Looking at microphones
The single biggest thing you can do to improve the audio in your videos is to obtain a decent external microphone. Though some camcorders do have a decent
built-in microphone, you’ll almost always obtain better results by using an exter-
nal microphone. You can use a few different types of microphones:
» Lavalier: The lavalier mic — or lav mic, for short — is also known as a lapel mic. A lav mic’s primary advantage is that it’s small. The microphone can be
attached to the speaker’s clothing, and it’s small enough to be unobtrusive. Most viewers are accustomed to seeing newscasters and other video subjects with visible microphones, so it isn’t generally off for the audience. Lav mics are usually omnidirectional, which means that they pick up sound from every direction: You can hear not only your subject but also hear every sound in your recording environment.
Lavs work best in quiet environments or controlled studios. The nice thing about the lav mic is that it is, for the most part, a set-it-and-forget-it solution. After the lav mic is attached correctly to the talent and the levels are set, you need to check only periodically to ensure that the levels are maintained.
» Shotgun mic: A shotgun microphone (or boom mic) is a highly directional mic
that is often used to record voices in videos. The shotgun mic is designed to
record audio from a single direction, and it’s less sensitive to sound coming from behind the mic, to the sides, or elsewhere around the subject. This type of mic is especially useful for isolating sources in noisy situations, where background noise can overwhelm the subject’s voice. Shotgun mics, which are a lot larger than lav mics, need to be pointed at the talent from just off camera, no more than a foot from the speaker’s mouth. This is usually accomplished by a boom operator, a human who holds the shotgun mic attached to the end of a pole and points it at the talent. (One other option is to attach the boom mic to a stand with a clamp and then positon the mic over the talent.)
» Handheld: You often see onscreen talent using a handheld microphone.
A handheld mic can be a practical solution for capturing audio, but it’s
clear that the talent is using a microphone. This is completely acceptable in newsgathering situations, and it can be a great solution for videos of that type.
Capturing good audio
Capturing good audio is important, so it’s worthwhile to look at a few factors that go into capturing it. You may already know that you need a decent mic, but here are a couple of other considerations:
» The recording environment: Modern audio-editing software allows you to
make quite a few changes and fi to your audio after the fact, but the best
way to end up with good audio is to capture good audio. A huge part of
capturing good audio is controlling the environment in which you shoot. If you shoot your video in a busy coff shop, it’s diffi to keep the sounds of the coff shop out of your video. Make sure you’ve chosen a quiet place for your video recording, away from traffi refrigerators, air conditioners, pets, crying children, televisions, and so on.
» Monitoring your audio: Another key aspect to capturing good audio is to listen to what you’re recording while you’re recording it. Though a good
camera will have an onscreen monitor visually representing the sound levels of audio you’re capturing, it’s essential to listen to the audio in headphones as you’re recording. Ensuring that everything sounds good, and retaking shots marred by audio glitches or other noises, is much more time-eff ctive than trying to fi all that stuff in post-production.
IN THIS CHAPTER
» Preparing for a shoot
» Directing actors eff
» Finding great-looking camera angles
» Managing voice and diction
Putting It All Together to
Capture Some Video
he big day has arrived, and it’s time to shoot some video! You’re ready to stride onto the set as the big-shot director or producer and yell “Action!” It’s all a breeze from this point, right?
Not quite. A video shoot can be an incredibly high-pressure environment, with too much to do and too little time to get it done. You must perform an amazing juggling act that keeps the cast, crew, camera, script, set, props, costumes, and all those inevitable but unplanned events all moving forward to get your video “in the can” by the deadline.
The good news is that a video shoot can also be one of the most creative and rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. When all the elements click and you see that outstanding performance or fantastic camera angle, you’ll feel a sense of deep personal satisfaction and pride that you nailed it. When the shoot is going well, the payoff far outweighs the pain.
This chapter explains how to prepare for the shoot — from developing a checklist the night before to setting up on the big day. We lay out the steps involved in every good camera take, and we list the little details that every first-class director, like yourself, must keep an eye on in order to capture the outstanding footage you need.
Setting Up for a Shoot
Directing or producing a video is similar to running a marathon: You must be rested and ready before you can go the distance. The night before you run
26.2 miles, for example, you don’t want to begin wondering whether you should have bought new running shoes. Similarly, the night before the big shoot, you want to be as prepared as possible. The more you prep, the smoother your shoot — and the better you sleep the night before.