Have you ever watched a television show or a video clip online that had bad audio? The visuals may have been superb, but the audio was lacking and it bothered you so much you had to change the channel or exit the video. Sometimes the audio isn’t clear or loud enough, and at times it can sound full of reverb and distant. If you (the storyteller) do not take charge of your audio, you too will have this problem. It’s important not to rely on your camera’s built in microphone. In order for your sound to sound great you either need to place a mic on your talent or near your talent (like a boom from above) so you can achieve the best signal to noise ratio. The stronger the signal is, whether it be a person’s voice, guitar, etc. the better the sound will be. If your talent is talking into a microphone that is supplied by the venue or dj, you can plug a field recorder into the dj’s mixer to get the best possible sound.
Whenever I am shooting an event and I can’t be close to my subject at all times, I plug my field recorder into a mixer. Now if the event does not have a mixer I mic up the individual with a small field recorder called a Zoom H1. You can plug a lavalier microphone into the Zoom and tuck the cord under the shirt or jacket of your talent. The Zoom is small enough to place into a pants pocket or jacket. Now, this sound is being recorded separately from the camera. You will need to sync both audio tracks up in post, I talk about this later in the article.
Sound is just as important as audio. Audio tells the story just as much as visuals do. Imagine if you were not able to hear all the great sound effects in movie like Star Wars? Half the film is built around sound design. I mean, audio is such an important part of filmmaking that they have Academy awards dedicated to it. Therefore, it is important to capture the best sound possible. We live in a day where field recorders, and good ones at that are not too expensive. It is up to you as the storyteller to give your audience the best sound you can. You owe it to your client, the audience and yourself. Here is an example of some audio I captured. In this clip I have toggled back and forth from audio from the camera and my field recorder that was plugged into the dj’s mixer. Listen to how hollow the sound is, how empty it is, how distant it is from my camera’s mic, and then you can hear the difference once the audio field recorder is used.
One reason to plug your field recorder into a dj’s mixer is that it gives you flexibility to move around the room if need be. You can get several shots from different angles and not have to worry about being close to your subject. Being able to capture sound from the camera’s microphone and the field recorder that is plugged into the dj’s mixer is called dual recording. Dual recording is an audio process that needs to be synced. See, your camera is recording the sound which is used as a scratch track, and the field recorder is the sound you’ll want to use for your film. The sound coming from the camera’s mic is just a reference. Audio software such as Pluraleyes work wonders for people who choose to work with dual audio. Once you have recorded your sound you import your camera’s sound and the sound captured by the field recorder and sync them up by using Pluraleyes. Pluraleyes looks at both audio tracks and uses the camera’s audio as a reference track. It looks at both audio tracks sound waves and then aligns them. If you are doing a simple interview where you will not need to stop recording and then start recording you can just clap loud before the interview starts and use the clap as the reference point to line up your audio. This method does not need Pluraleyes to work, but if you are shooting an event you can’t constantly be clapping. If you are hiring a videographer for an event, please do yourself a favor and ask them how they plan on capturing the sound.
I have been working in television/media for over 16 years. My experience includes news photojournalist, editor, and storyteller. It is my belief that you have a chance to better your skills each time you pick up the camera. I strive to be better than I was yesterday.