As a videography microphone is suitable very many devices. However, you do not have to choose just one of the models. First of all, you decide on a certain type of construction. But which microphone type is particularly suitable for which shooting situation? This question will be answered in the following. Likewise, the basics of the correct use of these different types will be explained.
When it comes to the right videography microphone, the most important tip is to use a microphone at all. While this sounds absolutely obvious. However, a great many videos on social media are recorded using only an in-camera microphone. However, this is miles away in terms of quality from almost all external microphones and is therefore absolutely not recommended. However, this does not mean that you should not use the internal microphone at all. Its recordings are very helpful if you record the sound with an external recorder. Then you can synchronize the audio track of the external recorder with that of the internal microphone in the editing program. But this is a topic in itself. You can read more about this in my blog article on the correct use of microphones and sound post-processing.
Good sound is often underestimated in videography
The importance of audio quality is often underestimated. Especially with small video clips for YouTube, facebook or Instagram, attention is usually mainly focused on a successful image. But good sound is not fundamentally less important. This can be illustrated by the following example. A lot of people enjoy watching a movie on a small, often even reflective cell phone display. However, this is usually done with headphones. But what if you were to watch a movie on an impressive cinema screen, but with the sound quality of an internal cell phone speaker? This would hardly result in long-term movie enjoyment.
Even slight blur, camera shake or brightness fluctuations are usually forgiven by the viewer. A crackling, unclear or distorted sound, however, is hardly tolerated. Sound is processed faster in the brain than images. It therefore generates even more immediate emotions. Especially in combination with appropriately selected music, videographers have a great influence on the mood of their viewers or listeners. Only with good audio quality can a film have a truly impressive and professional effect and be positively anchored.
In the case of explanatory and educational videos, the sound quality is once again particularly important. These are often played in the background of another activity. That is, the viewer is largely just a listener. And a listener naturally expects 1A sound quality like on the radio or in a podcast. If the sound quality has weaknesses here, it becomes more difficult, and thus also more unpleasant, to follow the content.
But which microphone provides the best sound? Of course, this depends entirely on the type of shooting. But it depends even more on the correct use of the respective microphone. As a general rule, the best microphone is the one that is closest to the sound source. This means that you can have a high-quality and expensive microphone. If it is too far away, you still won’t have good sound.
In the following, the various most common types of microphones will be presented. There is no one right microphone for all situations. However, for the vast majority of shoots, one of the following microphone designs is just right.
Which videography microphone fits what kind of shoot?
Shotgun microphone / directional microphone – the best all-round videography microphone
A shotgun microphone (or directional microphone) is probably the most common choice among videographers. It is characterized by the fact that it picks up sounds almost exclusively in the direction in which it is pointed. Disturbing ambient noise is masked out. This allows clear, distinct recordings of the selected sound source. A directional microphone is usually attached directly to or on top of the camera or mounted on a boom.
A directional microphone for mounting directly on the camera is recommended when filming run and gun. That is, when filming in an unplanned, dynamic setting. The Rode Videomic Pro or the Sennheiser MKE 400, are an often used, very good choice. They are very versatile and are therefore particularly well suited as videography microphones.
With sound rod or without?
Directional microphone on a boom
If you have an additional person available for the shoot besides the cameraman, you should definitely take advantage of this. Especially if this person knows how to operate a boom pole. Otherwise, the basics for handling can be learned quickly. There are numerous Youtube videos or guide blogs that explain them clearly. So. e.g. this one:
Using a high-quality directional microphone on a boom provides the best possible sound quality. At least if you, as always necessarily, get close to the sound source. With a boom you can of course get closer to the sound source than with a camera and a clip-on microphone. At least, if it is a person. Holding a camera with a clip-on microphone at a distance of 30 centimeters in front of an interviewee’s face would also produce good sound. However, the image would suffer just as much as the relationship with the person in question.
Avoid disturbing shadows
The microphone on a boom usually comes from above and is directed downward. This has the effect that virtually no disturbing background noise is captured. After all, there is usually no noise coming from the floor, except for minor noise reflections. In certain situations, however, the boom can also be held up to the person speaking from below. For example, when the light is coming in steeply from above. In this case, the boom can quickly cast a shadow into the picture. This can be the case, for example, if the sun is high in the sky. Or also by spotlight from above, e.g. from stadium floodlights. Of course, this must be avoided at all costs.
Use of a second videography microphone makes sense
If you work with a directional microphone on a boom, a second microphone is useful. For example, an additional directional microphone should be installed on the camera as a backup. This can also be used to record ambient noise before or after the shoot. These can then be placed under the voice soundtrack in post-production. And at the desired volume.
Directional microphone as the best all-round solution
Especially as a solo videographer, you often start out looking for a videography microphone for all purposes. A screw-on device like the Rode VideoMic Pro or the Rode VideoMic NTG is the best solution. These have a with 3.5mm jack connector . Thus, they can be connected directly to the camera. The power is supplied by battery. If you have a sound man available for certain shoots, you can also attach these microphones to a boom for an even closer and better recording.
