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Achieving Professional Sound with a Consumer Video Camera

By Sam Mallery

Watch our video on Improving the Sound on your Consumer Camcorder.

It's not uncommon for video camera owners to reach the realization that the sound quality of their footage is insufficient. The simple truth is that all consumer and professional-level video cameras come with low-quality, built-in microphones. When you buy a video camera you are essentially paying for a device that delivers visual performance. If these manufacturers installed high-quality microphones into their cameras, the price tag would balloon and the unit could not compete with less expensive models. Economics and the bottom line have left us all with inferior microphones in our video cameras.

Thankfully, there are tools available to remedy this situation. In this article we're going to show you what you need to capture professional-quality sound with your video camera. In the process, we're going to learn about products called "Camcorder XLR Adapters," and we're going to show you some of the different kinds of microphones you can use to vastly improve the audio quality of your productions.

The goal here is to use different microphones than what came with your camera. Good quality microphones connect using 3-pin XLR cables, and a consumer video camera only has a single mini-plug input. In order to use professional quality microphones with your consumer video camera, you're going to need a piece of equipment called a Camcorder XLR Adapter. It's a small, lightweight box that attaches to your camera and enables you to plug in professional microphones.

Most Camcorder XLR Adapters mount onto the tripod thread on the bottom of the camera. Your camera can still be mounted to a tripod because there is an additional tripod thread underneath the Camcorder XLR Adapter.

The Camcorder XLR Adapter box also corrects the audio signal's impedance; in other words, it ensures that the microphones that you plug in will deliver their optimum level of sound quality.

People tend to think they can accomplish the same tasks by purchasing a few inexpensive audio adapter plugs. This is not the case. Most Camcorder XLR Adapters feature two separate microphone inputs. Using an inexpensive splitter cable to accomplish this will not work. Many Camcorder XLR Adapters also enable you to plug in the feed from a soundboard. For example, if you were shooting a wedding, you could take the direct signal from the DJ or the live band's mixing board. This is also impossible if you just used inexpensive plug-style audio adapters. Those standard audio adapters degrade the audio quality, especially if you have to use more than one. As they stack up and protrude from your camera, they can easily stress and damage your camera's inputs and its internal electronics. None of these pitfalls occurs when using a Camcorder XLR Adapter.

Important Note:

There are a number of different Camcorder XLR Adapters available at B&H, and which one you need often depends on what model video camera you're using. The sales experts here at B&H are your best resource to determine which model is best for your camera.

Inspect Your Camera

It's vitally important to determine if your video camera has a microphone input or not. Unfortunately, not all video cameras feature microphone inputs. Look at the connectors on your camera. The microphone input is small and usually labeled "mic." Sometimes these inputs are hidden behind little doors, so be thorough when you're looking. If you still can't find the microphone input on your camera, check your camera's operating manual to see if it has one. If you determine that your camera doesn't have a microphone input, there is nothing you can do to improve your sound quality.

If you do have a microphone input, a Camcorder XLR Adapter will allow you to use numerous kinds of microphones with your camera. A common combination for the two inputs of the Camcorder XLR Adapter is to use a clip-on lavalier microphone and a shotgun microphone either mounted on the camera, or on a boompole over the subject's head.

Some microphones run on off their own battery power, but if you're using microphones that require phantom power, there are Camcorder XLR Adapters like the Beachtek DXA-6 that could power them.

By improving the audio on your camera, you will be able to communicate ideas in your video work much more effectively. For more information we encourage you to contact us on the phone, online, or in person at our SuperStore in New York City. 1-800-947-9923

Top Pro Audio categories:

Recording | Desktop Audio | Keyboards & Synths | ENG, EFP & Broadcast | Live Sound & PA Accessories

Please email feedback on this article, or suggestions for future topics, to videofeedback@bhphotovideo.com