Listen Up – Audio is Everything

Audio is everything in video. I can’t stress this enough. Most times “capturing audio” is a skill that still photographers don’t have. If your job is on the line – my suggestion is hire a good sound guy. If you’re doing a personal project and want to learn more about getting good sound, here are some tips.

• Don’t use the camera’s internal microphones, except for reference.
• Never use “auto” when recording audio. Turn off the AGC (automatic gain control) on the DSLR cameras.
• Get your microphones in close. For b-roll situations, you can get away with a shotgun mic mounted on the camera. But microphones mounted on cameras can pick up camera noises.
• Use a good wind screen or dead cat when outside. Even if you’re inside, on a windy day, with windows open, you can pick up wind noise.
• Use a good set of headphones. Over the ear is best but earbuds can be used in a pinch. Your audio meters tell you that you’re getting sound, but not if the sound is any good.
• Use shotgun microphones for your interviews. Get them in close to your subject – no more than 1-3 feet away.
• Lav microphones, attached to lapels can be used wired or wirelessly. Be careful with your positioning to avoid unnecessary noise from hair or jewelry.
• Go wired whenever you can. Resort to wireless solution if wired isn’t possible.
• Use an omni-directional or cardiod microphone when you are in more acontrolled situation and you want your sound coming from more directions.
• Don’t cross your audio cords with your electrical cords. This causes a hum that you will detect if you are wearing headphones.

Pay attention to audio. Start letting your ears do more of the work. Every room and situation has its own sound. Listen up.

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Biggest Mistakes Made Shooting Video with DLSR’s

I’ve been working quite a bit lately with both the Canon 5D Mark II and the Canon 7D, shooting video. I’ve been shooting video with traditional video cameras for the last 11 years so I wasn’t in the dark as to how to shoot motion. But I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve made my share of mistakes with these hybrids.

Here are a few to watch out for:

  1. Don’t forget about audio. So many still photographers forget the importance of audio and then what they are left with are a bunch of video clips with lousy or unusable sound.
  2. Don’t capture audio with the camera mic. You’ll never get good sound if you do. I also stay away from plugging in an external mic with the mini stereo plug.
  3. Don’t turn off the camera mic when using an independent audio recorder. It’s always good to have the audio recorded to cards through the camera to use as a reference when syncing the sound later in post.
  4. Don’t discount reading the manuals. A lot of shooters think since they are coming from a photographic background, they don’t need to read the manuals. There are big differences when shooting video – make sure you read the manuals about some of the nuances and avoid making stupid mistakes.
  5. Don’t shoot video like a still photographer. Remember video is time in motion – so let motion play out in the camera. Let subjects move in and out of your frame. Let the camera roll – don’t shoot moments in time.
  6. Don’t forget about the story and sequencing. I usually see the big picture when I’m shooting. I think about the finished completed movie in my mind’s eye so when I’m shooting I’m always thinking about what is coming next – where will I go from this shot – where did I come from. If you don’t think like this then you’ll have a disconnected mess that won’t be easy to edit.
  7. Don’t be sneaky. These cameras look and are still cameras. Don’t deceive people into thinking that you’re not shooting video and/or sound.
  8. Get it right in camera. Unlike still photographs, video doesn’t do as well when it’s over manipulated or corrected in post, especially when trying to crop or enlarge the image.
  9. Don’t skimp on you shots. When shooting b-roll video – you’ll need lots of it to tell the story in post. Shoot different focal lengths as well as angles for variety to cut to.

10. Don’t shoot verticals. I know, I know there will be some of you that will disagree with me but if you want a vertical – don’t turn the camera sideways – crop the vertical in post. A contradiction perhaps to #9 you say. Well there are always exceptions.

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