Recording Audio/Video in a classroom

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    • #41945

      I am trying to record a series of elementary and highschool classes.  I am using one video camera (Canon HF s200)with a standard 3.5m external mic jack.  I have a high quality wireless lav mic for the teacher but I want to pick up the reactions and discussion from the students as well.  (The onboard mic does not work when you connect an external mic.)  I know I will need a mixer of some sort but am confused on what style of mic(s)I should get. Thanks for the help…

    • #177244

      One method would be to use a second camera, placed at the front of the class, pointing at the students. That would record their physical reactions as well as their vocal reactions. You then would have more options in editing. You could set a PIP or cut from one to the other in post.

    • #177245

      There are a couple of ways to approach this, none yielding perfect results. We’ve shot several presentation/discussion sessions in a large classrooms or auditoriums using a wireless omnidirectional hand-held mic and a runner (person) to move it from one audience person to another. It’s not elegant and it cuts down slightly on spontaneity but we’ve done it several times in similar settings and it produces excellent sound from the audience.

      In another setting we used a shotgun mic in a shock-mount on a boom pole. This was in a classroom setting with rows of tables facing the lecturer. The boom operator was able to stay along the side of the room, moving as necessary to position the mic in as close as possible of an audience member. He kept the mic below rather than above the person speaking.

      I’m currently shooting a series of training sessions at a construction site where we have a single instructor and 6-8 students. We have a mic stand with a 4 foot boom and a shotgun mic in a shock-mount placed in front of the table where the students are sitting. My sound man sits facing the students and swings the boom around to put the mic in front of each student who asks questions. This has worked very well and has eliminated hours of having to boost audio in post production.

      In any situation where you have a mic that’s moving, a shock mount is a must. Also, if you’re using a boom-pole, be sure the cable running up the boom is securely taped in place. Mics pick up handling noise and the slap of cables very easily.

      Finally, this is slightly off topic but very important: be sure you have written permission from the parents of every student in the room. Parents can get very up tight about having their kids video taped, especially if there is any chance that the video will be shown publicly. When we taped class room sessions at a local university several years ago we were required to set up cameras so that one portion of the room was entirely excluded from the shot; students not wishing to be on tape could sit there during the taping.

      Good luck,


    • #177246

      Thanks guys, unfortunately there will only be one camera, and only one videographer (me). The secondary mic for recording the rest of the class will have to be stationary.

      Any thoughts?<o:p></o:p>

    • #177247

      I have an old DV camera, probably the first model Sony ever made, that I use for this sort of thing. Plug in a good directional mic facing the students and let it roll. I often don’t even un cap thelens. Much cheaper than buying a digital recorder, you can probably buy one on e-bay for less than $50

    • #177248

       I work for a school corp and this is part of my job… it’s tough because most of the people think you turn on a camcorder, and viola!!!  You have a Michael Moore documentary without the political discourse!  The suggestion above is not a bad idea… done it before when in a bind.  Digital audio recorders are fairly cheap and you can hook up your choice of mics to it.  You can do exactly the same with the 2nd camcorder.  If using a boom mic, just make sure the students know to keep the ambient noise down.  Make sure you explain what ambient is!!!  After a few years of doing it like this, I have convinced most teachers/principals/top dogs to “stage” the event when possible.  If I need them to repeat things, they are usually more than happy.  Good luck!

    • #177249

      If you need to get two mics into one camera, here’s a useful trick. Your camera records a stereo signal, but a single microphone only needs one channel. So, all you have to do is record one mic signal to the left channel and the other to the right channel.

      You can easily do this with a simple adapter cable. Assuming your wireless lavs also use a 3.5 mm connector, you’d want something like this:

      Most of these Y-cables are intended/marketed to split a stereo output
      into two mono signals, but don’t worry as analog cables work in both
      directions. It’s just wire, after all.

      Use a second wireless lav (omni) and clip/dangle it from the ceiling grid at the center of the students. It will not be as clear as the teacher’s lav of course, and will also pick up the teacher some, but should give a decent student reaction feed.

      After recording, in your editing software just separate the left and
      right channels of the recording into two mono tracks. I almost always
      hijack a stereo feed of a recording device to capture two mono signals this way.

      Schwartz Sound

    • #177250

      I think a lot depends on the quality of the audio circuitry in your camera. I’ve used a connector to bring two mono feeds to the camera (VG20) but the result hasn’t been good. At the mixer with headphones it’s all sweet but the final result is too buzzy to use. Still, if your camera can cope the connector is an easy solution.

    • #177251

      Why don’t you just get some mp3 recorders- I am sure the kids have some- and distribute them around a circle- this way you can listen to the comments they make afterwards and edit them in if you like- the point is you want to hear their reactions that you you can’t hear while you are focused on the cameras – this will help you do that

    • #177252

      i would use a mixer with your lav-mic connected to it and also 4 mic’s that i would drop from theceiling. spread the 4 mics so that they are equally spaced between the students.

      adjusteverything on your mixer and feed the mixer to your camera. most mixers have a line/mic switch on the output. switch it to mic and voila… you should have a sound man take care of the mix


    • #177253

      if you can get a sound man, make sure you have good headphones and monitor the sound yourself…tedious but can be done…

      good luck,


    • #177254

      that should have been “if you can’t….”


    • #177255

      If the second mic has to remain stationary and mounted on a stand, a shotgun mic will not bea good choice. They are too directional.The best options I can think of here are:

      a) a pair of small cardioid diaphram condensor mics on stands place left and right and aimed back towards the class. A small mixer to blend all three mics into a stereo channel.

      b) a pzm boundary mic with an omni pattern placed ona large surface to pick up the whole classroom. It will pick up air conditioning and other noises though. This mic goes to channel two, and teacher’s mic to channel one.

    • #177256

       Troy, there are lots of good suggestions here for you. I have a couple more for you. One of the other posters suggested using an old dv camcorder to get additional audio. Good idea but I think that I would definetly take the cap off the lens so that it should be easier in post to sync. Secondly, be sure to record some sound before you start the actual recording to pick up the ambient room sound which could make it easier in post to eliminate air conditioning or other constant noise from your project. Keep shooting.

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