Arm Yourself with a Pistol Grip
Over the weekend I did a video shoot where I was operating the camera, doing the sound and directing. There was no production budget, just me acting as a one-man crew. I managed to cobble together a fairly decent-looking picture with the available light, but the audio quality I achieved would not have been possible without my pistol grip.
The video centered around two subjects walking around an apartment, talking about renovations and decorating ideas. The material was completely unscripted. I followed them around with my video camera in one hand, and a Rode VideoMic in the other. The Rode VideoMic has a 3/8" thread at the base of its shock mount. I screwed a Pearstone Universal Microphone Hand Grip into the thread, and attached a 10' VideoMic cable between my camera and the mic. I didn't need all 10 feet of the cable, so I had most of it rolled up and tied back with a cable wrap.
As the subjects moved around the apartment, I had to constantly maneuver to find the most effective angle to frame them in the shot. During their conversation, they would discuss areas of the apartment that needed work. With the camera free-floating in one hand and the mic in the other, I was able to pan away from the subjects in order to point the lens at the area being discussed. While I did this, I was able to keep the microphone pointed at the speaking person's mouth.
This situation should illustrate how inadequate it is to mount a microphone on top of the video camera, especially when it's the only mic being used. When the camera and microphone can move independently from one another, you can keep them both pointed where it counts the most at any given moment. Sure, it gives you more work to do, and more to think about; but the level of overall quality that you're able to achieve improves dramatically.
The entire time I was shooting, I was monitoring the audio through the headphone output on my camera with my Sony MDR-7506 headphones. Listening to where you need to point the microphone is always critically important. I was able to hear when my microphone would start to move away from the sweet spot on my subject, and make a quick adjustment.
There were a few times where I ended up accidentally catching a little bit of the microphone in the frame of the shot. However, this was the first time I had worked in this manner. It's a skill that could be mastered with a little practice. If you own the Rode Stereo VideoMic, it features a 3/8" thread at the base of its shoe mount that can be used for this purpose.
3/8" is the size of the thread found at the end of audio boompoles. Because of an additional 3/8" at the base of the Pearstone Hand Grip, it can be used as a short extender at the end of the pole, and removed when you need to do handheld work. If you own a boompole shock mount and a shotgun microphone, you can attach a pistol grip to the shock mount to achieve this handheld workflow using a professional microphone.
If you have any questions about using a pistol grip to work as a one-man band, I encourage you to post them in the Comments section of this post!