Half of your movie is sound. It’s Sound & Picture, and while many audiences will be forgiving of less than stellar camera work, bad audio will turn away viewers very fast. There are several different ways to approach audio, but at the very least, you need to use something other than the built in mic on your camera. Magic Lantern will allow you to disable “auto Gain Control (AGC) so that you can manually adjust your levels. For the simplest setup, you can tun the mic either directly into your camera or through a preamp. For cleaner sound, running Dual System and syncing in post is a great option. Your best bet, of course, is to have a dedicated Sound guy with a field mixer. Your decision ultimately comes down to how much money you want to spend on gear vs how much time you want to spend in post, but even a minimal investment in sound will give you much better results than the camera mics.
Indie Production Level
The Zoom H4n has been the standard in independent film for several years now. It has two XLR inputs with phantom power, a built in xy mic, low-cut filter and built-in compressor and limiter. It also attaches to your computer to be used as a USB interface. A great all-in-one solution that takes standard SD cards.
The Zoom H5 just got released, and it retains all the benefits of the H4, plus it has the same signal to noise ratio as the H6, Zoom’s flagship model. It also can take the same interchangeable microphone capsules as it’s higher end cousin. The greatest new feature that they added to the H5, though is separate headphone and line out ports. Line out feeds are louder than headphone feeds, and before you had to use a splitter if you wanted to run your sound through to your DSLR and monitor on headphones at teh same time. This model is very well designed, and made with DSLR shooters in mind. If you already have an H4N, or can get one at a great price, then you don’t need this. But if you are in the market for an all in one recording solution and you want to buy new, the H5 is tailor made for you.
This is the big flagship model. If you are a musician, or you need a very versatile audio unit, and you know how to use all the bells and whistles, then this if for you. For most shooters, it’s a little bit of overkill. Adding a great shotgun mic will do more for the production value of your audio than a fancy recorder.
Audio Technica AT-3350 Lavalier Mic
These lav mics are insanely cheap and are the cheapest way to bring up the sound quality in your work. Attach one of these to your iPhone and you have great sound on a budget. You just need one of these cheapo adapters to get the mic to line up right.
Mic to phone adapter
Cheap version. Different versions available everywhere, but the idea is the same.
This is the boom you’ll see everywhere. It’s just fantastic at this price point. The main advantage of this one over the the NTG-1 is that it canm house a battery, so you don’t NEED phantom power for it- you can put it on a shock mount and plug it right into the camera if you want.
This is when you start getting serious about your audio. The is a bad mofo- and it’s for when you want to really start taking your audio seriously. Worth every penny.
Audio Technica AT 897
You’ll see this one on a lot of sets. Great performance value.
Rode Videomic Pro
This is a great mic, and it’s very popular. A lot of shooters like it because it slides right onto the hotshoe and plug it in and be done with it. And the sound IS good. And there ARE ways to use it as a boom mic, if you need to. My feeling is, however, if you’re spending the money on getting a decent mic, why are you ruining all that by just putting it on top of the camera. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- sometimes you have to do what you have to do, but that should be a last resort, not a best practice situation.
Rode Video Mic GO
If you can’t afford this, the Rode VideoMic GO is about 75% as good for a third of the price.
Great little recorder. Small enough to fit in a pocket and hide on your talent. Only takes the smaller 3.5mm jack, no XLR or 1/4inch, but that falls in line with what you’re going to be using at this price point. Audio Technica AT-3350 Again, the same mic I recommend for higher-end production is the the one i recommend here. you just can’t beat the price. If you’re getting bad audio with this mic, its your technique and placement, and not the mic.
EM-320e shotgun mic
Not great, not horrible. You’re going to get some tinny sounding audio, but much better direction and isolation. WOuld NOT suggest for anytype of music or instruments, but should be fine for most vocals. It’s better than the camera mic, and if you have a boom operator holding it close to the talent, it’s pretty clean. Get one if you cant get a lav on your talent, but upgrade as soon as your budget allows.
Very cheap. Better than the on-board mics. Slides right into the hot shoe. If you have better options, use them, but if your only other option would be camera audio, then go for it. It’s cheap enough to just keep in your go bag as a backup.
ALWAYS listen to your sound through headphones. Prefereably through the whole shoot. They should be closed design, and monitor headphoens, not “music headphones”. Your consumer level headphones boost certain ends of the spectrum to make the music sound more pleasing. We want as faithful a reproduction as we can get.
These Sennsheisers are closed back for good isolation, have a long cable, and the price is right. Not too comfortable for long days- but the sound is great.
These Sony’s are very popular and a little more comfortable. A little more money, but could come in handy to prevent fatigue from a log day of listening
This one is especially great for iphone users that don’t have removable memory. The audio records and uploads to your dropbox account, and you can just slide it right into your project from your desktop when you get back to your computer!
You need a 3.5 to 3.5 male to male connector to get the audio from the Zoom to your DSLR if you are going single system. Plus these have come in handy in a multitude of other occasions when you need one feed to go into another. Plus, they’re made by Monoprice, which if you don’t know by now, is a phenomenal resource for great quality cables for next to nothing, with a lifetime warranty.
Hotshoe to tripod adapter
Mount your recorder right on top of your camera. Nothing special. there are a million different brands. Simple stuff.
Boom poles are expensive- and for good reason. Many of them are made from carbon fiber to be lightweight (you will be holding them over your head all day) and some even have wiring inside to pass your feed through. They are made to isolate sound and prevent handling noise from reaching your mic. But if you can’t yet afford a really expensive boom pole, a painter’s pole and adapter will hold you over. Painting it black will go a long way to looking more professional on sets or in front of clients.
Painters Pole Adapter
Cheap and easy way to adapt a painters pole. Couldn’t find on amazon, but there are a few options on eBay.
Headphone splitter with separate volume controls.
If you’re recording single-system if you’re working with the H4n. It lets you use a line out level to the camera and still reduce the volume for your headphones so you aren’t blowing out your ears.
A quick trip to your Arts and crafts store will get you enough fake fur to make these for a fraction of the cost. Just measure, cut and glue. But if you cant be bothered, they’re not too expensive.
Very necessary. It isolates your mic and helps absorb the “thump” in the bass end from handling the pole.