How Important is Mic Placement vs. Mic Quality?

If you want to get the optimal quality sound but you don’t have a Hollywood style budget what will be your best approach? Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake (now from DPreview video Chanel).

On this video Niccolls and Drake go our to test an interesting dilemma – what is more important – good technique with low-end quality gear our high-end gear but less effective technique (so basically to answer all those people who say – just throw money at the problem).

As you can probably guess – it doesn’t matter how good your gear is – if you don’t know what you are doing your end result will suffer one way or another.

The good news is that understanding some basic concepts about audio recording isn’t very hard and even with relatively inexpensive gear you can get fairly decent audio.

So what should you do (and not do) to improve your audio recording for your next video?

  1. Get your mic close to your subject – there is a reason why people use boom mics on production sets – these are effective – if you can’t operate the boom – user a lights stand with a holder (like this) as long as you have a pole (which isn’t super expensive either).
  2. If you can’t use boom – use a lavalier mic – if your talent is moving or for some reason you can’t use a boom mic, get a lav on your talent (hide it if you must) and try and place it about 15cm/7″ or so below the talent’s mouth (preferably in the center of the body below the chin although in some cases you can put it elsewhere – just make sure that your talent will always face the mic otherwise you will get changes in sound volume in your recording).
  3. Indoor vs. outdoor – while outdoor you will likely want to record using a shotgun mic which is similar to a telephoto lens in that it focuses the pick up to (mostly) the front plus a little in the sides and the back, indoors due to sound reflections (from walls and other objects) you might want a more forgiving off-axis rejection-  therefore granting you a more natural vocal recording and you can achieve this by using a cardioid or hyper-cardioid polar pattern mic (which is hear shaped and gets mostly sound from the front and sides).
  4. Monitor your sound – no matter how good you are and how high end your recording gear is – listening to your recording while recording it is essential to reduce problems in post (preferably using good monitoring headphones that will help you isolate problems with the recording such as cars passing by or dogs barking in the background).
  5. Record in a quiet environment – this seems obvious but it isn’t – even good technique and high-quality recording gear might not help you if you are recording in a very noisy environment such as close to a busy road or next to an airport. Unless you simply have to – try and find a different location or different time (if there is no other way and you must record in these conditions but have to get perfect sound you can always use dubbing – but this can be time-consuming and expensive process to implement and is usually not possible for smaller productions so get it right the first time).

On LensVid we have a very extensive section devoted to sound recording for video productions. You can find many of Niccolls/Drake videos here on LensVid.

Iddo Genuth
Iddo Genuth is the founder and chief editor of He has been a technology reporter working for international publications since the late 1990's and covering photography since 2009. Iddo is also a co-founder of a production company specializing in commercial food and product visual content.

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