Professional sound capture for photographers
Professional sound recording techniques with the Canon 5dmkiii and other dslrs with less than optimum preamplifier performance for professional grade audio capture.
First if all I’m not an audio engineer or even a sound Wizard I’m a commercial photographer who knows good sound when I hear it. My experience and research has enabled me to cherry pick the solutions to solve my audio problems and this article is to help other people in a similar situation.
Professional sound recording techniques and tips
With digital slrs sound and video are a part of now firmly a part of commercial photography.
Having the means to record sound doesn’t mean we will be able to obtain sound of a sufficient quality. Capturing sound with less than adequate equipment can have an impact on our brand it may even damage our reputation.
To get up and running you’ll need a microphone, a pop filter, headphones and editing software (and depending on your show needs, a mixer and digital recorder).
YouTube for video marketing
Video interviews for comporate clients are becoming more technically demanding when you go beyond using a smartphone. With YouTube being the No1 marketing platform for bloggers it’s also the No1 place for companies to promote their products directly to their market.
Kickstarter and Podcasts
Shooting video for your kickstarter project or simply blogging and podcast sound is just as important as the video and lets add lighting into the mix.
Where to start well our expertise in headshot photography gives us a unique starting point, we know lighting we understand what it’s like to be in front of the camera. Videoing interviews with professional quality headshot techniques is great but we don’t want the sound to let us down. The Canon 5D mkiii for all its power as a great camera it’s well known it hasn’t the best audio preamp circuitry neither has many dslrs for that matter and if your set up is less than optimum the sound track will be the weak link.
The sound we want
Getting the sound right isn’t simply using a better microphone than the built in one, the limitations of using a built in mic are pretty obvious. We need to look at the full audio setup, yes buy a better mic, but how do we get around the inadequacies of the audio circuitry?
We could use a mic with a better preamp delivering a better signal to the camera making it work less and the Rode Pro range fit that bill nicely. By conditioning the audio at the source we can deliver a better signal that doesn’t need any amplification at the camera it’s being used as a recorder.
Noise and ways to avoid it, we know knocks, bumps and even hand movements will end up on our recorded content. Adding any sort of isolation will be a good thing even if it’s a simple on camera hotshoe mounted cradle. In fact some mics come with a suspension system.
Using a better microphone and getting it off camera
Having resolved the weak link of the microphone we hit the next hurdle, that being the distance from the mic to the subject. Moving the mic off the camera is certainly the way forward and a simple lapel mic with a longer lead would go a long way to solving this. Again we really need a powered mic other wise we solve only one part of the problem.
Cables are always a problem, they have a habit of getting in the way, another thing we need to watch out for on a shoot. Wireless mics would certainly solve the cable issue that’s a tried and tested solution, it comes at a cost cheap wireless mics might make everything worse and do nothing for us trying to obtain the best quality sound.
We know once the signal reaches the camera no matter wether it’s by cable or wireless we are still using the basic on camera circuitry that was never designed for the optimum sound quality we need another solution.
Using an external field recorder
As simple as it is to work around problems by simply removing all dependency from the camera to capture the audio is the best solution it’s even a one device solution now it can’t get much simpler can it?
There is also benefits you my not be considering at the early stages of recording sound.
Professional sound recording techniques rely on capturing sound separate from the camera. The aim is to sync in post the Zoom H4n Pro digital recorder not only improves the sound capture but allows for dual backup strategies of the sound.
”The most widely used audio recorder by DSLR filmmakers is without doubt the Zoom H4n Pro.”
Mono, stereo and multichannel sound where the camera cannot cater. Multiple mics well that’s covered simply buy a recorder with multiple inputs. If you only have a mono mic most can combine mono on multiple channels saving you the effort in post editing. What about a stuation where you have access to better mics ones that need phantom power? An external recorder like the H4n has the capability to provide the necessary power now that’s one less thing you need to worry about and it’s an option that could make future projects so much simpler.
If you want to keep the amount of equipment to the absolute minimum using the built in mics you can be confident of a good audio capture. Having the sound on a separate memory card means you can duplicate it for a back up of the sound especially if you are working over a long session or even days.
Part 2 will continue to look at ways of obtaining quality sound.
Making it all join up
Clapper boards and markers …
XLR connections and phantom power for microphones …
Moving the microphone away from the camera, like off camera lighting freedom to choose where the microphone is located gives a higher degree of success.
With everything battery depent power supply options to keep everything working during a session. There is nothing professional about equipment failures that could be easily prevented and battery failure is a big no no.
External power packs have existed for flashguns for a long time now with usb devices the latest high capacity power banks are extremely affordable and should be part of your basic kit, powering microphones especially when using phantom power quickly drains internal batteries.
Syncing your sound
The editing process of bringing in the sound to the video footage and having a clean sync technique…
NLE there are plenty of editing solutions available to professional photographers the favourite being Adobe Premier especially with the CC subscription model. Alternatives especially for Apple based workflows is Final Cut Pro however there is a third option both for PC and Mac workflows that is BlackMagics DaVinci Resolve 15.
Making things simpler …
The layers of complexity …
Tethered interviews with professional sound recording techniques …
Using tablets for live feed video monitoring …
TetherTools CaseAir ….
Hardware workarounds booms, video monitoring, wireless sound monitoring, Bluetooth, wireless LAN setups …