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How to Make Great Video: Getting Great Audio (Intermediate Level)

Part of an on-going series about how to make great videos, without needing specialized tools. Read more here.
Last time, we talked about the easiest ways to make sure your video has good sound quality. Today, let’s get a little more technical and talk equipment. Not professional equipment—we’re not going to recommend you go out and get some boom mics and a mixer. Just some very simple, inexpensive audio recording devices that you can buy online for less than $100 that can make a big difference in the quality of your audio recording.

Inexpensive Audio Recording Devices for Non-Video Professionals

Your recording device–whether it’s your laptop, your phone, or something else–obviously comes with its own microphone. But you may have noticed by now that these often aren’t very good. The sound is often fuzzy or tinny. It might pick up a lot of background noise. It may be hard to get it close enough to your mouth.
For better audio quality, it’s best to get a separate mic. This doesn’t have to be something fancy! The best solution is to invest in a dedicated USB external microphone which is designed to pick up what’s in front of it. You can get one for 20 or 30 bucks—the cheap ones are fine for your purposes.
If you’re recording screen captures and you don’t actually intend to have your face in the shot, using a headset with a microphone can be a nice compromise. This will place the microphone directly in front of your mouth and produce a decent result. If you’re taking video of yourself, though, it’s not the most graceful solution—you look a little silly.
If you’re using your phone to record the video, you might want to get a mic that clips on to your clothes and connects directly to your phone. These are called lapel mics, or lavalier mics (lav mics, for short). They’re good for plugging into your laptop, too.
If you want to record someone else, you might want a dynamic microphone instead, to keep the audio on the same phone. This is one you can point at someone else. You already know what these look like—it’s the traditional microphone shape that people can hold in their hands.
If you want to record multiple people talking, the easiest thing to do is get an omnidirectional mic and put it in the middle of a table. They often look a little like a conference phone. You can get these in USB as well. They are a little more expensive than the lav mics, but if you’re going to do this a lot, it’ll pay for itself fast. You can still do fine on under $100.

Other Tips for Better Audio Recordings

It’s definitely easier if you can plug your microphone into the same equipment you’re using to record your video. If for some reason you have to use two different devices, you’ll have to synch the audio up in editing.
One thing that can make it easier is if you clap while both your video and audio are recording, before you start your content. That gives you a point to synch to. When you try to line them up, make sure the clapping sound happens at the same time your hands clap, and then the rest of your recording will be aligned. This can be a little tricky, though; it’s easier to just use the same device to begin with.
All of this is easy to find online, and relatively inexpensive. You can use it right out of the package, usually, or with minor adjustments. It will pay for itself, fast.

Like this post? Read from the beginning of the series.

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