Audio Workarounds For Your Videos: iPhones and Shotgun Microphones

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I shoot video using a Canon DSLR. The Rebel T3 to be precise. It’s a great camera to get started with when new to the DSLR game. I had a lot of experience shooting video with TV cameras and camcorders, but didn’t know much about photography and DSLRs so I got one knowing I’d need to learn as I go along.

Now that I’ve gotten comfortable with the lens and made a few mistakes along the way, I’m really happy that I’ve gone down the DSLR route for video. The flexibility you get from a simple lens really helps craft a nice shot. It’s also forced me to become a better photographer. I now know how to shoot some pretty nice nighttime photos.

Unlike more expensive Canon DSLRs, the T3 doesn’t have an audio input. I guess this is a drawback, but it’s forced me to become more creative in my video shooting. While my Canon does have an onboard microphone, it’s very limited and tinny sounding.

Depending on where I’m shooting and how mobile I want to be, I have two workarounds I use for Audio.

iPhone as a Microphone

The Microphone on the bottom of the iPhone is actually remarkably powerful. It picks up a lot and is pretty warm sounding when compared to what an on-board mic will give you. I’ll hold it with the bottom facing my interview subject, much like a normal microphone. I use the iTalk app, you can see your levels and name your clips when you save them. I’ll then synchronize the iPhone audio with the picture. This is especially useful when you need to be mobile, for example in a scrum setting. This is what I did for the Jose Canseco media scrum in Ottawa. I held my camera on a tripod with one hand and held my iPhone microphone with the other. You can see it here:


I’ve also used the iPhone in more controlled environments such as this one.

Shotgun Microphone

For shoots with a lot more background noise, I recently ordered a shotgun microphone from Amazon.ca. You can buy one and see all the specs by clicking here if you’re interested. It cost $40. For the price, you can’t be wrong. The kit includes:

  • Windsock
  • Two microphone stands
  • Stereo 0.25in (6.35mm) jack to mini 0.14in (3.5mm) jack adaptor
  • A lengthy cable: 26.05ft (8m) 0.25in (6.35mm) jack – XLR cable
  • A nice storage box (Black)
  • And, of course, the actual microphone (14.37in / 36.5cm long / metal body)

I’ll plug this microphone into a little Olympus voice recorder I have, which records the audio as an mp3 file. It also has a separate jack for me to plug in some headphones so that I can monitor the audio as it records, which is really useful.

Shotgun microphones are really useful in crowded, noisy areas such as bars and pubs. Check out this video from a recent shoot, where the difference is clear.

If I hadn’t had a shotgun mic, an interview from that location would have been unwatchable. I would have had to move to a quiet room in the back of the restaurant. Having a shotgun mic allowed me to clearly hear my interview subject, while still catching some of the ambiance in the background.

So there you have my two workarounds for audio. As anyone with even a bit of experience with video can tell you: viewers on the internet will forgive poor video quality, but if the audio on your video is terrible, it makes the video unwatchable. So make sure you pay attention to your audio situation when shooting.

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