No matter what kind of videos you are making and what device you use, an external microphone is a must. Compared to the inbuilt mic, it offers better sound quality, and boasts wide-range features, convenience and flexibility.
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What type of external recording microphone is commonly used?
Having a look at the external microphone that is universally used enables you to have a quick understanding of what kind of mic is for you need. And the following three types are usually seen in video production.
It is in the shape of barrel and features directional pickup pattern to block the sounds from the sides and rear. Shotguns external microphone can be mounted on the camera or off the camera by being attached to a telescopic boom pole to target the sound that the lens is focused at. The boom allows it to place as near to the source as possible while keeping the mic out of the frame.
Lavalier microphone is another category of external video microphone that can be clipped to the collar to stay close to the speaker’s mouth. Lavs are now the preferred choice for TV presenters and interview subjects since they are discreet and provide excellent audio quality. It is usually omnidirectional to record natural sounds.
It is made up of transmitter and receiver. The transmitter converts the captured audio into radio signals and sends it to the receiver through the air. And then the receiver turn it back into sounds. The elimination of cable enables you to move freely and make the frame clean without the worry of tripping over.
How to connect external microphone to different devices?
Connection is the first and important step to high-quality sounds. Since the connection is different among smartphone, computer and camera, we will discuss it separately in the following.
Connect mic with Type C or Lightning connector via charging port. If you use iPhone above 7 or Android phone without headphone jack, it will be ideal for you to use a microphone with Lightning or Type-C connector, which will incredibly simplify the connection. All you need to do is plug the connector into the charging port. And then your phone will regard the external microphone for iphone or android as the default audio recording equipment and start shooting anytime you want.
Connect microphone with TRRS through 3.5mm jack. For mobile phone that has headphone jack, connecting a 3.5mm external microphone to it is also simple. It takes two steps, making sure the mic has TRRS jack, which has three black rings, and then plug in into the phone’s 3.5mm jack.
Use adapter. Chances are that the connector doesn’t match the port of smartphone. It is impractical to buy a new one thus investing in an adapter is a good choice. It is easy to decide which adapter you need according to microphone output and your phone port. On end meets the mic and the other end goes to your phone, then the connection is done.
Photo by Richard Wong
To connect the external microphone that shares the same connector with your dslr, all you have to do now is following these simple steps:
- Connect the separate cable to the mic. The click sound indicates that you can achieve it successfully.
- Connect the other end to the camera’s jack. Click sound is also the symbol of correct connecting.
- Check whether it captures sounds or not.
- Then start your recording.
If you own a professional XLR microphone but there is only 3.5mm jack on the camera, these steps are useful:
- Screw an XLR cable adapter into the bottom of the camera.
- Connect the mic and adapter with the XLR cable.
- Check the connection and test the mic.
The following three steps help you set successful connection.
Tell the jack of your microphone. In general, external microphone for computer has two common kinds of jack: TRS, which stands for “Tip, Ring, Sleeve”, and USB, which is flat. You can find the corresponding ports on most of computer.
Locate the marching port on the computer. Usually, computer has a port that is colored pink and has a microphone image over it. If your microphone has TRS, just plug it into the port and you can start sound testing.
If you have a USB microphone, just plug it into a free USB port since there are two or more USB ports set on the computer.
If you use a laptop which usually has no microphone port, it is possible to connect to it via the headphone jack.
Test the sound recording. Go to the setting of Sound and select the target external microphone as the default device. You can see a bar beside Test your microphone option. Speak through the mic, if you see the blue bar going up and down, it is under working.
How to place the microphone properly to get better audio?
How and where to place a mic is the key to capture clear sounds. And it differs by the types.
The position of lavalier collar microphone depends on what clothes you wear.
- Button-up shirts and blouses: This is the most recommended clothes. Just clip the lav on the shirt a little above the sternum, run the cord down inside it and then you can speak with a professionally placed microphone. Also, make sure that it is on the outside.
- Tie: It is also perfect for clamping a lav and shares the same placing method as shirts.
- T-shirt or sweater: The best bet is to clip the lav onto the collar, which makes you sound different since it is close to the throat instead of chest. Make sure that it won’t rub the talent’s neck.
- Jackets or other floppy clothing: Actually, it is suggested not to attach the lav mic to the clothes that will move around in case of causing unwanted sounds.
The best way to position an external shotgun microphone is to aim it down at the chest. It is directional and sensitive to sounds. If you point it to the talent’s mouth, you may capture everything behind. And pay attention, the distance to the talent is different since there are different lengths of shotgun.
- Short: It is range is 4 feet, but to capture better audio, it is advised to place it 2 feet away from the subject.
- Medium: It operates well in the six-foot range and produces the finest sound at roughly three feet.
- Long: If there isn’t too much noise, it can be used from a distance of about nine feet.
Wireless microphone system
A wireless external microphone usually features a receiver and a clip-on transmitter. The following steps help you place the both appropriately.
- Place the receiver where the talent has a direct line of sight to it within the transmission distance. And make sure it is 10 feet away from other wireless devices so as to avoid audio dropout as much as possible.
- Clamp the transmitter on a proper location as you attach a lav mic.
- Power the WMS on and check if the transmitter and receiver match successfully.
When to use: Three main uses and the microphone characteristics they require
Different recording requires different microphone characteristics. Let’s see three main uses and discuss what they need.
Gaming - mic enables monitoring plays a big role
For gamer, an external gaming microphone with DSP, which is the short for digital signal processing, is necessary. Chances are that gamer may shout or laugh during the recording, the DSP plays a role limiting peak in levels.
A cardioid microphone is suitable.It can focus on what you are talking and block noises from the sides and rear.
For the best external microphone for gaming, monitor jack and voice changer are also important factors you need to consider. A monitor microphone enables you to hear what you say so you won’t waste time on making sure you are heard clearly. This is incredibly important when you have a team game. Moreover, if you can mask your voice with various voice effects, your streaming will be more interesting and attractive.
Podcasting - cardioid is best for one person while figure-eight pattern going for one-on-one talk
If you are an experienced speaker, you can invest in an external microphone without DSP. However, if you are not so confident in your mic technique, a DSP microphone is your perfect choice to deal with sudden rises in audio level.
As for the polar pattern, it depends on how many people will speak at the same time. External microphone for podcasting with cardioid pickup pattern is the best choice if there is only one person. If you’re doing a one-on-one interview, a figure-eight pattern mic might be worth considering—placing it in the middle of them (assuming they're not too far apart) can provide a natural-sounding recording. If you want to capture the background sounds, then the omnidirectional pickup pattern is recommended.
Since podcast has the higher demand on sounds, you should take windscreen and pop filter into consideration. They help you deal with the wind and /b/, /p/ sounds which will distort the recording.
Vlogging - staying wireless offers more convenience
An external microphone for vlogging should be small and easy to set up, which allows you to have the on-the-go shooting.
It is better to stay wireless. When filming a vlog, you can place your phone on the table and show viewers what you're eating. Alternatively, if you’re going to shoot a full view, you can position the camera far away from you and keep chatting.
And a shock mount or a windscreen is better to be included because you will move around when shooting vlogs outside. Both of them will help reduce the influence on audio quality.
Beyond the aforementioned applications, you can also use the external microphone for youtube videos, TikTok and suchlike. Want to know how to pick a right one? See the article What could be your YouTube microphone? Four things to consider.