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How to Choose a Suitable Microphone for Your Video Project

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2010

Need quality sound for your videos? Forget your video camera's built-in microphone and consider an external microphone. Here are the available options.

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    Importance of Sound in Films

    Sound is not given much attention when shooting a video. To most of us the excitement of video is in the visuals. In most instances when you’re shooting a family video, you would not bother about sound because there’s nothing much to hear except background noises and ceaseless chatter.

    One more reason why you won’t pay much regard to sound is because you will be taking most or all of the sound out during editing. It will usually be replaced with your favourite songs or mood music. So, generally you feel your video camera’s built-in microphone is more than enough for your video shooting needs.

    However, quality audio can greatly improve your video production. Any videographer will come to a time when they begin to feel the limitations of the built-in microphone, especially when recording a speech or a concert. The built-in microphone simply doesn’t deliver the desired sound quality. The obvious solution to the problem is an external microphone. Choosing an external microphone is not child’s play, however.

    Here are some tips to help you choose the right microphone for your video project. You would have to make the final decision by testing them out (by ear) to determine if a particular microphone suits your requirements.

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    Microphone Types

    The most common microphone used by videographers is the handheld type. If you’re shooting interviews of people in the street this is the microphone to go for. It would also come useful if you’re recording live sound in a studio or podium.

    A shotgun microphone does a good job in video and film production audio recording. They have a long reach, which allows the camera a comfortable distance from the subject. They also have versatile directionality useful for isolating voices while cutting down on distracting background noises.

    If you’re shooting sit-down interviews, you would want to conceal the microphone. In this instance you would want to use a lapel microphone. Such a microphone would also be useful if you’re shooting a moving subject.

    If you’re looking for broad pickup sound, you would want to consider a boundary microphone. Such a microphone can lay flat on a table or floor and is ideal for recording stage plays, boardroom meetings and choirs.

    A diaphragm condenser microphone will fit the bill if you are thinking of recording voiceovers. If you’re considering videography as a full-time job, you could do well to include one microphone each from the above categories to take care of your clients’ needs. If you’re short on budget, you could opt for a shotgun microphone which would take care of most shooting needs and provide better sound quality than your video camera’s built-in microphone.

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    Should You Go Wireless?

    Need to record sound that’s quite a distance away from your camera without having to worry about cable length or tangled cables? The obvious solution is a wireless microphone system. Convenience may hurt your pocket though. Professionals are agreed that a good wireless microphone set would set you back by at least $300.

    There’s a downside to the wireless option though. Be prepared for signal interference from other transmitters nearby. You must also be equipped with spare batteries if you’ll be continuously using a wireless microphone system. Still, if recording flexibility is what you’re looking for, a wireless microphone set should be part of your video toolkit.

    Read through reviews and visit forums to check up on the available models within your budget.