If you produce a video, it will probably have sound. In fact chances are it will show someone speaking. And this is where amateur work most commonly falls short. It’s a shame, because the problem is so easy to prevent and impossible to fix after-the-fact. The solution is to use the correct external microphone.

This TRAM TR-50 Lavaliere microphone is almost 40 years old… and it still sounds great.

The microphone built into a camera is never appropriate to use if you’re recording someone speaking. To pick up good dialogue, a mike needs to be about a foot from the speaker’s mouth. The camera is virtually never that close to the person speaking. The easiest solution is to use a “lavaliere” microphone. This is the small type of mike which is pinned to a person’s lapel or tie. Prices start at under $10, but can reach to $500 for the type of microphone you see top broadcast talent wearing. But even a $10 lavaliere will make your iPhone video sound much, much more professional, so use it!

Lavaliere microphones can come in hard-wired or wireless versions. Hard-wired are far cheaper, more reliable and sound better. A good wireless system will start at $1,000 and may still have problems with bad reception, so unless you really, really need the freedom of wireless, stick to the wired version. At eIMAGE Video Productions whenever we need to use more than one wireless microphone at a time we hire an audio specialist.

The Countryman B6 microphone is not only tiny enough to hide behind a button, but it’s waterproof!

Of course sometimes you don’t want to see the microphone in your video production. Hiding a lavaliere in a person’s clothing is an art. Each sound person has his or her favorite bag of tricks to hide the mike without letting it rub on clothing or get the sound too muffled. And then there’s the issue of wind noise: if it’s windy, you want to use a wind screen; this is that foam cover which probably came with the microphone. In very windy conditions a fuzzy cover over the foam windscreen is even more effective. You can make a low-cost wind screen out of a cotton ball or very furry fabric. Just drape that over the foam wind screen. But of course then it’s even harder to hide under clothing.

Next time: shotgun microphones.

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