Cameras and built in Microphones – A Marriage of Convenience

wedding-rings-public-domainOkay, so yes. I’ll start out by acknowledging that Marriages of Convenience can sometimes work. And built in microphones in cameras can sometimes work too.

But for the most part —  an external microphone is always the better bet.

In the next few articles, I’ll talk about the various kinds of techniques and gear that video makers can use to get good sound. To begin with, some words about those built ins and why they’re not the best idea.

Stand the same distance from the person you’re going to be shooting. Ask them to talk. Close your eyes. What do you hear?

If you’re no more than a foot away, you’ll likely hear the person pretty clearly.

Step back about four feet.

When I did this yesterday, I heard:

a) the person’s voice. I had to strain because her voice was very soft. Some of the words were lost.

b) the ventilation system in the room.

c) the person sitting next to me coughed. It was loud.

d) And then an ambulance went by.

Built in camera mikes will pick up all of that sound. They are what are called “omni directional” microphones. Which means, they record everything they hear, at the same sound levels as your ears are hearing.

So, my recording picked up:

a) the main speaker. But she was very soft. I could hear her most of the time, but I was straining.

b) the sound of the constant furnace, which also masked the sound of my speaker.

c) the cough. Really loud. Ouch. My ears hurt.

d) and then the ambulance sound, which masked the cough, the furnace and my speaker.

Many video makers I talk to say that sound is one of their biggest frustrations. But it doesn’t have to be. There are many easy ways to get good quality sound from the get go, and make it sparkle in post.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be doing series of posts about Getting Good Sound for Video.

Next in the series, choosing the right kind of microphone.

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Interview Basics – Part 2 – Recording the Interview

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Okay, so you’ve done your preinterview and know what you are going to ask.  It’s showtime.  

Before the interview:

Organize your technology. Arrive early. Check out the location that you have chosen. Make sure that no loud noises or construction crews have appeared since your last visit. (This happens. Frequently – when it does, think fast. And change location)

Be organized and calm. If you are flustered, your guest will be flustered too. The best way to relax your guest is to be relaxed yourself.

Check your gear. Take your time, do a short test recording and listen back to make sure your gear is working correctly. If you are working with a camera crew, make sure they have about half an hour before the shoot to set up.

Greet your guest. Say hello. Be friendly and personable. Make the person feel at home.  Resist the temptation to talk too much about the questions you’re going to ask.  You don’t want the freshest, best responses coming out before you’re rolling.

When you’re ready to go ..

Greet your guest. Say hello. Be friendly and personable. Make the person feel at home.  Resist the temptation to talk too much about the questions you’re going to ask.  You don’t want the freshest, best responses coming out before you’re rolling.

Keep your questions short and tight. The listeners want to hear your guest, not you. Your function is to get your guest to talk about the issue/subject. Avoid long and rambling questions. They are usually a sign that you don’t really know what your question is. Especially if your guest has to ask “excuse me, what was the question?”.

Stick to the questions you’ve pre-scripted. When you planned your questions, you crafted a “flow” to the conversation. Your questions are your roadmap. If something interesting comes up, and you have time, you may want to follow the tangent. But always return to your questions and keep the interview on track.

Avoid jargon. If your guest uses a term that your listeners won’t understand, ask “what’s that?”. Your listeners are not experts. Your role is to make the interview understandable. Avoid acronyms and abbreviations and “shop talk”, unless your target audience is a professional group that understands the shop talk.

Watch the clock. If your interview is scheduled to go ten minutes, don’t make it fifteen. Or five.

After the interview …

Check your recording.  Technical malfunctions can happen, even to seasoned pros. Make sure the recording is there.

Thank your guest.

Respond to her questions. Like “when will it be done?”. “When can I hear it online?”.

Confirm contact info.

And then, pack up, go home and get your post-production done (editing, packaging with themes, voice intros etc).  If you’ve followed these instructions, you won’t have a lot of editing to do.

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