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- Understanding video resolution and frame rates
- Comparing DSLRs and camcorders
- Choosing equipment, from tripods to memory cards to lights
- Achieving the right exposure
- Working with shutter speed limitations
- Setting white balance
- Recording better audio with an external microphone
- Incorporating movement and storytelling into video
- Preparing for video editing
Skill Level Beginner
Audio is a very important part of video. Being aware of the sound around you can be more important than the audio gear you are using. Even a poor mic will do better than the best mic if the poor gear is recording good sound to start with and the great mic is having to deal with a lot of noise. Well, let's talk a little bit about gear. I have mentioned this before but I want to mention it again, that the microphone on your camera is not the best for recording audio.
On this camera, it's these little tiny dots that are at the top of the camera. That's it for the microphone. It'll get you something for audio that can get you started, but it has some severe limitations. Camera manufacturers aren't in the business of giving you great audio. Adding a microphone to a camera costs money. So they will skimp there rather than in other parts of the camera. In addition, a microphone built into the camera will pick up sounds of the camera itself, including your handling the camera or something like an image stabilization lens where the motor is going and that's transmitted up to the microphone.
That sound can be very distracting and it will drive you crazy. But of course if your camera does not allow you to add another microphone then you have to use the microphone that comes with it. It is possible to record reasonable audio if you are limited to the microphone in your camera, if you pay attention to the sounds around you and you get the microphone and of course your camera as close as possible to the sound. A good option for recording audio is a little shotgun microphone like this.
These mics typically fit into the hot-shoe of your camera and are small and compact. They are very easy to use because you don't have to do much other than put the microphone on your camera, plug it in, and turn it on. Even though a shotgun mic is attached to your camera, it will pick up very little noise from your camera, because the shotgun mic has sort of a sound shock-absorber built into the mount that minimizes transfer of noise from the camera to the microphone. Your camera's microphone pretty much picks up everything around it, front, back and sides, with a little more emphasis to the front.
A shotgun mic narrows the angle of acceptance for sound coming to the microphone, compared to the mic on your camera. It doesn't eliminate the sounds coming from the sides like a lens might eliminate any visuals there, but it does greatly reduce them. A shotgun mic though does record things behind your subject perfectly well and sometimes behind you at your camera as well. So be aware that although the shotgun mic is focused, it is not automatically on just your subject.
This little Sennheiser MKE 400 microphone works very well for me, but there are other brands that work very well as well such as the Rode. You do have to remember to turn the microphone on and off and it's a good idea to always keep a spare battery for the microphone in your bag. Without a battery, the microphone doesn't work. A lavalier microphone is a microphone that attaches to your subject on clothing near the person's mouth, just like I have a lavalier microphone here.
You can actually attach a lavalier microphone near any sound that is important for you to record. One big advantage of a lavalier is that it is so close to your subject and its sounds that it mostly hears your subject and minimizes other noises. A microphone can be attached directly to your camera through a wire or cable or it can be attached to a wireless transmitter that sends a signal directly to a receiver on your camera. A wireless microphone is very common for lavalier mics because it really frees up the person doing the talking.
But you could do just fine with a wired lavalier mic if you don't want to spend the money for a wireless system. You might also consider using a hand-held microphone. One advantage of a hand-held microphone is when you're doing interviews, because you can talk into the microphone and then you can put the microphone close to your interviewee to get their response. You can use a hand-held microphone while you're simply talking to the camera but not everyone is going to be comfortable with it. Sometimes nonprofessionals try too hard with a hand-held microphone and the resulting video looks strained.
Don't worry about getting all sorts of microphones. You don't need them. Most people shooting with a digital SLR will be perfectly happy with either a shotgun mic or a lavalier mic. Either one will do a lot better than the microphone that's built into your camera.