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DSLR Audio – Lavalier vs Shotgun Microphone

One of the best ways to increase the production value of your DSLR video is to record great audio. Here's a short video that will help you record better audio whether you use a lavalier or a shotgun microphone. This post on my DSLR video blog has tons of comments – the video really helps you understand which mic to choose.

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  • Billy Haynes says:

    What do you think about mounting a Zoom H1 or 2 on a bridge camera hot shoe (with Zoom $20 HS-1 Adaptor) instead of mounting a shot gun mic ? Also why go into a Zoom recorder instead of the camera external mic input.

    • adriel says:

      Good question.

      Mounting an H1, H2 or any similar recorder on the hot shoe of a camera will give you good results – if you’re looking to record the general ambiant sound around you. They are somewhat directional but they capture a wide stereo image. So, if you’re shooting a string quartet or a small choir you’ll get a decent recording if you put the camera right in the middle and don’t move it.

      If you’re shooting a person talking you’ll get a lot of room and not much of the person unless you’re within a couple of feet – not a good camera placement.

      A shotgun mounted on the camera will give you a more focused pickup pattern and it will be a single mono channel. As a result you’ll get lots less ambiance and more of the person talking. But unless you’re within a four feet of the person talking you’ll still get a lot of the room along with their voice. And you’ll get even more change in the sound from a shotgun mic if you move the camera with mic mounted on the top.

      The best results come when the mic is as close the person talking as possible and not mounted on the camera. Then you can get great shots and great sound with no compromise. And you won’t pick up noise from the camera while you’re shooting.

      The reason you go into a recorder and then into the camera is so you can monitor the sound of the recording. Recorders have more reliable meters for setting levels and they have headphone output so you can hear what’s being picked up by the mic. Cameras don’t have headphone output and the ones with meters are difficult to use.

      You wouldn’t try to shoot without looking at the view finder. You shouldn’t try to record without monitoring the recording.

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Billy Haynes says:

        Very helpful. thank you. I watched every tutorial on audio from goodaudiotracks and Indy Mogul last night…One tutorial advised not using wireless lavaliere but using wired instead and putting the H-1 in the pocket of the guy talking. On my project, which I am winging and tackling learning curves on-the-run, wireless would probably be better, assume a receiver would plug into the Zoom.

        It’s all very complicated, in my opinion. At this point, I’m thinking two-system, audio separate from video, thus not even using camera ext. mic input, relying on a hand-clap or clap board, would cut through a lot of problems with shooting “wild” and winging it. I’m not sure if audio can be muted in one-system shooting with inexpensive I-Movie editorial. If it can, then I would use camera ext. mic input with a shot gun and lavalier with an H-1 Zoom and attach the Zoom to the camera. My project is supposed to be a low-end Reality TV pilot. I have a month to buy, bone-up and be ready.

        • adriel says:

          Wireless is always an added complication – more batteries to go dead, more cables and connectors to break, more interference from electronic sources out of your control, more noise in the signal, etc. That’s why many of us recommend learning how to use a basic lavalier direct to an H1, locked into record and dropped in a pocket.

          The biggest downside of this approach in my experience is that there’s no way to monitor the audio live. So I don’t like to use it as the only audio recording for the shoot.

          And that’s the same reason I recommend that you use the external mic input on your camera to grab at least a basic reference audio track. More than once this ended up being the only usable track I got from a shoot. Also, you’ll need the audio track on the video to sync up your second audio track to later in post.

          Yes, you can plug a wireless receiver into an H1. Depending on the quality of the receiver, you may or may not have a volume out control so you’ll need to practice to match the output of the receiver to the input level of the H1. The good news is that you’ll be able to monitor the audio from the wireless mic with the headphone output of the H1. There are even cables that will split the headphone output so you can monitor with phones and plug the feed into your camera for a reference track as well.

          I’m not an iMovie user but I’m sure they have some way of turning off an audio track. I’d practice this and write down the work flow when you find one that does the job for you. It’s always better to have more options in post production. Always.

          Let me know if you have further questions and thanks for stopping by!

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