Lavalier microphones are the most uncomplicated means of choice for many shoots. Especially when interviewing people who need a lot of freedom of movement. The microphone is pinned to the collar and the transmitter is hidden in the trouser pocket. The receiver is usually put on the camera. For each additional person and transmitter, a separate receiver is also needed. Small video productions often don’t need an extra person just to take care of the sound. Once these microphones are properly attached and leveled, they are not very susceptible to interference. As videography microphones, they are therefore ideally suited in many situations.
Avoid movement noise
For the best speech quality, lavalier microphones should be placed on the collar directly under the mouth.It is particularly important to ensure that no items of the interviewee’s clothing rub against the microphone. During movements, it can quickly happen that the collar or a scarf, for example, repeatedly comes into contact with the microphone. This is noticeable in the form of distinct interference noises.
A safe way to avoid this is to attach the microphone to the inside of the clothing with adhesive tape. You can position it in such a way that the microphone protrudes a little from the top. However, you can also hide it completely under a thin fabric. For example, under a T-shirt or blouse. The sound quality is only minimally and imperceptibly impaired by this. On outdoor shoots, this also provides wind protection.
If the microphone is not to be seen, this positioning is of course particularly recommended. This is always the case for feature films. For image films or company portraits, however, a visible microphone is usually not the end of the world. For documentaries, it depends on whether a visible microphone makes the event seem less authentic than desired.
A lavalier microphone is also a very good choice for interviews for an event video. Here, however, special accuracy is important when wiring the interviewees. Because at an event – with spontaneous interviews – they often have little time. The sound check is also correspondingly short. Trouble-free cabling is therefore particularly crucial. The possibility of a second take is often lost in the hustle and bustle of the event. You can find more important points on conducting interviews at events and trade fairs here.
Select videography microphone: Freedom of movement as a decisive criterion
Recording sound with a boom and directional microphone is preferable to a lavalier microphone in terms of quality. However, if people need to move freely, the lavalier microphone is the better choice. This is often the case, for example, in a presentation for a product video. It is simply too hard to fish for good quality sound when there is too much movement. You would usually have wildly fluctuating volumes in the process.
In addition, the boom itself or its shadow would often be in the picture. A lavalier microphone picks up almost no ambient noise. If you still want them in the video, you have to record them separately with another microphone. Alternatively, you can use a sound archive in post-production. The results are difficult to create as authentically as if you record the real ambient sounds. Often, however, ambient sounds from the archive are more intense and thus more effective than the real thing. Here it is important to find the right balance. The background sounds should be as atmospheric as possible, but also as believable as possible.
Condenser Microphone / Studio Microphone
A condenser microphone is the studio microphone par excellence. Thus, this type is rarely used as a videography microphone for outdoor shoots. A condenser microphone offers lifelike, warm and rich recordings, but is very sensitive. It is placed directly in front of the speaker on the table and is therefore usually visible in the picture. Qualitatively, however, there is no better solution for indoor voice recordings. For interviews and V-logs, a condenser microphone can therefore also be used excellently as a videography microphone. The question is whether the conspicuous visibility is acceptable in exchange for very good voice quality.
Popular condenser microphones include the Rode NT-1A, the Blue Yeti Pro, the Sterling ST59 and the Rode NT-USB. The latter can be connected directly to the PC via USB. Most other condenser microphones have an XLR connector and require a mixer or audio interface to connect to the PC.
With a condenser microphone you should use a pop shield. This is a small filter that is mounted in front of the microphone and prevents plop sounds. Such sounds occur when an air blast hits the sensitive diaphragm while speaking.
Dynamic microphones are good all-rounders that are mainly used in the music sector. They are more robust and usually also heavier than condenser microphones and hardly susceptible to feedback. This makes them well suited as handheld microphones for the stage, while condenser microphones would be too sensitive for that. A dynamic microphone is therefore also ideally suited for concerts or singing on a stage. These are available in wired and wireless versions. Popular models include the Rode Procaster, the Shure MV7, the Sennheiser MD421 II or the Shure SM58, which is mostly used for vocals. Dynamic microphones are rarely considered as videography microphones.
Summary: Which videography microphone is right for me?
For vlogging videos (which you shoot alone), you can use a clip-on directional microphone or even a lavalier microphone. A directional microphone placed on a fixed tripod above your head or a studio condenser microphone is a significant improvement in quality. However, this is only possible if you do not move and record the video sitting at your own desk, for example.
If you want to choose just one model (to start with), a directional microphone such as the Rode VideoMic Pro or its cheaper sister models Rode VideoMic and Rode VideoMic Go are best. As a low-budget variant, the Takstar SGC-598 also performs decently. Provided – as with all microphone types and models – you move it as close as possible to the sound source.
If you buy two different videography microphones, you are well equipped for most situations with a plug-in directional microphone with a jack connection and a lavalier microphone.