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4.1 Choose the Right Microphone for Video Recording

There are many options when it comes to a microphone for video recording, but you will want to choose what works best for your style of presentation. In this lesson, you will learn to choose the right mic for your situation.

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4.1 Choose the Right Microphone for Video Recording

When it comes to microphones, just like cameras, you have a lot of options. Except that with microphones, you have probably ten times as many options, because great sounding microphones have been around for 30 or 40 years. In this lesson, you are going to learn what to choose and what will work best with your style of presentation. So in this type of application, you're trying to use a microphone to pick up the human voice, and for that, you have really a tremendous amount of options. Any type of microphone that sounds good usually sounds good on the human voice. But there are only a few types of microphones that work really well for different types of applications. So for kind of a video presentation like I'm doing now, the two standard microphones are used are a lapel microphone, which is clipped onto your clothing, sometimes called a lavalier microphone. And then, a shotgun microphone, which is usually positioned up above the subject, right off camera, and then kind of pointed right at their mouth. Because this microphone is extremely directional. They call it a shotgun microphone for a reason, because it really only picks up sound from right in front of the microphone, where a lot of other microphones have a wider pickup pattern, as it's called. So this type of microphone sounds great, this is a fantastic sounding microphone. It is quite expensive, this particular microphone costs about $550. And then to rig it, you need a nice stand and a boom pole, an XLR, and probably a shock mount like I have here. So it can get quite costly, but as long as you stay right in front of this type of microphone, it can sound fantastic. This is one of the best mics that I've ever used. The problem is with a shotgun microphone, if you start to wander or move side to side, because it's so extremely directional, your voice starts to dip very, very significantly. So I think for this type of application for video streaming, a shotgun microphone is really not the best. So that really just leaves the lavalier microphone, which I'm using right here. These are fantastic microphones. They are very, very small, so they don't take up a lot of space, they don't look weird. These work very, very well, because they're clipped right on you, they stay with you no matter where you move. I can move over here, I can move over here, and my voice sounds essentially exactly the same. A lot of times when folks think about a lavalier microphone, they usually think about a wireless lavalier microphone. And in fact, that's the type of microphone that I'm using here. But for a video stream, you really don't need to use a wireless microphone, because you're probably going to stay in one spot. Even if you're standing up, you're probably not going to be doing a whole lot of walking around unless you have a camera crew and maybe multiple cameras. So a wired lavalier microphone is a fantastic option. And you can get one fairly inexpensively. Now if you do some looking around, you're probably going to find two different types of wired lavalier microphones. You're going to find lavalier microphones with a 1/8th inch or a 3.5 millimeter type connector. Then you'll find others with an XLR connector. An XLR connector is a three pin balanced audio connector and it's used on professional devices. The lavalier microphones with the 3.5 millimeter connections might work if you plug them into your microphone input on your laptop or your computer, and you might be able to get away with plugging it into your camera, but you're going to have more problems with noise, because those are usually unbalanced. And also the pre-amp that's on your laptop, or on your computer, and most likely on your camera, is awful, they're not very good. And so, when you turn the volume up on that pre-amp, it's going to be noisy in almost all situations. Plus, if you need a little bit of length, so say you're setting your camera six feet away so that you're getting that nice optical compression that you get when you use a higher focal length, using those unbalanced mic cables and extending those is a big problem, because they basically act like a giant antenna, and you're probably going to get some radio interference. What I would recommend is that you get the more professional lavalier with an XLR end on it. The wired lavalier microphone that I usually recommend, and that I do have some experience using is the Shure SM93. This looks very similar to most of the other wire lavalier microphones that you'll see. But I know from experience that this microphone sounds great and it sounds great for this application. The client that I worked with to set up this high quality video streaming rig, that's the microphone that I got for him and it sounded fantastic right out of the box. The cool thing about this sure microphone is that it has a low cut roll off, which means that it basically rolls off the frequencies below one hundred hertz, which is great. That reduces a lot of the rumbles and a lot of the woof that you may get attaching the microphone to your body. And the way that I'm going to show you how to hook up the microphone doesn't really give us the opportunity to apply any audio processing. So having that low cut on the microphone is actually very handy. So for most of you out there, I'm going to recommend that you get a wired lavalier microphone. I like the Shure SM93, but feel