Video Basics 101# 2: Mic It Right!
Content Contributed by: Richard Newman
In Video Basics 101# 2, I’d like to talk more in depth about microphone techniques and placement.
There is no doubt that the best way to get the clearest audio is with the use of auxiliary, off-camera mics instead of the one in your camera. If the built-in mic is all that you have, you might want to consider shooting the video inside in order to avoid wind noise. Begin by putting the camera on a tripod for all recording, don’t do any zooming or focusing and keep your hands off the camera during recording. Because your on-camera microphone does not have any shock mounting or wind protection, all of the sounds that the camera makes will be recorded on the audio channel, which is not good.
In most cases, you will be recording in a room with walls that are parallel to each other. If you walk up to a wall and speak directly into it you can hear what are called sound reflections. These echoes cannot be taken out of your audio recording, so it’s best to solve this problem from the very beginning of taping.
There are several solutions to reducing or removing echo or sound reflection from your video. First, you will want to get the microphone as close to the sound source as possible, and keep the sound source away from walls, if at all possible. The best type of auxiliary microphone to use in this case would be a lavalier mic. Here are three examples with a wide range of prices.
- Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone System
- Sennheiser EW 112-P G3-A Wireless Kit with 516-558 MHz Frequency Range
- Azden 105LT Package with Receiver, Belt Pack Transmitter and Lavaliere Mic
Lavalier mics are attached to the clothing of the subject up close to their neck. They are very unobtrusive and will increase the production value of your video enormously because they will give you clean sound without picking up distracting ambient noises. Using a lavalier mic is the best of all possible worlds because you can keep it close to the sound source and control the levels for a great recording.
If you are working in a room that has a lot of sound reflections or echoes and you don’t have a lavalier mic, here is a trick that you can use to help improve your audio quality. In most cases, such as when you’re interviewing someone sitting at, say, a kitchen table, you are not including the entire room in your video, just a small section of it. You can use a standard set of background stands (the same kind you use for seamless paper or muslin) and drape packing blankets over the top. Make sure you use some sandbags on the base of the stands for better stability. Using these blankets and stands will almost completely eliminate these sound reflections or bounce backs.
Check out this short video and pay particular attention to the sound. In the first part you’re hearing the on-camera microphone, and the second part is a lavalier mic. Thanks to the Levin Gallery for use of the space and the great photographs on the walls.
Looking for more advice on sound quality in your video recording? Be sure to read my post on Microphone Tips for Video Recording.