For those of you who aren’t planning to ditch YouTube and will keep making videos, you know sound is important. People will forgive a slightly dodgy video if the audio’s perfect. But if the audio isn’t great, then it doesn’t matter how pretty the picture is.
Getting good audio can be a struggle, although it’s really not that difficult. As with lighting, you just need to understand the principles. Once you do, you can even get good quality audio with your phone. In this video, Darious Britt offers up a whole bunch of tips and techniques for recording audio and the principles for getting good sound.
As with camera gear and lenses, audio gear has reduced drastically in price over the last few years. As demand and sales have grown, companies can manufacture more, which means they’re buying their components in larger quantities and the final product becomes less expensive. Chances are, you already own a pretty decent sound recorder and don’t even realise it. That’s the phone in your pocket.
Darious begins by stating that the first rule of getting great sound is to have the microphone as close to your subject as possible. His rule is that it should be no further away than three feet (a little under 1 metre) from your subject’s mouth or whatever’s making the noise. I’ve used a phone in the past myself for recording audio, and it can be very handy. Darious doesn’t even use any specialist recording apps, he just uses the one that came with his phone.
Darious also suggests that if your phone’s audio does suck, then just invest in a cheap recorder like the Zoom H1. While a Zoom H1 won’t give you the best audio in the world, it’s only $99 and certainly better than relying on your camera’s internal mics.
Because they’re so small, they’re very versatile and can easily adapt to many shooting sitations, such as recording dialogue inside a car. For this, Darious uses his H1 on a small PEDCO Ultra clamp, which allows him to attach it pretty much anywhere. The rear view mirror, the gear stick, or even the steering wheel, to get it closer to the subject’s mouth without appearing in the shot.
If you don’t have one of those, then you can always rely on your trusty gaffer tape to attach a recorder to pretty much anything you want. And, if you don’t have somewhere to attach it to, you can always use a cheap light stand with a mini ball head to position it close to your subject just outside of the frame.
But what if your shot’s too wide to have a microphone clamped to something without it being seen? Well, depending on what you’re shooting, there are always ways to hid the microphone. Lav mics are often hidden underneath clothing, in the subject’s hair, or attached to clothing facing away from the camera. But you can also tape it behind other objects in the scene that are close to your subject.
There are plenty of ways to hide microphones and even a recorder if you get creative with it. And if you really can’t hide it from the shot, there are a few options…
- Just put it in the set anyway. Depending on the type of content you’re making, it may not be a problem.
- Cut your dialogue down to the minimum for the wide shot. Re-record the audio for those lines separately and dub in post.
- Cut the dialogue in the wide shot completely, and just save it for the close ups.
- Cut the wide shot completely. Do you really need it?
Not all of these solutions will be applicable all the time, and every situation is different. But there are options.
Another option for wide shots, if your camera’s locked off on a tripod, is to simply record with it in the shot, and then take it out in post.
You really don’t need a whole bunch of fancy and expensive equipment to get good quality sound. You just need to get creative.