On-Camera Mics to Improve Your Family Videos

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Remember home movies? No, not the animated show, I’m talking about the Super-8 movies Grampa made to document that Catskills family vacation or the holiday VHS recordings your dad shot using his 1980s mainframe-size camcorder. Over the years, they’d fallen out of favor at my house. I’d shoot fun, precious milestones with the phone, but nobody seemed interested in actually watching them, so I gave up.

Fast-forward to a gathering at my brother-in-law’s where he asks, “You guys want to see the Thanksgiving video from last year?” and, rather than eliciting groans and snickering, everyone responds with enthusiastic, seemingly genuine affirmatives.

It turns out that my brother-in-law figured out a few tips that make his home movies not only watchable, but quite enjoyable. His first tip turned out to be the most important: get better sound with an external mic. He was right, and in this article, we’re going to take a look at some inexpensive ways to improve the sound in your family videos.

For a no-brainer, maximum-bang-for-your-buck improvement with the least hassle, start with a shotgun mic. These compact mics mount directly on your phone or DSLR/mirrorless camera. They provide directional sound capture, with less background noise and room echo compared to the camera’s built-in microphone.

If you’re using your phone to shoot, a very popular mic is the RØDE VideoMic Me for iPhone/Android. It’s small enough to carry in your pocket and quickly mounts on your phone so you’re ready to shoot in seconds—picking up the action at your kid’s birthday party with clear audio quality. The mic even comes with a furry windshield, great for those outdoor sports events or travel videos.

RØDE VideoMic Me Directional Mic for Smartphones

DSLR/mirrorless shooters will get similar sound improvement using the lightweight, ultra-compact RØDE VideoMicro shotgun, which is equipped with a shoe-mount adapter for camera mounting. More advanced shooters can get an even better sound with the slightly larger but more sensitive Deity V-Mic D3 Pro—powered by a built-in battery. With its rugged build, solid stabilizing system to protect from vibrations, and adjustable gain knob for loud sound levels, this mic is ideal for a wide variety of applications, including family vacations, school talent shows, and sports events.

RØDE VideoMicro Ultracompact Camera-Mount Shotgun Microphone

While a mention of home movies typically conjures up images of childhood activities (or, in my family, “mayhem”), recording oral histories from venerable family members preserves memories and documents important moments in your clan’s ongoing story. For this kind of video, you would probably be better served by miking up Aunt Cloris with a wired lavalier microphone, which clips directly on clothing, right near the speaker’s mouth, for a clear and present sound.

The Boya BY-M1 is a versatile lav mic that delivers surprisingly good sound for the price, and works with any phone or DSLR camera. You can invest a little more with the RØDE smartLav+ and get more nuanced sound. The smartLav+ works with any phone and, using an additional SC3 adapter, with any DSLR camera. If you need to record you and your subject conversing, Saramonic offers the LavMicro 2M, a two-lavalier solution that works with phones and DSLRs.

BOYA BY-M1 Omnidirectional Lavalier Microphone

For situations where your subject is moving in front of the camera, you’ll need a wireless lavalier mic. Phone shooters have a great option in the Saramonic Blink 500 B3 for iPhones or Blink 500 B5 for Androids. These wireless mic systems feature two-channel receivers and can be easily expanded to record two mics to your phone at the same time by adding a second lav/transmitter unit.

Saramonic Blink 500 B5 Digital Wireless Omni Lavalier Microphone System for USB Type-C Devices (2.4 GHz)

DSLR/mirrorless users can avail themselves of the ultra-popular RØDE Wireless GO lav mic, which delivers near-professional sound at an economical price. All these wireless systems are hassle-free, plug-and-play devices that anyone can use.

RØDE Wireless GO Compact Digital Wireless Microphone System (2.4 GHz)

Less commonly thought of, but just as useful, a stereo mic can be the perfect solution for recording more immersive sound when shooting travel, nature scenes, and musical performances. The compact Zoom iQ7 stereo mic conveniently plugs into the Lightning port of your iPhone to create wide-image sound on the go, effortlessly. The versatile Azden SMX-30 stereo shotgun mic mounts on DSLR/mirrorless cameras and lets you switch between stereo and mono modes, giving you an all-in-one solution for recording directional speech and ambient sounds.

Zoom iQ7 Mid-Side Stereo Microphone for iOS Devices with Lightning Connector

So, whether it’s a smartphone or DSLR/mirrorless camera, one of these suggestions will hopefully be the external mic that’s just right your family videos. A couple of final tips: get a furry windscreen for additional protection against wind noise if you’re shooting outdoors, remember to keep an eye on recording levels, and when possible, monitor with headphones. And yes, it may be a bit weird, at first, to hear enthusiastic responses to your home movies but, rest assured, this is still your family. It’s just that the movies will be a lot better!

If you want to know more about these mics, stop by our B&H SuperStore and talk with one of our product specialists, or if you’re not in the neighborhood, visit us online anytime.

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