Audio for DSLR

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Audio is 50% of your video, people are more likely to watch a video with good sound and poor visuals than good visuals and poor sound. Why? Because in most cases it’s the audio that is driving the narrative. If your viewer can’t understand the story, they’ll click away.

Let’s keep things simple (for now)

There are a whole lot of options available, but I’m going to keep things as simple as possible – for now. Later in a Term 2 workshop, we’ll give you more instructions and more options. As always, you’ll also need to do some research on your own – and be sure to check out the best options for your specific camera model.

Firstly, do not get sucked into  the false question ” Which is better, a lavalier or a shotgun?”, they are not in competition – different mics serve different purposes and scenarios. Eventually, you’ll want both a lavalier and a shotgun. For the first term, a recorder and lav mic will do just fine.

So, let’s master the most basic set-ups for recording a) interviews and b) ambient sound. Once you master this, you might want to try different options and set ups because as mentioned earlier, different scenarios require different audio set-ups. The basic options here are limiting for example, if you want to interview your subject while he or she is on the move. Also, these set-ups may not work if you have more than one interviewee or want to record candid dialogue. However, you won’t typically need to worry about these scenarios in Term 1. If you do – you’ll need to do some independent research and then come to tutors for some advice.

So, let’s get back to those basic options. We recommend:

  • A lavalier mic for interviews
  • A recorder or shotgun mic for rich ambient sounds

Internal camera microphones suck. They can be used for some unimportant ambient sound, but for your most important evocative ambients sounds you should definitely be using either a shotgun microphone or recorder and getting in close to the sound.

*Note, I’m not covering the basics of audio here, if you want the basics – you’ll need to go to the class notes and the audio section in www.multimediatrain.


Tie clip or lavalier for interviews:

3 main options:

  • Sync dual system sound (i.e. record your audio on a separate device and sync in post) *NOTE – If you have a Zoom H1, you will need to check that your specific mic works with the H1 – Not all lav’s work with it. Mics that do work include mics powered by an external battery power such as the Audio-Technica ATR3350, the Azden EX503 also works as does the Rode smartLav+ with Rode SC3 TRRS to TRS adapter.
  • lavelier plugged directly into the camera
  • lavalier plugged into the camera – but channelled through a recorder (or preamp). For this. If you are using a recorder, i.e. the Zoom H4 or Zoom H1 you will need a line to microphone attenuation cable such as the Kopul ACH4-25MON.

Sync dual system sound. (For those on a budget who want great quality audio and don’t mind spending the time and energy syncing audio in post) With this option, you record a video / low-quality audio file on your camera and a high-quality audio file on a recorder. Put your lav mic on your interviewee and plug it to your recorder. You’ll probably need a simple 20 RMB extension cable to extend the length or the mic cable. Hit record on the audio and camera at roughly the same time and make a loud clap so that you can use the audio spike to help you to sycn the files in the edit. Monitor you audio with levels and headphones.

Pros / cons: The plus point of this option is hi quality audio on a very low budget. The negative point is that you need to sync audio in post production. Be very careful to download, archive and back up your audio files carefully.

*NOTE – If you have a Zoom H1, you will need to check that your specific mic works with the H1 – Not all lav’s work with it. Mics that do work include mics powered by an external battery power such as the Audio-Technica ATR3350, the Azden EX503 also works as does the Rode smartLav+ with Rode SC3 TRRS to TRS adapter.

 

lavelier plugged directly into camera. (For those who are too lazy to synch their audio in post or working on tight deadlines and don’t mind a lower audio quality – this options works for term 1, but may need a rethink for term 2 & 3 if the quality is too low) Plug your lavalier straight into the camera. It’s that simple.

