you can have a video with reverb and still preserve the .wav file without reverb for further editing (best of two worlds). Most recorders with reverb options only allow the reverb to be added after the recording has been made, which is useless for direct-video camera use.
My preference on the Tascam is to use: Hall 1, Level 15 with Bass+ added as playback EQ (not preserved with the file) which then goes into the Canon Legria Mini X.
[Note that the playback EQ is only on two current models, whilst reverb is on 4 models.]
In the video examples below, the file was recorded and stored on my Tascam without reverb so that I could apply different reverb settings and processing features on the audio file at a later date (should it ever be needed). I often do it this way, just in case I am especially satisfied with a recording.
I often record with two cameras for an important project, as it creates more options for possible editing and camera angles between the videos.
You could say that this way of making videos with the reverb and EQ options are like having a good JPG engine in a camera that also saves the raw file of the audio.
If you want to hear the original Tascam file without the reverb added, I can send you that file, so you can hear how dreadful the sound in the room really was! That recording could never have been used like this and another added benefit of recording in this way, is playing whilst wearing headphones that have added reverb. It helps you to get more inspired whilst you play, as it sounds like you're playing in a good hall, which can be very useful. When hearing the actual sound with reverb, I find that I adapt to using a suitable vibrato and playing style, which would not have been achieved when adding reverb after the recording.
Video Camera: Canon Legria Mini X
Audio Recorder: Tascam DR-05
Violin and Bow by Harald Lund
Piece: Postludium No. 24 from Equinox (Solo Violin Version)
Original un-edited file from Canon camera, with audio feed from Tascam by the 3.5mm ports
Audio also from Tascam and Cinema Filter in camera-edit resaved in the Canon
Please get in touch through Facebook if you would like to know more information about equipment that is easy to use and light weight for recording or composing (like my travelling keyboard with 61 micro keys, hundreds of built in sounds and a sequencer! Or the lightest computer that works with the Sibelius notation software) or just if you have any other questions for travelling musicians and composers.
Without using this type of equipment, my extensive composing projects, such as Equinox: 24 Postludes for Violin and Orchestra would not have been possible - particularly whilst travelling as a soloist and largely staying in hotels around the world.
N.B. I also know about the weight and capacity of suitcases and other things when travelling as well, including: portable led lighting, humidifiers for violin cases and much more. If you want to know what my favourite strings are for violins and violas or who does the best re-hair, feel free to ask!
And if you happen to be interested in seeing what one of the Canon's cinema filters looks like - which is used in other Legria (Vixia) models - then check out the video below: