How a mobile mike can make your audio come alive.
Though convenient, your camcorder's built-in mike is rarely the best mike for the job. When you want optimum sound, you need an external mike. In this article, we'll explore how external mikes work, how they differ, and how to best apply them in your videos.
When Smaller is Better
One of the most effective external mikes you can use also happens to be the smallest, called a lavalier or "lav" for short. Videographers often pin it to their subject's collar, capitalizing on the most important sound recording principle going: get the mike as close as possible to the subject.
A close mike placement subdues background noise and makes your subject sound fuller. It also gives your camcorder a much stronger audio signal to work with, which helps reduce electronic noise and hiss. More than physical construction or electrical design, the distance between your mike and your subject is the key factor in sound quality.
The lavalier sits so close to your subject, it doesn't even have to be directional to block out competing noises. Hence, many lavalier mikes are omnidirectional, meaning they pick up sound equally from all directions.
For really noisy environments, a directional lav will perform even better. Directional lavalier mikes are becoming more common (and cheaper) these days. A good wired version will set you back less than $200. There are bargains out there as well, with some great-sounding models available in the under-$100 price bracket.
Using a lavalier mike is as simple as getting it nice and close to your subject's mouth. If your subject will be looking down while talking, move the lavalier mike to the side to avoid breaths and other blasts of air. Don't place it underneath clothing unless you absolutely have to, as the layers of fabric will dull the sound.
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