Photography News Issue 57

Photography News | Issue 57 | photographynews.co.uk

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Feature

Sound advice Whether you are shooting videos for social media or making a record of your holiday of a lifetime, you need to think about sound as well as picture quality. In short, what you need is a decent microphone Audio Basics: Part 1 – choosing amic

Words by AdamDuckworth

Most modern cameras shoot movies in at least Full HD, but 4Kvideo is becoming increasingly popular. So, for many users shooting for Facebook Live and YouTube, image quality is not an issue at all because current kit gives really high-quality images. But where your camera will let you down, despite any manufacturer claims to the contrary, is in the audio department and, as sound constitutes 50% of any footage (unless you’re shooting a silent movie!), it’s important to give this serious consideration if you want quality results. Put simply, to record decent audio you need a proper microphone, and by ‘proper’ we’re not talking about those tiny built-in microphones that pick up every click and whirr emitted by your camera and are dreadfully prone to wind noise. These tiny mics are omnidirectional, meaning they record sound from all around them. They are also not particularly sensitive, so the camera turns up the internal gain to get a useable signal. This is the aural equivalent of cranking up the ISO, meaning there is lots of background noise. In sound terms, this is often a low-pitched hum. To get better results from your movie- capable DSLR or mirrorless camera, you need a proper microphone designed for the purpose. Plug it directly into your camera – assuming it has a microphone socket – so it records high- quality audio alongside the video footage. The output from an external plug-in microphone is far better than the tinny internal mic, and often this output is adjustable, too – you can turn down the audio level on the camera. This reduces the in-camera gain and makes a massivedifference, especially inquietmoments where a low humwill be very noticeable. External mics tend to be of a shotgun type, which means there is a long tube that the noise travels down that is pointed towards what you are trying to record. This makes them more directional and cuts down the noise from around the camera. A basic unit like the Røde VideoMic Go only costs around £65 and weighs in at just 73g. Using an external microphone is not difficult at all. All you have to do is slip it onto your camera’s hotshoe and plug it into the mic socket – that’s it. There is nothing to adjust, and it doesn’t even take batteries. It isn’t suitable for all cameras but works perfectly

with the vast majority of modern DSLR and mirrorless cameras. It comes with a shock mounting, which reduces vibrations from the camera or surroundings, and even has a foam rubber windshield to cut down on wind noise. The result is a far crisper, clearer sound that’s significantly better than that of any internal mic. Spend a little more and you can take a step up to microphone types that have become almost industry standard with professional filmmakers who use small cameras. These are powered microphones that offer adjustable gain so you can fine-tune the audio levels to the situation. Each microphone also features a super-cardioid recording pattern which picks up more sound from in front of the mic, less from behind and even less from the sides. The £130 Røde VideoMic Pro is typical of this type and uses a 20dB preamplifier which boosts the output so that the camera will receive a good signal level and not turn up its gain. The VideoMic Pro is powered by a standard 9V battery which works for more than 70 hours, gives broadcast quality audio, has a two-step high-pass filter (flat, 80Hz) and three- position level control at -10dB, 0 and +20dB. It comeswith awindshield and shockmount, too. Røde recently unveiled an upgraded and redesigned version, called the VideoMic Pro+, which costs £99 more than the Pro and

Images Rode’s selection of external microphones ranges from a basic unit, the Go, to the more high-end Stereo VideoMic Pro. But all are easy to use and to attach to your camera.

can run on two AA batteries or the included rechargeable lithium cell, or via Micro USB. To save power, the mic also switches itself off when it’s unplugged from the camera. And more auto functions ensure the audio quality is optimised. All these mics output two mono channels, which is ideal for most recording of dialogue. But for capturing environmental and ambient sounds, as well as live music, a stereo mic such as Røde’s £140 Stereo VideoMic Pro is a better solution. It has a pair of high-resolution condenser capsules and is of very high sensitivity, and it has a selectable high-pass filter to cut out noise from things such as air

NEXTMONTH HOW TO USE YOUR MIC OFF- CAMERA, PLUS ACCESSORIES YOU SHOULD OWN. conditioners and traffic. And a -10dB level setting allows recording of loud sound sources, such as live music or motorsport. Whichever you choose, it will be so much better than your internal mic and give a real boost to your films, wherever you show them.

By ‘proper’ we’re not talking about those tiny built-in microphones that pick up every click

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