Video 101: Your Guide To Getting A+ Audio With Your DSLR


video blogging audio production

What's the most important element of video recording? Most would say the visuals, but if you're an experienced videographer, you know it's the audio. It's happened all too many times before — you record some great footage, you get home and upload your footage, then finally take a look it. But wait… it looks amazing, but it sounds awful!

Check out our tips for getting A+ audio so this never happens to you again:

External Microphone

Having an external microphone plugged in through the mini jack is an easy way to provide clean audio for you video recording (without the hassle of syncing the sound later). In most cases, you simply mount the mic to the hot shoe on top of the camera, plug the microphone in, turn the microphone on, and you're ready to go.

When picking out a microphone, do your research and don't skimp on the cost. Low cost microphones are more prone to mucking up what should be a good audio recording — and more often than not, you won't realize the issue until you are back at your computer when it's too late. Remember, fixing sound in post-production isn't easy — actually, it's extremely hard. You don't want to end up with any buzzing, hissing, or other distracting noises on your recording. Furthermore, not all DSLRs allow you to monitor sound through headphones, so remember you are taking a gamble.

How do I choose between a boom/lavaliere/camera mounting microphone?

The type of microphone you use mainly has to do with the scenario you are planning to shoot. Common options include a boom microphone, which suspends above your subject; a lavaliere mic, which clips to he lapel of the subject; a shotgun mic, which mounts to the camera; or a handheld microphone, like a reporter on the news may use.

When to use…

  • Boom: Situations where you need to collect audio from multiple subjects in close proximity to each other, but don't want to deal with the wires involved with lavalieres or the sensitivity of shotgun microphones. Often best for “all around” sound recording.
  • Lavaliere: Best for recording voices in interview situations. Lavalieres will pick up the sound of the voice and work well at blocking out any other distracting noises, even if you're outdoors. But users beware, lavalieres make a crunchy noise if hit or fiddled with, so make sure your subject knows not to touch it.
  • Shotgun: Shotgun microphones are mounted atop the camera and captures sound happening directly in front of the camera — however, if you are using a handheld camera without a tripod, be wary of moving the camera too much, it will affect the sound. Another warning — background noises are prone to be recorded using a shotgun.
  • Handheld: If you are at an event and reporting, a handheld mic might be a good call. Like a lavaliere and a shotgun it picks up sound from wherever it is pointed.

Asses your situation and pick your microphone to what you think will work best for you.

Recording Independent Audio

If you want to try a more advanced way of audio recording, one option is recording your audio independently of your visuals. First off, dedicated audio editing software is better for tweaking sound than any video editing software, and second, with these devices you can use an external microphone or rely on the built-in microphones mounted on the device itself. Furthermore, with the higher-quality separate audio recording, you will have more control over your sound levels.

Syncing the audio is fairly easy. First, you want to make sure you also record audio on your camera (aside from just the independent audio device). The next step is to clap your hands on camera at the beginning of your recordings, then sync the visual and two audio claps together when editing. Once it's synced, delete the camera's audio recording and keep the independent one.

Camera Enhancing Software

Magic Lantern is a free software tool that you can install on most DLSR cameras that allows for more features and functionality for both visual and audio recordings. An article on Locker Gnome explains:

“This firmware overlay (not actually a firmware replacement) adds some incredible features to many of the more popular DSLR cameras out there for video recording including a built-in automatic gain control (AGC) override.

DSLRs are notorious for having automatic gain control baked in to the firmware in a way that doesn’t allow you any actual control over how much gain is applied to your audio track. The Canon Rebel T2i is one of these devices, and for the most part recording audio through it is a nightmare, even with external microphones. If you throw Magic Lantern on, the AGC can be turned off which enables you to grab audio as it should be recorded from your microphone without the noise and hiss commonly associated with overdriven amplifiers.”

Of course, it will take some fiddling and practice, but once you get the hang of your particular settings, you are more likely to get crystal clear audio.

In a nutshell, audio is vital to your recordings, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Practice and test your equipment with friends before you decide to shoot.

What are some techniques you use to get a good sound recording?

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2 Responses

  1. The Glamorous Housewife

    I happen to make videos for my blog and sound is a huge problem. The first video camera I had purchased didn’t have the ability for any type of micing so I purchased a second one. I still have yet to find a mic that works the way I want it to, and the ones I know will work are CRAZY expensive. The good news is I can now use one camera for close-ups and the other for a wider shot. Here is my video channel if you are interested:

    Thanks doll,
    The Glamorous Housewife

  2. Jacqueline Jax

    I have used many different kinds of things for different situations. But I always use backup audio via my iPad or iPod a I-rig mic and the vocal live app via IK multimedia. It’s my go to backup plan so I always get great audio if something happens with the camera. For video, I have used everything from flip cameras to a vixia to my computer or iPad. I have heard that the DSLRs are great so maybe that’s coming next. Here’s my video channels: