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Talking Tech: Microphones to improve your videos

         

Jefferson Graham presentations an array of microphones that may dramatically make stronger your video productions on Speaking Tech. Contains the Rode VideoMic, Rode StereoMic and lavalier mics from Sony.

Jefferson Graham, USA TODAY 2:10 a.m. EST January four, 2014

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LOS ANGELES — For the brand new year, we need to inspire budding video makers to ditch the on-board interior microphone from their DSLRs and graduate to nice microphones for a extra skilled — and extra audible — sound.

As of late on Speaking Tech we take a look at a number of latest mikes from Rode, and various options to get better sound for your video.

Let’s start with the problems with the internal mike. The sound is really tinny, and it tries to be a mike for all people — picking up sound for everywhere — every direction.

For an interview — say, for a family history project — the internal mike will pick up the subject and everything else nearby: the door opening, refrigerator humming, music playing in the other room.

Professional productions — movies and TV shows — don’t use internal mikes, and you shouldn’t either.

Many photographers look to mikes from Rode that sit atop their DSLR and connect directly to the camera.

Let’s take a closer look:

•The Rode VideoMic starts at $149 and is a shotgun mike that attempts to isolate the other sounds and just focus on what’s in front of it — probably you.

•The new Rode Stereo VideoMic is targeted toward ambient sounds and is suggested for music. It sells for $299.

I tested both mikes extensively in the field. While the VideoMic worked best outdoors, I’d grade it a B-. It isolated my sound, but wasn’t as good as a lavalier mike, which connects directly to your lapel and is the closest audio recorder to your voice.

Outside, where I had to compete with sounds from nearby trucks, motorcycles and passersby, the stereo mike didn’t perform as well. But in the Talking Tech garage, we decided to get creative and use the mike like they do in Hollywood — on a boom stand.

My co-worker Sean Fujiwara put the mike on a makeshift pole (a light stand) and held it over my head as we made tests, and the sound was great.

This way, the mike got closer to my voice than it would have sitting atop the camera. We did the same test with the VideoMic, but the StereoMic had more depth.

LAVALIER MIKES

In our street tests, the VideoMic was decent, but the lavalier mikes were near perfect. With all the outside distractions, the lavalier was closest to my body, and picked up my voice better than the others.

Lav mikes aren’t cheap. My pair of Sonys (a wireless transmitter pack on me, with the mike, and a wireless receiver on the camera to pick up the sounds) sells for just over $500, as does a similar set-up from Sennheiser.

•iPhone users. Rode has a new lavalier setup for the iPhone, and it sells for just $60. That’s the good news. The bad is that the cord from the phone to the subject is short, and the sound is so-so. A C+ in a crowded room, a B in a quiet room. However, compared to the internal mike on the iPhone, it’s definitely an A+.

•For DSLR users. For an alternative to the $500 wireless lav set try the Audio/Technica PRO88W-R35, which sells for about $150 for the pair. For the lower price, you’re more likely to encounter hiss and interference, so make sure to monitor the sound before you start the camera rolling.

Readers: What kind of mikes are you using for your productions? Tell me about it on Twitter, where I’m@jeffersongraham.

Jefferson Graham is a tech columnist for USA TODAY, the host of USA TODAY’s digital express “Speaking Tech,” and the writer of 9 books, together with the contemporary “Video Nation: A DIY Information to Planning, Taking pictures and Sharing Nice Video.”

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