How to record audio for interviews without getting too complicated
It’s not too much of a leap for photographers to move into video. After all, most of the same rules of composition apply, and most cameras these days shoot great video. But one major issue a lot of photographers have is with recording audio.
Bad-quality audio will break a video, no matter how good the visuals are. So its important to at least learn some basics. It may seem daunting, but it really doesn’t need to be overly complicated to achieve decent sound. In this video, Daniel Norton goes through some audio basics for photographers dipping their toes into video interviews.
Two types of microphones
Daniel explains that there are two main types of microphones that you can use in interviews:
Lavalier Microphones: These are small, clip-on mics that include a transmitter pack and a receiver. For interviews, you can place the lav mic visibly, generally near the chest area. Avoid extremes – not too close to the chin or too far away to prevent picking up excessive room sounds.
Lav mics are omnidirectional, meaning that they will pick up sound from all directions. You ideally want to use them close to the person speaking and in a quiet environment (generally indoors).
Boom Microphones (Cardioid): Often referred to as shotgun mics, cardioid boom mics have a heart-shaped pick-up pattern, capturing sound primarily from the front and minimizing background noise. Position the boom mic as close to the subject as possible to reduce the need for excessive gain and room sound pickup. These are great in more noisy environments when you want to minimise background noise.
Setting Up Your Microphones
When using Lavalier microphones, adjust the levels to touch the yellow on your camera’s audio meter. For boom microphones, aim for levels around -12, ensuring a healthy signal without distortion. Think of audio distortion in the same way as over-exposure in photography. You can only recover highlights to a certain extent. Audio is the same.
Before recording, take a few moments of silence to capture the room tone, helping during post-production noise removal. Using a clapboard or manually clapping three times can serve as an effective sync point for your audio and video.
Using two different microphones serves two important purposes. Firstly, it acts as a backup – ensuring you don’t lose crucial audio if one mic fails. Secondly, different microphones and recording devices produce unique sound characteristics. By combining the lavalier and boom mic audio in post-production, you achieve a richer, more nuanced sound.
Avoid counting as a sound check; instead, engage in a conversation with your subject to set audio levels naturally. Be mindful of room noise and aim for a brief moment of silence at the start of recording for noise removal in post-production.
It’s worth investing some time into learning basic audio if you want to explore video. It’s not difficult and will save you a lot of headaches in post-production later. In my experience, getting the audio correct during recording is at least 75% of the way towards shooting great video.
Alex Baker is a portrait and lifestyle driven photographer based in Valencia, Spain. She works on a range of projects from commercial to fine art and has had work featured in publications such as The Daily Mail, Conde Nast Traveller and El Mundo, and has exhibited work across Europe