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DSLR Video Weekly: Recording Audio in Camera

This is article #14 in the DSLR Video Weekly series.  If you’d like the whole thing in one shot, check out the book Creating DSLR Video: From Snapshots to Great Shots.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.


Adjusting the Recording Volume

It’s important that your camera be set to the correct audio levels when recording. If the levels are too low, you’ll hear lots of background noise when you boost the audio during editing.  If the levels are too high (loud), you’ll click hear popping or clipping. It turns out that when recording digital audio, you have less flexibility than older analog methods (like when recording to tape).  Because the audio is basically a binary one or zero it only has two possible values.  Once you cross the 0 dBFS threshold on your volume meter, you will experience distortion or clipping.

The volume controls offered in cameras vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.  The most limited only allow for the audio to be on or off, which is undesirable because the camera will try to just run in Auto mode (called Automatic, Automatic Gain Control, or ACG).

If your camera offers another choice besides Auto, always use it.  I typically find the Medium or Standard option works best.

Auto mode tends to lead to a lot of variance in the audio recording and whooshing of background noise due to sudden rises in between dialogue or primary audio.  It is also problematic because the camera tries to make all sounds the same volume. As a result, you lose perspective as to how close an object is to the camera (which often serves as a point of view for those watching).

The solution is to adjust the recoding levels based on your scene.  If your camera offers volume controls, use them.  For many DSLR cameras, this may only be a Low, Medium, or High setting. However, many camera manufacturers are beginning to address user feedback and have been improving the audio controls in newly released cameras. Be sure to read Chapter 9 for more on working with microphones and controlling your audio recording.

The use of external microphones and other audio devices is covered in a later post.

Join us each Saturday for the next installment of this weekly series.

Once you get the hang of video, be sure to monetize it by becoming a contributor to Adobe Stock.

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