Questions and Answers
When you are out picking your new digital video camcorder you have a lot of things on your mind. How will the video look? Will it work in the dark? How much will it cost, anyway? Often times looking at the possible cameras in terms of their ability for audio recording is pushed aside. There are a number of simple things to look for during your shopping spree to make sure that your camera choice will get great sound.
Bring Headphones and Check Camera Noise
It is important to come shopping prepared, so with this in mind bring the best headphones you can find. Plug them into the headphone jack of each camera you are trying out so you can get a sense of the audio quality. Since the camera itself can make background noise, try to get to a quiet location to see how much of it is picked up. If you have the opportunity you may want to record some of this still sound on tape and then listen to it later to see how much of the camera sound is present. One of the largest staples of a quality camera is that it is able to muffle its own operating sounds. Also see if there is sound when changing settings and zooming in and out.
Does it Pick Up Distant Sounds?
Try to pick up specific, yet subtle, sounds from six to eight feet away. This can be people talking, working with some metal objects, or playing music. See if the camera can pick it up with full clarity and listenability. You want to be able to pick up sounds at a distance that are good enough that they can convey involving information and mood.
Since no onboard microphone is adequate you also want to make sure that it has two or more microphone attachments, as well as a channel controller that lets you specify exactly what microphone is doing what recording. If you are very serious about getting audio make sure that each of these ports has its own unique channel that you can separate if you are using two microphones. This way you have more specific sound for each specific purpose when you are in the editing room. Also look to see if there is a place on the camera where you can mount a high-quality external microphone.
No Embedded Mics
Trial and error is the final experience that everyone has to go through, and it will be hard to see for sure if you are not testing the camera with external microphones. Look for a camera that does not have a microphone embedded in it and instead has an onboard microphone that is removable and plugs into the same XLR ports that any externals will.