Camcorder Cheat Sheet:6 Tips for Getting Better Audio

By: Christine Peppler

Most consumers purchase a digital video camcorder in order to upgrade their equipment and hopefully, produce better quality home movies. Unfortunately, the quality of the movies we record with our camcorder has less to do with the equipment and more to do with how well we record the video and audio in the first place.

The important role of good audio in any film is often overlooked. Many consumers don't purchase an external microphone with their camcorder but instead rely primarily on an internal omni directional microphone which indiscriminately picks up and records sounds from the front, sides, and rear. This often results in a significant amount of "noise" and difficulty in discerning the voices or other sounds which home movies try to capture.

Without making a life study of film making, there are a few quick and simple things the average home movie maker can do to vastly improve the audio quality of films they record with their camcorder.

1. Move in closer to the subject or sounds which the film should capture.

This can mean using the zoom function less and instead, stepping nearer. When recording children, this can also mean getting down closer to their level from a vertical perspective. Getting closer with the camcorder not only allows the film maker to capture the sounds better but it helps to cut down on the amount of noise that will intrude from the background.

2. Home movies should be filmed in a quiet location when possible.

Controlling the environment is an obvious way of cutting down on the "noise" intrusion. Some environments in which we film may be naturally "noisy"; but assuring that the television is off, the dishwasher is not running, etc. certainly helps.

3. Engage the "wind screen" feature on the camcorder when filming outdoors.

The "wind screen" feature does exactly what its name implies; it helps to reduce wind noise. This is particularly useful at the beach.

4. Reduce noise by steadying the camera.

Jarring the camcorder around and moving about while filming can also create a great deal of noise. Using a tripod or another type of stabilization device can not only steady the picture but reduce noise.

5. Purchase an external microphone for your camcorder.

If your camcorder has a jack for an external microphone, this can be a great way of significantly improving the sound quality of your recordings. There are a variety of types of microphones available and each functions best in different situations. "Shotgun" microphones help to reduce noise by cutting out sounds from the side and rear of the camera and recording sounds primarily in front of the camera at a distance. For recording speakers/presenters, a lavaliere microphone is the best idea while Cardioid microphones record sound near, but directly in front of the microphone.

6. Reduce film maker noise.

This is common sense but the person with the camcorder in hand should remember to be quiet and avoid "fiddling" with the controls on the camcorder while filming.

Although none of these techniques are high tech, adhering to them can greatly enhance the quality of any home movie creation and allow owners to better enjoy their investment in a new camcorder.

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