How to record audio?

October 25, 2016
A great idea that saves time

The lavalier microphone

A lavalier is a small microphone that clips onto your speaker's shirt. Lavaliers are a great option if your talent is going to be moving around, and there are both wired and wireless versions.

However, lavalier microphones are particularly finicky. Whether or not they'll capture good audio depends on getting the perfect placement. Start by placing the lav about six inches below your talent's chin. Your goal is to make sure that the microphone has a clear path to the mouth.

Often, lavalier microphones are visible to the camera. This, coupled with the fact that they're pretty invasive to a talent's personal space, is why we choose not to use them at Wistia.

Pros:

  • Talent can move about freely without affecting the audio.
  • Variety of inexpensive options.
  • Minimal ambient noise.
  • Lots of wireless options.

Cons:

  • Invasive to the talent's personal space.
  • Calls attention to itself on screen.
  • Often needs post-production EQ treatment to reduce "muddiness."
  • Poor placement can lead to scratchy audio from clothing.
  • "It just looks stupid." - Chris Lavigne.

If you're interested in buying a lavalier mic, here are a few options to look into!

The shotgun microphone

The shotgun microphone is the most directional of microphone options. It has a very narrow pickup pattern, which means it picks up sound from the front and rejects sound from other directions. Point the shotgun microphone at something, and it's going to focus on it like a laser beam.

The shotgun mic makes voices sound close and clear without being visible in the shot or invading the subject's personal space. Ideal shotgun microphone placement is right above the subject's head and just in front of their mouth.

Pro-tip:

If you have two people on screen, place the microphone between the subjects and angle the subjects slightly towards the microphone.

  • Great at picking up and isolating sound from one subject.
  • Captures clear sound without having to be in the shot.
  • Blends in a touch of ambient sound to help audio sound natural.
  • Can stay set up in your studio, allowing for people to get on camera quickly.
  • Far less invasive than a lavalier.
  • Bad audio if the subject sways slightly out of its "pick-up zone".
  • Requires another stand or someone to hold a boom pole.
  • Expensive.

Here's a shopping list if you're interested in going the shotgun mic route:

The iPhone microphone

If you're in a pinch or working with a limited budget, use the microphone you already have! The iPhone has a surprisingly good microphone built right in. One thing to consider is that the iPhone microphone is omni-directional, meaning it will pick up and record sound from everywhere in the room. Other smartphones include solid microphone options, too.

On the iPhone, launch the included Voice Memo application to record audio. Follow the same principles on microphone placement outlined above and get the iPhone as close to your subject as possible without being in the shot.

If you're using your iPhone as a video camera, borrow a friend's iPhone to record separate "sync sound". In editing, you can take the good sound from your friend's iPhone and line it up with the bad sound from the iPhone being used as a video camera.

Portable audio recorders

While DSLR cameras provide incredible video quality, they don't have XLR inputs or high quality on-board microphones. Portable audio recorders fill that gap.

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