free to try any high quality XLR microphone that you like. Now how do we get an xlr microphone into the computer? Well there are a number of ways. What I've found that works very well is a simple usb audio interface. Basically this is a device that does a few things. It has a microphone input, it has phantom power. So for condenser microphones like that wired lavalier, these require some DC voltage on the microphone input to make the microphone work. They have electronics in them and they require something called phantom power to work. So we have a microphone input, we have phantom power, it also has a pre-amp, so basically a small little amplifier that boosts the gain to get it to an appropriate level. Then it has an analog to digital converter and a USB output to go to your computer. Those elements right there are really all you need. And so, this particular USB audio interface does have some extra things. It has two microphone inputs, and it has four outputs, and some other jazz that really you don't need. I'm showing you this because this is the one that I have, but you can get a version of this that's much more simple, that has just one input. This particular USP audio interface cost about $70, but you can get a more simple, one-input version for around 30 to $40. Now if you're going to be using your video streaming rig to do Skype or Google Hangouts or any other kind of communication where you need audio back from your computer, it's probably best to find one of these USB audio interfaces with a headphone out, but don't worry almost all of them do. That can be a little bit easier for a computer so it doesn't have to run multiple drivers for the incoming audio and the outgoing audio. If you use one of these USB audio interfaces, it's basically going to use that driver for the microphone input and the sound coming out of the computer, and it just makes things a little bit more simple. Now, I did want to mention another option. You can see I have one more microphone here. This is a dynamic microphone and you may have seen some video streams or podcasts where the presenter is using kind of a big, fat microphone on a boom, and they get that really close to their face, and it has kind of a, what I would call a radio or a broadcast type of sound. It's really big and beefy sounding, and very full sounding. It's quite nice. To do that, you really need to get a microphone really close to your face. A lot of those microphones can be quite expensive. For example, the Heil PR 40 microphone is very popular to use one kind of web streams and podcasts. But the thing is that you can get just about any decent sounding dynamic microphone and if you get it nice and close to your face, it can sound really, really nice. For example, this microphone right here, this is a Sure Beta 57 A, and I believe this microphone costs around $140, but if I get this right up close to my grill here, you can hear that is has a big beefy, round, rich sound, and the reason why it sounds like that is because of something called proximity effect. Proximity effect happens when you have a directional microphone, so a microphone that is more sensitive in one direction, and the closer you get that microphone to the sound source, the more of a bass response you get. So if I pull this microphone away, and I kind of re-level it, you can hear that it sounds much less full in those lower frequencies. But if I get it right close to my mouth talking at the same volume, you can hear that there is a big sound difference. Now these microphones are cool for a number of reasons. One, it makes you sound big and beefy, and full, no matter if you're a man or a woman, these sound great, it sounds good to get the microphone really close to the sound source. The second reason is that it does a great job of rejecting sounds that don't come from directly in front of the microphone. So you can see if I hold this microphone right here and I just move my face over here, you're going to hear a very significant drop off in the sound. And as soon as I move my face right in front of the microphone, you're going to hear that come right up again. So this works on the back of the microphone as well. So if I flip this microphone around I try and talk like this, you're not going to hear much out of the microphone. The only thing you're going to hear is the sound bouncing off of the room and then coming back in this way, because these really don't get a lot of sound coming in to the back of the microphone, depending on the type of microphone you're using. So that's really good if you have any kind of noise in your environment, because the noise In the environment, the ambient noise, no matter what it is, compared to the sound of your voice, because it's so close to the microphone, is going to be drastically reduced. The one bad thing is that, in order for this to work, you have the microphone close, which means that it's In your shot. Now, for some presentations that may work. There's plenty of succesful podcasts and web streams that you can see that they have the microphone and it's kind of up in their grill here. Especially if you use a tighter shot, it doesn't take up too much of the frame. But you see I do have a problem kind of holding it, right now I'm just hand holding the microphone. And so, I need to have a way to hold the microphone to get both of my hands free, and that has some adjustability so that when I move around, I can get the microphone to kind of track with, wherever I am sitting. I'm going to show you exactly how to rig a microphone with a nice desktop boom stand coming up in another lesson. But first, I want to show you how to rig the lavalier microphone so that it looks great and it sounds great. Check that out coming up next.

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