Which Camcorder Microphone is Right for You?

In the world of video what you hear is just as important as what you see. In fact, an audience is actually more forgiving to poorly shot images than they are to audio they can't hear very well. Poor sound is the kiss of death when it comes to screening your work. The only way to overcome this is to invest in a microphone. But which camcorder microphone is right for you?

It Depends on the Camera

Most consumer camcorders that allow you to use a microphone have a stereo jack that you plug the external mic into. Professional camcorders usually have an XLR jack for the microphone. Before buying an external mic, you should know what jack your camcorder has, as one will not work in the other.

Internal Microphones

Most camcorders have internal microphones that pick up audio, although the quality is usually poor when compared to external microphones. Internal mics pick up noise from every direction so you end up hearing everything going on in the area. Generally you do not want that.

External Microphones

Shot Gun Mics

Shot gun mics are very common on video productions. They are directional microphones that can be mounted to the camcorder or attached to a boom pole to they can be placed closer to the speakers. Because they're directional, they pick up sound most clearly from the direction they are pointed in. This is wonderful because you are picking up sound from the source you want while noises from behind you are minimal.

Lapel Microphones

These are the microphones that clip onto a person's shirt. A small wire then runs down to a transmitter that is usually clipped to the person's belt. The transmitter sends the sound to a reciever on the camcorder via radio signals. These microphones are great for interviews and for situations where the shot is too wide for a shot gun mic to clearly pick up the audio. The two downsides to lapel mics are that they pick up the brushing noises of a subject's clothes when they move. Their signals can also be subjected to radio interference from other sources, like cell phones on set.

Handheld Microphones

These are the microphones that you typically see news reporters doing. They pick up great sound but they need to be held by the speaker, which makes your video look like the six o'clock news.

What Should You Get?

So which camcorder microphone is right for you? Probably a shot gun mic is the best one to start off with as it will give you much better audio than your camcorder's internal mic. As your video career grows you should invest in other types of mics, starting with lapels after the shotgun so you can record crisp audio in wide shots.

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