DIY Tech Tip: Use a mic. Please.

DIY Tech Tip: Use a mic. Please.
By:John Gillespie
On:May 08, 2017

If you’re looking to supplement your social media marketing with some DIY video – the chef talking about the new dish, the real estate agent showing off a particular house, etc. – there are a few things you can do with audio to make it sound a bit more professional, which I suggest, when you’re promoting your brand, should be a priority. I would not consider audio to be my primary area of expertise, but I can share some basics to get you started.

Our smartphones and even DSLR cameras have a built-in mic that does capture sound, and for home videos, that’s probably sufficient. I actually see some decent small business videos for Facebook that rely on the ole phone mic, but I just think, “Those could be so much better with a mic.”

Audio recording professional lapel lavalier lav voice mini microphone to record voice in interviews or television film shoots.
Audio recording professional lapel lavalier lav voice mini microphone to record voice in interviews or television film shoots.

Many pros swear by a shotgun and lavalier combo, but I think for most DIY-type of stuff, a lavalier (one you see on news anchors that clips on to a tie or shirt) is the easiest. If you buy a microphone, there a million and one choices. You could spend less than $50, which I can tell you from experience, is not a good idea. They’re usually very cheaply made and are not reliable, which is incredibly frustrating for everyone involved. The mic I routinely use, the Sennheiser AVX-MKE2 system, costs about $900, and while I love it, you probably don’t need that either.

Just doing a quick search, this looks a good one from Sennheiser for $199 that plugs into the lightning input of an iPhone. Here’s another from Rode for $69 that plugs into the headphone jack, which of course, may be a problem with newer iPhones that only have the lighting input. If you’re plugging into your DSLR, you’ll probably need a mic with a mini input. My suggestion is to pick a price range and read professional or customer reviews to sift through what would work best for your budget.

Whatever mic you go with, here are some things to consider:

Listen to your audio while shooting. I’ll say that again: Listen to your audio while shooting. Depending on what camera/phone you have and what mic you have, you may have to add an adapter to plug in a mic and listen to the sound, but monitoring your audio with headphones is the only way to know you’re getting good sound. There are few things more frustrating than ingesting video into your computer and hearing the mic cut out halfway through an interview.

Position the mic close to the speaker. Just like the human ear, the proximity of the mic to the speaker directly impacts how well you hear them. Somewhere in the 6-10 inch range from the person’s mouth should be okay. You could also help my picky side by hiding the mic cable by asking the speaker to run it up through his/her shirt. One of my college instructors said you should never see a microphone in a shot. For what you’re doing, that’s probably not a big deal, but seeing the long black mic cord hanging off a shirt collar just drives me crazy.

Have a windscreen handy. If you’re shooting outside – especially if there’s any wind – remember to us a windscreen, which is often included with the mic. It’s not a guarantee to completely eliminate wind noise, but it can cut it quite a bit.