Last time, we talked about the advantages of external mics. However, if you are not yet prepared to add sound equipment to your bag of video accessories, there are some things that you can do to make the best of your camera’s on-board mic.
The closer the mic is to the sound source the better the audio will be, whether it’s a $10 mic or a $100 mic. Most video scenarios are too far from the sound source to record clean audio. The on-board mic is designed to pick up on any sound available; unfortunately, most of time, the mic simply records background noise. To get a good soundbite for your video, you can stop shooting for a moment and close in on your subject, holding the microphone as close as possible. When you have some good audio, you can return to shooting. You can edit the separate audio and video together later on.
In general, it is more difficult to control sound quality outside than it is in your home. One of the worst problems with outdoor external noise is wind. Some camcorders have a wind control switch, but usually these don’t help all that much. You can always try turning your back to the wind, but the direction of the wind can change at any moment. It’s best to avoid shooting on windy days altogether, however, you can use the technique described above and shoot your video on mute and record sound to add later.
Your camcorder may have come with a feature called a “zoom microphone”. This feature is supposed to be able gauge the distance from the subject as the lens zooms in on a subject. What really happens is that the camera mixes two different microphone signals together, the stereo(wide-angle) mic and the mono(telephoto) mic, resulting in fuzzy sounding audio. This feature can be turned off on most camcorders.
Any cutting down of background noise or echoing will help to improve your audio. When shooting indoors, it is best to shoot in a room with carpet of padded furniture that can absorb sound waves and prevent echoes, or reverb. Sometimes, just relocating within the room can cut down on unwanted noise. If you are shooting a scene in the kitchen, which has a tile floor, it may help reduce reverb if you stand outside the kitchen in the carpeted living room.
Learning to listen to the sounds around you is a key to capturing quality sound for your videos. You might consider buying a set of headphones so that you can hear what your camcorder is “hearing”. Understanding how mics work will help you decide what type of microphone is best for a given situation.