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Recording sound for DSLRs

Andrea Allen
December 16, 2010 by Andrea Allen PRO

Step 6: Ways to Record Sound with External Devices

Sound is a very important part of shooting video. Some would argue the most important part. But recording high quality sound can be a little tricky with DSLR cameras. Since DSLRs are designed for shooting stills but can also shoot video, many cameras limit your ability to record and to monitor sound through the camera. But there’s hope!

As Philip explains, there are a few options you can use to get great sound.

External microphones
Your DSLR camera records sound, but the quality isn’t that great. What’s a quick way to record better sound? One word: external microphones. Okay, that’s two words. External microphones usually attach to the top of your camera and plug into the camera’s microphone jack on the side. There are different types of external microphones, but the two most common are shotgun and stereo microphones. Depending on what you are shooting you will want to use different microphones. Shooting with shotgun and stereo microphones isn’t perfect, but it is much better than just using the mic built into your camera’s body.

External audio recorders
Use these to record sound separately from the camera. Although these devices cost extra, they will really improve the ability to record and monitor sound. The hard thing about recording audio separately is that you’ll have to sync up the sound later in the editing process. There are programs you can use that will do it for you, like PluralEyes, but do some research for other options as well.

XLR boxes
XLR is a type of audio connection used on professional sound devices. Think of the microphone you use when you sing karaoke at the bar -- that uses an XLR cable. Use XLR boxes to give your camera professional inputs for sound. Some will even let you monitor levels on the box itself. XLR boxes allow you to plug in higher quality microphones that you might use to shoot a short film or interview.

*E***For extra credit:** Intrigued? Want to learn more about the basics of sound? Well you’re in luck because Vimeo staffer Matt Schwarz has cooked up an awesome Lesson that’s just waiting for your hungry eyes to ingest. Ok enough of this.. get to the learning!

Ready for a challenge?

So do you feel confident enough to go out and shoot something? Philip has a great starting challenge for you called “An Object.” Find an object and film it so that it’s interesting! Use all the techniques you learned, keeping in mind your white balance, ISO settings, and frame rate. Keep your video under two minutes and really push your boundaries with framing and DOF. Watch Phil’s example video here.

Accept this challenge
  1. 1.
    Accessories are important as you start shooting. Learn about what you definitely need and things that you'll want for awesome looking videos.
  2. 2.
    If you're new to shooting with a DSLR, here are some things you'll need to know about lenses.
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    New to shooting with a DSLR? Maybe you're thinking about getting one? We'll teach you the differences between DSLR cameras and help you decide which one's best for you!
  4. 4.
    Shooting at night with your DSLR? This lesson will give you the tips for making your low light shots awesome.
  5. Recording high quality sound for your DSLR can be tricky business. Here are a few ways to help you record.
  6. 6.
    This lesson covers a few simple changes you can make to your camera settings in order to get the best looking footage for your DSLR!
  7. 7.
    Keys to understanding your camera settings and how to start shooting great video with your DSLR.
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    Learn how to make a basic timelapse video with your DSLR.


Joy Moody

What XLR boxes do you recommend?

Michael Sweerts

The video stops abruptly (just at a critical point). Is it possible to post the full video please?

Tiger by the Tail

Reording? you mean recording unless there is a new element to making video. Misspelling at :26


Personally I always record sound separately. Onboard mics will always be prone to camera mechanism sounds.

Rory S-B

Hi. Can you plz help me others with a unique topic, not explored very often:
making a film w/out audio crew?

Here's my thoughts so far:
For dialogue,
1. Give each actor a hidden ZoomH1 and their own wired lav. OR
2. Place Zoom H1's or lavs hidden on set, or just off camera. But option 1 is better i assume, no?

Other ideas/reactions?

Next, For the sound effects

1. You could "plant" lav mics in strategic places,

2. You could "plant" field recorders by themselves in strategic places,

3. Or tell me what you think of this idea:

what about doing a take twice, and the second time not doing any video, but repeating scene
as exactly as possible and having lavs attached to actor's legs (for footsteps) or arms (for doors etc.) unconventional i know, but could it work?

any other ideas? thanks for any help. i think a lot of this could benefit from creative ideas regarding running sound w/out any crew.
thanks again!

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