Capturing Good Audio When Shooting With DSLR’s

I see a lot of confusion and misconceptions amongst still photographers as they embrace video using the DSLR camera. For many audio is an after thought which is a big mistake because audio is much more important than the visual. Unless you’re just laying down still images or video clips to music then you have to be able to capture good sound. Some things to consider and remember.

1. You’ll never get good sound with the camera microphone – only use the camera mic for reference audio.

2. Don’t buy a camera that won’t let you use external microphones – unless you will be capturing your audio separately and syncing it later in post.

3. If “running and gunning” – you can probably get away with using a mic mounted on the camera as long as you are close to your audio source. You can either use a mic with a mini plug and connect it to the camera OR you can run the mic via an xlr cord to a mixer like a JuicedLink or a Beachtek, which is much better, rendering a cleaner audio capture.

4. For interviews, most likely you won’t want your camera to be extremely close to your subject. So you won’t want to use a mic mounted on the camera – it’s too far away. I rig a shotgun mic on a boom stand and I also use a lav on the subject and run both into my camera if I’m using a traditional video camera or into my JuicedLink mixer if I want to capture the sound on the same card as the audio.

5. When using a DSLR camera, capturing your audio separately with a digital recorder is ideal. I use a Samson H4N Zoom that not only has a built in dual stereo mic but two XLR inputs. I run my shotgun mic and lav mic into the Zoom and then sync the sound later in post with software called Plural Eyes. Make sure you keep the audio on in the camera as well to use as a reference for syncing later on.

6. When using a device like the zoom that has a built in mic – remember that even though this is a quality mic – you MUST get the mic in close to your sound – no more than a foot away. I prefer not to use this mic but rather a shotgun because a shotgun is more focused and won’t pick up a lot of the ambient noise.

7. Use headphones. Don’t just look at your meters – wear headphones and make sure that you are getting quality sound. You could be picking up interference or static.

8. Always consider your audio even for your b-roll – you need some audio – even if you only intend it as ambient background sound.

9. I only use a wireless system when I need to. In cities like New York you can get a lot of interference on the frequencies. Always go wired if you can. And if you find yourself needing a wireless system, spend the money to get a system that has a good range.

10. Be quiet and tell your crew to be quiet as well. You never know when you’ll want to use the audio – even if you think you won’t need it.

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5 thoughts on “Capturing Good Audio When Shooting With DSLR’s

  1. Mark Green July 14, 2010 / 9:56 am

    Wonderful list Gail. Even though I know most of that, it is awesome to see it in such a concise fashion.

    Reading between the lines (you know me), I can tell that you have probably had some experiences (bad) that have promoted this knowledge. I recognize them!

    7,8,9,10 – been there done that!

    Keep up the great work.

    m

  2. Joanna Pinneo July 23, 2010 / 4:01 pm

    Hi Gail, Thank you for such a useful and thoughtful post. I have been enjoying yur others as well very recently. Your work is lovely. Best, Joanna

  3. ahmad August 1, 2010 / 8:17 am

    really nice, good posting. thank you for information

  4. Jacques DuLong September 21, 2010 / 11:39 pm

    Excellent suggestions. Here’s something else you may not have considered. Instead of a wireless mic rig, just mount a small portable digital recorder like the H4 (I use the Yamaha PockeTrak CX) on the talent with a lavelier. Now you can get perfect dual-system audio quality anywhere from a few feet to a mile away with no radio noise. Use a clapper slate near the talent at the head and tail to ensure proper sync.

  5. bagnato April 17, 2011 / 11:19 am

    thanks so much for this… have done some stopmotion, but all voiceovers done separately. Synching the audio in post was a bit foreign to me, and always wondered how audio was captured for quality with the DSLR cams.

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