Fair warning – this post is going to be a tad technical. I’m getting more questions about recording good audio on DSLRs. I am glad to get this question. It means photographers who shoot video are starting to understand the importance of good audio.
Many of the questions center on the camera’s audio settings. Generally, camcorders and DSLRs use pulse code modulation (PCM) as their primary audio sampling method. Depending on your camera, you should have several quality choices.
The higher the PCM sampling rates (expressed in thousands of cycles per second (kHz)) and the number of data bits per sample (bits,) the better the quality.
Ideally, you should be able to choose between mono or stereo (that’s one or two channels) and selecting a 16-bit audio source, sampled at 48 kHz, will provide the best quality.
You can record at CD-quality (which, believe it or not is inferior to the highest quality) and sample at 44.1 kHz.
The lower-quality 16-bit samples at 32 kHz and 12-bits sampled at 32 kHz are generally so poor in quality that I cannot recommend using this setting unless you just want what’s called a scratch track. This is merely a sync track that would help you position audio in post that you recorded from a separate hand-held field recorder.
In short, you should always use the highest quality for your camcorder audio setting unless you have a good reason not to.
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