ABL Radio
June 13, 2020
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Audio For Video

Author: Administrator
Believe it or not, sound quality is probably even more important for the overall effectiveness of a video production than video quality.

I firmly believe that viewers will tolerate mistakes in video quality before they will tolerate mistakes in sound recording. If a viewer can not hear the sound portion of your video, they will shut it off.

I saw this exact problem in action the other day. An internet marketer had put up a video that had fantastic content, but crummy sound. The comments were quite wicked. People not only shut the video off, some of them completely discredited the guy saying that if he was not smart enough to record decent audio, then by golly he wasn't smart enough to have credibility on any subject.

Ouch!

So how do you get quality sound in your video production? Use the right microphone in the correct way.

DISTANCE OF SOUND

Microphones come in all varieties. Some are meant to be spoken into at close range and others are designed to pick up from a long distance. A hand held microphone is normally one that picks up best at close range and a shotgun microphone is the type you use to pick up sound from a distance. A lavalier mic is a tiny one that pins onto your collar.

A microphone close to the speaker's mouth is going to pick up MUCH better than one far away. Going back to my example above, the guy had just relied on the mic on-board his camera and the camera was at the back of the room. Every cough, grunt and mumble picked up more loudly than he did.

DIRECTION OF SOUND

Some mics only pick up sounds that are directly in front of it and others also pick up sounds coming from the side. This is called the pick up pattern and it is often described as a shape. A carotid pick up pattern resembles a heart shape. Carotid being the same root word found in cardio, meaning heart.

The terms omni directional and unidirectional also describe this aspect of microphones. Omni, meaning many, picks up sounds coming from all directions. (No mic does well with sounds coming from behind it.) Uni, meaning one, picks up sound coming from in front only.

For speaking, using a uni-directional mic close to the mouth is the best bet.

WIRELESS AND HARD WIRED

Microphones also come in wired and wireless versions. A wired microphone is plugged into your camera and the on-camera person can only go as far as your cable will let you. A wireless microphone is like a mini radio receiver and transmitter. You plug the receiver portion of the wireless microphone into your camera and the person speaking on-camera wears the transmitter part. A wireless mic allows the person speaking to be far away from the camera since there is no cable acting like an umbilical cord.

SO WHICH MICROPHONE DO YOU NEED?

It depends on how you are going to use it. The single biggest audio mistake people make in video production is to rely on the microphone that comes attached to the camcorder for every purpose. This on-board mic is good for some applications but not for others. The on-board mic on most camcorders is a small shot gun mic. The sounds it picks up best are those about 3-6 feet away coming mostly from the front, but it also does relatively well with sounds coming from the side. Generally speaking, a shot gun microphone is best used for ambient, or natural sound. This is any sound that happens to be occurring while you are video taping. Sounds of cars, birds, crowd rumble, whatever.

The on-board shot gun mic is not necessarily good for picking up a person speaking directly to the camera. In most circumstances, using it this way will result in poor quality audio that has way too much background noise in it to be well understood. You can fix this by eliminating all background noise, if that is possible. Then, place the camera two to four feet from your person speaking and have them talk loudly.

The best way to record a person speaking directly into the camera is to either pin a small lavaliere microphone on their collar or to have them use a handheld just an inch or two from their lips. A lavaliere microphone is the tiny clip-on mic no bigger than your pinky tip. Because they are so small, they essentially disappear in your shot. So lavs are considered more attractive than hand held mics but either will do the job.

If you want to get shots where your on-camera talent is a long distance from the camera, use a wireless. But if your on-camera talent is in the same room as the camera, a hard wire will be fine. In fact it might be better because you have to get a pretty expensive wireless for it to work well. A crummy wireless is a pain in the cajoonies because you will get sound interference from competing radio signals (cell phones, walkie-talkies, etc.) and a tinny result.

In order to use a supplemental microphone when videotaping, you have to have a camera that has an input for it. Many inexpensive camcorders do not have a microphone input so your only option is the on-board mic. This is one of the major drawbacks to using a cheap camcorder.

Camcorders higher up on the quality scale will have a mic input. There are several different kinds, mini-plugs to XLR, so you have to have a mic and camera input that are compatible.

If you are shooting low-budget video, you can get a cheap lav at places like Radio Shack for about $25 that will plug in using a mini jack. Unless you have a fairly expensive camcorder, it will have a mini jack if it has an audio input at all. For the price, these work well. I promise you will get ten times better sound using a $25 dollar lavalier than just relying on the camera's shotgun mic.

So next time you are making video, keep these tips in mind for better sound quality.

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