This introduction to microphones explains the importance of good sound in your videos and how to get it
There are more people creating video content now than ever before. This means there are also a lot of people creating bad videos than ever before, too. Many of them aren’t really bad videos, as such. They just often have really crappy sound. Newcomers to video often think that they can rely on the internal microphones of their mirrorless cameras or smartphones, but you really can’t.
This video from Sennheiser has been out for a little while now but we haven’t shared it here before. It offers up a lot of valuable information on microphone choice. Alex Knickerbocker introduces us to the main different types of microphones and when and how we might want to use them to get the best results possible.
The message of the video, laid out right at the start, is that audio is important. At least as important as the visual side of things, if not more so. Audio has to be considered while shooting and not something you just try to “fix in post”. Picking the right type of microphone and placing it in the appropriate location are the two main keys to hitting that goal.
Alex talks about on-camera mics, like the Sennheiser MKE 400 (review here). While not always the best choice, even this will be infinitely better than the built-in microphones on most cameras. If you’re doing a lot of run-and-gun stuff and not always sure what subject you’re going to be recording, these can be a fantastic option.
He also covers wireless systems like the Sennheiser AVX and G4 – which we often use here at DIYP and were recently part of our kit at IBC 2022 – and the advantages they offer. These are ideal when you’re filming one or several specific people and only want to hear from them. If they’re walking around a lot, especially, wireless lavs will allow you to get consistent quality sound into your camera throughout.
Finally, Alex talks about boomed shotgun microphones. These are my favourite type of microphone and the ones I grab first when circumstances allow. He shows off the venerable Sennheiser MKH 416 in the video. It’s a common fixture at many studios and audio guys’ gear bags and practically the standard against which most other shotgun microphones are judged. This type of microphone does require some extra hardware, like a field recorder, but the quality and versatility they offer when used well are unmatched.
Ultimately, there’s no one-mic-fits-all solution. There never will be. I’ve got all three of these types of microphones in my gear bag (and more). In fact, I’ve got multiple examples of each. Different shooting circumstances will have different needs and they each excel at different things. Eventually, you’ll probably end up with all three of these types of microphones, too. But if you’re just starting out, this should hopefully give you some clues as to which type of microphone to go for first.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.