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Getting the Best Possible Audio from a Camcorder
When you move from photography to videography as your means of capturing moments either personally or as part of your profession, you enter into a much bigger world with greater challenges as well. For one thing, you now have to deal with issues of movement. The problems of lighting and surface noise are just as big of an issue except now you have subjects that may be on the go and you have to go with them.
But when using a camcorder to capture the event under scrutiny, whether it’s a wedding, a speech or presentation or some other significant event, the issue of having the best quality sound presents unique challenges. So its best to do some concentrated planning on how you are going to accommodate the sound needs of the event to your equipment because if you have wonderful pictures but the words and sounds of the event are muddy or lost, then the quality of your final product is seriously damaged.
Many an unsatisfactory video was taken with a camcorder because the operator depended too heavily on the small microphone that is built into the casing of the machine. The only situation where this microphone may be adequate would be if you were conducting a one on one interview in a small room where you could position the camcorder within three feet of the subject. Even then, surface noise from the surrounding building could become part of the audio outside of the awareness of the operator at the time.
To assure that you have complete awareness of what is going onto your video recording of each event, the investment in a good set of closed back headphones to monitor the audio is an outstanding move. You can plug it into the camcorder and you are dynamically aware of what is going onto that tape at all times. If something gets into the audio that is not appropriate, you can use editing techniques or even re-shoot the segment if that is possible in the context of the event.
For the majority of events, plan to use the auxiliary audio input plug to incorporate a mobile microphone unit rather than depend on the onboard microphone in the camcorder casing. This small plug alone opens up a large range of solutions to the problem of poor camcorder audio that is so often endemic of videos made with this technology.
If you are working with an external microphone, be aware of the limitations of the wire if you are not working with a radio frequency microphone unit. In a situation such as a speaker doing a presentation, you can lay the cord down between the recorder and the speaker’s stand assuming you have sufficient cord length to reach the where the microphone will mount on the stand. Be careful with the excess cord, perhaps securing it with duct tape so those listening to the presentation don’t trip on the cord or pull it free which could cause injury and damage the equipment.
In many situations such as one in which you plan to interview people in a roving fashion or to record a speaker who is on the move a great deal, a radio frequency microphone may be necessary. These can be more expensive but without the investment in this technology, your audio quality relying exclusively on the camcorder built in microphone will almost certainly be disappointing.