Pros / cons: The plus point is that there is no need to synch audio later. The minus point is that it’s not the optimal quality, because you are using the cameras preamps. Which are not that great. You’ll likley need to clean up your audio in post prodcution. Depending on your camera you may have an additional problem. Not all cameras have a head phone jack. So while you maybe able to monitor audio levels, on screen – you won’t actually be able to hear the sound. So if the mic is rusltling on clothing for example, you won’t hear that. Here are a couple of tips to solve these issues. To clean up your sound in audition this video shows two methods, I prefer the second methos which starts at 3.20 secs into the video. If you want to add a headphone jack – you could try these hacks. They cost around 300 RMB, well worth it.

lavalier plugged into the camera – but channelled through a recorder (or preamp) (For thos who want to buy a couple extra accesories and get the benifit of quality audio without the hassle of syncing in post)

This method requires you to plug your lav mic into your recorder and then run a cable from you recorder to your camera – which you’ll attach to your camera. To do this you’ll need some kind of Hot Shoe to 1/4-Inch Adapter, (very cheap and easy to pick up). You will need a line to microphone attenuation cable such as the Kopul ACH4-25MON. (Not quite so cheap or easy to pick up – but has a huge added bonus of providing a headphone monitor jack if your camera doesn’t already have one).

Pros / cons: The plus point is that there is no need to synch audio later and you’ll get high quality audio. The minus point is that you need to buy some extra cables and attachments, in my opnion however, this is a small price to pay for quality audio and losing the hassle of synching audio in post. The extra cable you’ll need is the Kopul ACH4-25MON Line-to-Mic Attenuator Cable it’s designed to connect your digital recorder (e.g. Zoom H4n, Zoom H6, etc.) output to the mic level input of your DSLR camera with 25dB of attenuation to step down the hot line level audio to microphone level. It features a 1/8″ headphone tap that allows you to monitor the signal to your camera and is shielded to reduce RF noise and provide interference-free operation.

You may also want to check out the external pre-amp option. I wouldn’t recommend this until the end of term 1 or term 2. If you are interested check out this – Get Better DSLR Audio Quality by Using a Good Preamp: Beachtek vs. juicedLink vs. Zoom H4n


A recorder or shotgun mic for rich ambient sounds

This section is pretty simple, right? Either use a recorder or shotgun plugged into the camera for your b-roll / ambient sound.

  • With a recorder you’ll need to synch sound (unless you plug it to your DSLR with an attenuator cable – see tutorials below)
  • With a DSLR shot gun mic like the rode or seinheisser  can simply attach and plug into your camera

For rich ambient sounds, whicever technique you use – get your mic in close.


MUST WATCH TUTORIALS

A good video for Entry-Level Audio Options for DSLR from B&H. The video starts off with options for ambient sound – DSLR shot-gun and recorder on camera.

ANOTHER MUST WATCH….

ARE YOU GOING WITH A DUAL SYSTEM OPTION? WATCH THIS.


EXTRA TIPS & TUTORIALS

There are a lot of video tutorials out there – this is a pretty carefully selected selection. If you find good tutorials online – let me know.

Tips for operating your H1:

*Note, I differ on one point – which is deleting files from the card. I think it’s safer to download all audio files, then delete from the card – either in the recorder or in your computer. Do not delete anything until you have downloaded everything from your shoot – otherwise, you are in danger of deleting the wrong file.

Pluggin your H1 recorder into your camera – watch the tutorial below. You will need a 3mm to 3mm cable. for best quality – It should be an attenuated cable, as advised earlier.

 Monitoring interviews – make your own headphone jack

If you want to add a headphone jack – you could try these hacks. They cost around 300 RMB, well worth it.

Clean up your interview audio in post production

To clean up your sound in audition this video shows two methods, I prefer the second methos which starts at 3.20 secs into the video.

Hide your mic

Audio for DSLR Part 1 – Run & Gun – In this video we look at ways to improve the in-camera audio on “run & gun” style, single-operator shoots using camera mountable mics that plug directly into the camera’s 3.5mm external mic input.

Audio Recording Tips: Lavalier Microphones

5 Ways to use the Zoom H1 Audio Recorder

Hack your zoom H1

Today I show you how to upgrade your Zoom H1 recorder with 2 XLR inputs, 2 outputs with NO soldering! – this is such a great hack!

You have a H4? Watch this

 

Really you want more? Try these…

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