Over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking a lot about self-filming on the Ember blog and, although the camera on something as everyday as your smartphone is capable of capturing high-quality visuals, they usually fall a bit flat when it comes to capturing great sound.
When you’re investing in recording equipment, it’s important to understand which hardware best fits your specific needs. Here are a few examples:
If you watch a lot of online live streams or vlogs, you may have seen a few of these kinds of microphones. The benefit of these, particularly for self-filming or podcasting, is that they’re affordable and fairly simple to use: you can plug one into your USB port and capture a clearer, cleaner recording of your voice than your computer’s onboard mic would provide.
What you gain in convenience and accessibility though, you do lose in other areas - the sound quality will be serviceable but not perfect, and you’re limited in terms of how you can use a USB mic as part of a larger, more complex audio set-up. Though these do the job for recording at home, a more long-term professional solution would be to invest more money in a microphone with XLR connectors that can be linked up to a wider array of equipment, including audio mixers and cameras. The XLR connection (pictured below), though certainly more niche than USB, is the industry standard connection, designed for top-notch audio and a part of the other tools listed below.
You’ll definitely have seen these small lapel mics, or lavalier microphones, being used on TV by news readers, presenters, and interviewees. These clip simply onto a speaker’s clothes and, often being connected wirelessly to the camera or audio interface by a small radio transmitted, they’re really unobtrusive and ideal for freeing their users up to speak calmly and naturally.
When using one of these, it’s important to do a thorough sound check before recording. Particular risks to look out for include making sure that the subject’s clothes don’t rustle and interfere with the recording, and - with the wireless radio connection - making sure no interference sneaks in from other frequencies.
Also commonly used in film and TV, these are often good for more impromptu “vox pop” interviews with members of the general public because of their portability and directional focus, which (like a shotgun) makes it easy to just aim them and record the sounds you want.
Where the lapel mic can, for the most part, be left on its own while recording though; the shotgun mic needs a bit more maintenance. If you’re recording an interview, for example, you’ll need to keep the mic aimed towards the interviewee’s face, and - when recording outside - you’ll want to use a soft foam shield to counter wind noise.
In many cases too, the mic will be positioned at the end of a long “boom” pole, which will need to be held up for long periods of time and - crucially - kept out of the view of the camera.
If you want the immersive soundscape of a location to be a part of a video or podcast that you’re making, a compact field recorder can be a perfect solution. Like, the shotgun mic, you’ll need a windshield if you’re using it to record outside.
Though, on their own, they’re not the best tool for recording voice-overs or interviews; many of these recorders - such as the Zoom H4N - have XLR inputs and can be used as an audio interface with the other microphones mentioned, giving you a portable way of tweaking volume levels and checking the quality of your recordings.
At Ember, we have access to a wide range of audio tools and our own recording studio set up for podcasts and voice-over recordings. If you’d like to find out more about how we could work with you or your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via our contact page.