Part one - Microphones and Stuff
Camera(wo)men who are happy to spend a thousand quid on editing software and a few plug-ins, go
visibly pale at the thought of forking out half that amount for a decent microphone.
In essence a microphone is just a diaphram which vibrates when it is hit by sound waves, it turns these
vibrations into an electrical signal which is then sent to a recording device. The theory is simple, the difficulty
comes when you try to put this into practice. Convincing a videographer to spend money on a decent
microphone is often an uphill struggle but, be assured, you really can tell the difference between a
fifty quid microphone and one costing ten times that. More importantly, the viewer will notice a difference, and
if the viewer's also a customer, a well recorded sound track will go a long way towards a professional video.
Sound recording is often the most overlooked part of videomaking. Often it's seen as a dark art,
performed by strange people in headphones who seem to be fiddling with complicated looking
equipment, adjusting knobs and buttons in a frenzy of activity. In an attempt to enter this
twilight world Professional Lighting Cameraman and Fotografics member Robin Lambert
discarded his light meter and set off on a quest to find the solution to life, happiness and
what exactly a VU meter does.
Sound recording is sometimes a bit of an afterthought to a lot of videographers, yet a decent
soundtrack can add immensely to the audience's enjoyment and undertsanding of what
they're seeing, poor sound can turn viewing a video into torture. There are many aspects
to be looked at and, although this series can only scratch the surface, it'll be covering
the basics of sound theory, working on location, recording a commentary, adding music
and a few specialist applications such as radio microphones and mixing, all in bite sized
chunks.So let's dive in and start with the weapon used to capture those noises: the microphone.
Microphones are designed to do specific jobs. Something intended to be used to record drums in a studio won't perform at
its best capturing voices in a field. A microphone designed to reproduce a rock singer on stage isn't necessarily the right
thing for a voice-over and so on. Yer bog-standard dynamic microphone is fine for Ozzy Osbourne at full power but, for most
video applications, a condenser microphone is the better option. Basically a dynamic microphone creates its own electricity when the diaphram vibrates
between magnets, it needs a lot of sound energy to do this, which is why it doesn't do too well recording soft, delicate sounds. A condensor needs an
electrical supply, either from a battery, or the camera, in return it's more sensitive and picks up sounds sometimes missed by a dynamic mic.
At a glance, if the microphone is the shape and size of an ice
cream cornet it's probably a dynamic microphone which needs
to be held close to the mouth, if it's a black stick of rock, then
you can safely put money on it being a condenser. There's
also a similar type of microphone called an electret but since it
acts, looks and needs a battery like a condenser microphone,
it can be considered a close relative.