Video Essentials

Recording Sound for DSLR Cameras: Video 101

The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

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 PlurelEyes, 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.

Check back next week to learn how to create time-lapse videos with DSLRs or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School.


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  1. The key to good sound is proximity. The closer the mike is to the speaker, but better the sound. With the Rode Videomic and similar you can use a 6 ft stereo 1/8 extension to get the mike closer. Longer cables can pick up hum unless you switch to XLR connections.

    Posted by Steve Hovland | July 20, 2011, 5:22 am
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