Video interviews and video sound

These are the two topics I did not have time to cover during class yesterday.

The first one, video interviews, I decided to make into a blog post in my primary blog (follow the link to read it). I have also linked this on your syllabus page for Week 6.

The second topic is video sound. This was covered nicely in a short “Make Internet TV” tutorial (Capturing Sound) that I linked on your syllabus earlier. You might want to review it.

You will be using the (new) shotgun mic on top of your camera. We have the Rode VideoMic, and it’s gotten a lot of rave reviews. There are certainly more expensive shotgun mics out there, but this one is no slouch.

The reduction in noise, as compared to what you’d hear from the on-camera mic, is quite significant. … The ability to capture sound at distances with the Rode VideoMic is also very pleasing. It could easily pick up voices at moderate volumes from over 20 feet away. The mic still captures sound quite nicely beyond 20 feet, but in situations with other competing noises like heavy traffic, the sound you don’t want starts drowning out sounds you do want. Realistically, the audio is definitely best when the mic is pointed at the source you want to capture. There’s a notable difference in sound from objects directly in front of the mic compared to those off to the sides.

The reason for using an external mic with a video camera is the same as the rationale for using an external mic with an audio recorder — QUALITY of sound. Sure, the little built-in mic on the Canon HV20 is not so bad, but it’s just the bare minimum of the range of possibility.

A shotgun mic mounted on top of the camera is not the only option. Other common set-ups:

  • Wireless lavaliers: This is a tiny microphone that you clip onto the interviewee’s shirt or jacket. It is wired to a small transmitter that the interviewee can clip to a belt or slip into a jacket pocket. The transmitter sends the audio to a matching receiver that is plugged into your video camera. We will not be using these (because we don’t have any!).
  • Booms: This is basically a mic on a stick. You can buy all kinds of expensive booms, or like the DIY crowd, you can make one. You use the boom (often it is very long) to dangle the microphone above the heads of the people in the video — out of sight of the camera. When you see two people walking down a street and talking in a video, and there are no little mics clipped on their shirts, where was the microphone? A boom operator (a third person) was walking beside the two, holding a long pole arched over them, and a mic was hanging over their heads.
  • Handheld mics: In some cases, you might plug a regular mic into the video camera with a long cord attached, and someone speaking (on- or off-camera) will hold the mic. This method might also be used to gather some nat SOT, e.g. the sound of a small creek, or a person’s footsteps on a gravel path. By holding the mic close to the source of the sound (but out of view of the camera lens), you will get synchronized, authentic sound to go along with the visuals.

About wearing headphones (YES! YES!) — if you want to ensure that you are getting good audio, you WILL wear your headphones whenever you are shooting video.
If you have questions about any of this, please make a note to yourself to ask during class on Feb. 14!

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About Mindy McAdams
I teach courses about digital journalism at the University of Florida. I love to travel. I ride a Vespa. You can find me on Twitter (@macloo).

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