Charlie demonstrates how to control incoming audio to your camcorder and capture clean sounding audio.
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Getting good sound out of your camcorder is one of the easier things to do in the world of video once you know where a few basic things are located. That’s what we intend to cover in this week’s tips and tricks.
The first step is actually to not use the internal microphones on the camcorders. They’re convenient but the problem is they will pick up all kinds of noise that you don’t want them to such as the sound of the drum motor if it’s a tape-based camcorder or operator noise. Any time you push the zoom control or adjust the lens focus it’s gonna be picking that up.
So if you connect an external microphone with the XLR connectors here or this one happens to use an eighth-inch connection, then you will have better sound out of that microphone that you can actually aim at something other than what the internal camcorder microphone is picking up.
An important thing to note is that microphone level signals are a bit lower than line-level signals. That’s an important thing to note if you’re dealing with mixing the audio later or if there’s a switch on the camcorder that says “mic” or “line.” This is important to get the best audio from your device.
On some camcorders there is a control for phantom power. Sometimes this has to be turned on to get sound out of a microphone because there is a little bit of power that it needs in order to operate correctly. Some microphones can just use phantom power provided by the camcorder, not all camcorders can provide phantom power though.
Other microphones require you to use batteries. Make sure you know what your microphone needs before you go out on the shoot.
For all the virtues of digital audio, all its good sound, how it’s easy to edit, the problem is that if you have a level that’s too high it’ll just turn into a bunch of pops on the tape or however you’re capturing audio. So be sure to set your audio level control to somewhere between minus 12 and minus 6 for your best audio.
If your camcorder supports it a good strategy to use is to record audio at the normal level on channel 1 or the left channel and then drop down the level a little bit on channel 2 or the right channel. This will almost guarantee that you’ll have some usable audio when you get back to the edit bay.
For years we’ve been recommending that our readers and viewers use headphones and there’s a really good reason for this. Your ears can tell you stuff that the VU meters won’t be able to. So if something doesn’t sound right, it’s not right. This will give you a chance to hear that and make appropriate corrections.
So if your camcorder has manual level controls audio is going to be a lot easier to edit when you get to the edit bay, however, if you don’t have manual level controls your camcorder will set the levels for you automatically. This is called automated gain control. If you intend to edit this means that you’re gonna have to do a little bit more work to get the audio where you want it because the camcorder uses the loudest thing that it records as the basis for setting the level.
One possible way around using the automatic gain control is to shoot in a less noisy environment. This is typically not easy to do, however, one good application for this is if you’re shooting voiceovers in a quiet studio or, say, a closed closet would work too.
So with this episodes of tips and tricks we hope we’ve showed you how to make the most out of using manual level controls or how to cope with your camcorder that only has automatic gain control.
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