Audio is arguably the most important part of your video. People will tolerate poor quality video, but they will not tolerate bad audio.
If you have any room in your budget, consider putting it toward high-quality audio equipment. If buying new gear isn’t feasible, you can still make your videos sound better by following a few simple steps.
Keep the microphone close to your subject
The key to recording quality audio is to keep the microphone as close to your subject as possible. This helps reduce background noise and will ensure that you get a clean audio feed from your subject.
Rule of thumb: Arm’s length away, internal mic OK
If you’re taking a selfie video and holding your device in your hand, its internal microphone should be sufficient. Be sure your hand isn’t covering the microphone while you’re recording. Internal microphones on most smartphones tend to be more capable than the ones in digital cameras. Still, you should do a couple of test recordings to make sure your device will be adequate.
Use a separate audio recorder and external microphone
If your device is farther away than an arm’s length, a separate audio recorder and microphone is a must. An audio recorder can be anything from a laptop to a professional audio board.
Some recorders may double as a microphone. This can be a great option when you’re recording voice-overs or narration and don’t have to worry about the recorder being in the shot. When you’re filming the speaker onscreen, an external microphone is essential to getting top-quality audio.
If you’re filming with a video camera or DSLR camera, find an external microphone that connects to your camera so that you’re recording video and audio in one device. This bypasses the need for a separate audio recorder. There are a wide variety of directional camera mics that will plug into your camera and attach to the top.
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If you’re filming with a smartphone, look for external lavalier microphones that can plug into your phone or other device. Depending on your phone and the connections on the microphone, you may need to get an adapter in order to plug the mic in properly. If you’re using a Mac computer as your audio recorder, you can record your track through QuickTime.
Handheld recorders are a great option if you do a lot of videos and want to have a dedicated audio device and workflow. Most handheld recorders feature their own speakers, for playback, which makes them great for voiceover work. They also have an outlet for a lavalier microphone. Handheld recorders let you adjust settings as needed so you can be sure to capture great audio no matter where you’re recording.
Shotgun microphones are long bar or barrel-shape mics that can be attached to a pole and be positioned overhead and out of frame. These directional mics filter out background noise and capture only the sounds directly in front of them. Your phone also can act as a shotgun mic. Attach it to a pole above or below your subject and record through the Voice Memo app or other audio recording app.
If you’re an iPhone user, Apple EarPods can double as your lavalier microphone. Tuck the earbud into your collar or shirt and position the microphone bar along your chest like you would with a lav mic.
Avoid recording with Bluetooth microphones
Audio gets compressed as it’s transmitted over the Bluetooth bandwidth. This means that your audio file will not be as high a quality as it would be with a wired microphone. Lavalier microphones, which use a transmitter to connect to the receiver, don’t have to sacrifice quality for convenience.
Audio gear has become more efficient and capable over the years. Because there are lots of options, it’s easy to get bogged down trying to learn the latest and greatest setup. The best thing you can do is keep it simple. Find the solution that works best for you and your content.
Kathryn Price is a video producer and designer at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.