Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Connecting a Microphone To Your Camera

I am writing this because I was asked the question, “How do you plug a microphone into a camera?”

Most cameras have a microphone built in for recording sound.  The reason this works well is because it is a complete, closed system.  As soon as you plug a microphone into your camera, you open up the system and can potentially introduce some problems. These problems can be anything from recording worse sound (than just using the built-in microphone) to recording no sound at all.
The main reason you would plug a microphone into a camera is to get the microphone closer to the sound you are recording (through the use of a cable or a wireless system). Other reasons include: keeping the sound recording consistent when the camera is moving or to take advantage of different types of (or better quality) microphones.

What I'd like to do is share what has worked for me.  In this post I will give you the most basic information on the subject.  Successfully connecting and using an external microphone with a camera can become a very complex topic (there are a number of different types of camera audio inputs and many different types of microphones, therefore the combination of possibilities is huge and way beyond the scope of this blog post).

Please feel free to ask me specific questions by commenting below.

To connect a microphone to a camera you'll need to have a cable that has the same type of connector (of the opposite gender [yes, there are male and female connectors]) as the camera’s microphone input.  Also, you'll need to have a cable with the same type of connector (again with the opposite gender) as your microphone.  Sometimes these are the same cable and sometimes you will need an adapter in-line between the two (depending on the camera and type of microphone you are using).
Plug the microphone into the cable that fits it and then the other end into the camera directly (or, if necessary, into the adapter and then plug a cable from the adapter into the camera).  I recommend you use as few adapters as possible, because each component of a microphone to cable to camera system has the possibility of malfunctioning and can make troubleshooting more complex than necessary.  Many times plugging a cable into the camera disconnects the built-in microphone, so (if your camera is compatible with the microphone you plugged in to it) just use the camera as normal and you should be good to go.  If not, then we need to talk.

Remember to always use headphones to monitor the sound as you are setting up and recording.  If your camera does not have a headphone output, make test recordings and listen to the results through a playback system that has headphone capability.  This will allow to verify that you are getting good, clean (not noisy or distorted) audio. 

I welcome your questions and will do my best to help you as best I can.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Powerful Video Starts with Easy Listening

You can use whatever video gear you have to share experiences and expand relationships, but it's best to use it in such a way that it makes it easy for your audience to receive the information you are giving.  What you should be aiming toward is helping the viewer get involved and continue listening to your message.

For example, if you use a cell phone or camera (using the built in microphone) to make a video, one thing to keep in mind is that the microphone is only able to clearly pickup what is loudest, closest to it. In order to get audio that easy to listen to, there are a few basic things you should be doing.

Find the quietest place possible to record and get very close to the person who is talking.  If there is any other sound in the environment it will be distracting and can make it very hard to understand what is being said. 

Remember that many of the people who are going to view your video are most likely not willing to work hard to get your message.  Make it easy for them to hear it and they’ll thank you with their time and attention.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How To Make Your Videos Sound More Intimate and Personal

This is my first ever Vlog post!
Watch and listen as I demonstrate the difference between using a lavaliere type (miniature, pin on) microphone and the on-camera mic.  You can hear how the camera mic sounds more distant and more of the room noise and echo are picked up.  Most of the time, the closer you can get the microphone to the source of the sound you are recording, the better your recording is going to sound.

Friday, March 23, 2012

LUFTIG WARREN: The Truth About Failure

I thought This post was so brilliant, I just had to share it with as many people as possible. LUFTIG WARREN: The Truth About Failure: by Brad Ellison b.ellison@luftigwarren.com @luftigwarren The truth about failure I fail.  So do you.  So does everyone.  Failu...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My motivation is to help others sound better

I spent many years learning how to shoot, edit and deliver video with sound that is clear and easy to understand.  I am the expert in recording great sound for video at events.
Even with low cost gear you can get good results, if you know how to use it right. My purpose is to provide others with information that will allow them to record sound better so that, when it comes to editing or delivering the videos they produce, they will have the best audio possible.
Two things to start with:
1) Always monitor your sound from the recorder's (usually a camera) output. Wear (closed cupped) headphones that block out as much sound as possible the whole time that you are setting up and recording. By focusing on what the final sound is going to be like, you can tell if it is clean or noisy, loud and clear or quiet and dirty.
2) Avoid using auto gain. Many cameras have a function that adjusts the audio recording level based on how loud it is. At first blush this seems like a good idea, it makes the quiet stuff louder but keeps the loud stuff from overloading and getting distorted. The problem is that it doesn't distinguish between noise and your desired sound source. What ends up happening is you get a bunch of room noise (or background sound) on your track and every once in a while when the audio you want to record is loud enough, it sounds good.
A better choice to get a more professional sounding recording is to manually set a level and listen to it (while watching the level meters) to maintain a consistent signal with natural dynamics (loud and quiet parts).
Let me know if you have any specific questions and I'll do my best to answer them.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Be Aware of the Available Light

Sometimes you will be able to move the people or things you are filming so that some of the brighter light in the environment you are shooting in is shining directly on them (or is not shining directly on them - depending on the light available to you in the scene).  It may be a bit awkward at first, but video can last forever and a moment of tension may quickly be forgotten.
If you can’t move the subject, move the light (for example, reposition a lamp or open [or close] a window shade), if possible, or (if you are unable to move the light or whatever you are shooting) move your camera so that the lens is aimed at the side of your subject that is lit by whatever light is in the environment.  This is especially important when most of the light is coming in from the windows.  Doing this will allow you to see more detail in the video image and make your footage look much better than most home movies.
One thing to be aware of is that many cameras have some sort of auto-iris adjuster built into them.  This feature makes the lens close down and not allow as much light in (when the scene is very bright) and open up to allow more light in (when the scene is darker.)  This is great when you are in a hurry and can’t set your iris manually, but it is an obvious sign of less-than-excellent camera operation.  This is especially true when the iris adjusts several times during a shot.  Remember that the camera is automatically guessing what the best iris opening is and it often guesses wrong.
You can learn to take advantage of an auto iris with some practice (using the above techniques) and then develop the technique of setting the iris manually (if that feature is available on your camera.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shooting Events With More Finesse

I cut my teeth as a videographer shooting weddings for a busy event video company.  Soon after I was hired I was shooting two or three ceremonies and receptions a week.  That experience allowed me to hone my handheld skills and to start to develop a system of production that I try to teach everyone who works for me now.  One thing you have to know about weddings is that the venue (the church in many cases) usually doesn’t want you there and things like adequate lighting and retakes are usually non-existent.  I had to learn how to get the best possible shots under some of the worst circumstances for filming.  Since I was editing a lot of what I shot I came up with some rules of thumb for bringing in useful footage that was simple to edit in a style that didn’t reveal continuity breaks.

Here are 3 of those “rules”:

1)  Zoom out and (physically) get in close (if you want to show more detail) this helps to make your footage more stable and less shaky so that when you cut between shots there is a more solid feeling of going from good shot to good shot.

2)  Always try to change angle, subject and background between shots so that you can cut out redundant or boring footage - without it being obvious that you cut something out.  This helps to eliminate or reduce the number of jump cuts in your final edits without having to use effects and/or fancy (hokey) transitions.

3)  Get cutaways (shots that are of people watching the main action or objects of interest in the room) so that you can cut out footage without it being noticeable.  You can edit the cutaways in between the master shots when you deleted unwanted footage allowing you to cut the length of a scene without it seeming as though anything important is missing.