Preparing and Recording With a DAT Recorder During Film or Video Production

Page content

DAT Recorder

The DAT, which stands for Digital Audio Tape, is an older audio production format that is used in limited settings today. The DAT is a device used for non-sync sound and then records the audio onto a tape, which is considered archaic in comparison to digital audio recorders. In certain situations it is still in use and the workflow for the DAT recorder is very specific.

Preparing the Microphone

You will start wit the DAT by preparing the boom, or alternative, microphone as you would any other time. Once the boom microphone is set in its carrier you will plug it into its pre-amp module, which will likely be an MM-1 or similar device. You will have to prepare this pre-amp module by putting in a couple batteries and setting it to INT power. Plug in the XLR cable to the pre-amp module and then plug the other end into the DAT recorder.

Pre-Amp Settings

You are going to set the pre-amp gain to 36, turn off low-end attenuation and limiters both off, and set the input to phantom T-power 12V. This is usually standard for setting the pre-amp module. Once this is set and the headphones are plugged in for the boom operator to be able to monitor then you will be ready to make adjustments on the DAT recorder.

DAT Settings

Make sure that the input is already set to LINE-in analog, which is often standard. From here you are essentially prepared for actual recording, but you will still have to monitor VU ballistics on the recorder just as you would with the 702 sound mixer or on the digital video or HD camera directly.

Sound Mixing Workflow

When recording with the DAT recorder, just as with any non-sync sound recorder, you are going to have to go at the discretion of either the director or assistant director. A proper field mixer on a video or film production set is going to be in a different room than the production so as to get a clear picture of the recorded sound. You will wait until the director calls either rehearsal, which will require you to just monitor levels, or ‘speed,’ which requires you to actually record. There may be a brief delay while you wait for the digital audio tape to begin turning. You will wait for a “quiet on set call” where they will then go through the equipment run through. Your call for “speed” will be first, after which you indicate to them that you are currently recording. This will then allow the assistant director to let the camera operator and director of photography to know they can begin rolling. The slate is said after you are rolling so that the information and the ‘clack’ used to sync the sound in post-production, are on the audio track. An audio log should be kept with the sound mixer at the DAT recorder so there is a record on how the sound was on the digital audio tapes.

Transferring the Digital Audio Tapes

After the production day is older the sound tapes that were recorded in the DAT will be given to a post-production person, where they are captured into the non-linear editing program that is being used. You may need a special capture deck for the digital audio tape. Here they are synched with the associated video and then worked with during the editing process. Talk to the post-production liaison or editor to see what video equipment they already have for handling digital audio tapes.