You could go out and spend a wad of cash on all the latest high-tech sound recording equipment money can buy. Or you can do some easy things that will go a long way toward improving the sound quality of your videos:
– invest in an external microphone – it doesn’t have to be a fancy one. You don’t want to get the $7.95 model, but for 20 or 30 bucks you can get something that will improve the sound quality of your recordings dramatically. You can get a handheld one and move it close to your subject – using a broomstick and some duct tape to hold it overhead – or you can just have them hold it just offscreen. Or, for the same money, you can get a lapel – or Lavalier – microphone. The wired one will be cheaper than the wireless one. Of course all this assumes your camera has an input for a microphone. Most do.
– Listen. You know how easy it is to snap photos of people without realizing what’s in the background, right? The same can happen with sound. You record that video and only afterward, when you’re editing, you realize there is a humming generator or air conditioner that you had tuned out when you were recording.
– Pay attention to your space. Depending on where you’re recording, whether it’s inside or outside, the shape of your space will affect the sound. If you’re in a small room without a lot on the walls, the sound will be different than a large room with drapes and carpeting. If you’re simply capturing someone in their environment this is not that important – but if you’re narrating something, make sure you do all the narration in the same place, and that it sounds natural for the rest of your video.
– Get close. This is related to some of the other tips. But like the automatic lighting feature, your camera also changes in sensitivity based on the amount of sound. It’s sort of like automatic audio recording levels. So if the microphone is far from the source of sound, your camera will strain to hear better, bringing in a lot of unwanted sound and making it more difficult to hear your subject in relation.
– Capture ambient sound. Sometimes when I record different scenes, and add in “b-roll” to fill in gaps or demonstrate what the subject is talking about, I wind up leaving gaps in the recorded audio. They suddenly become noticeable when the volume goes from a quiet hiss, or ambient sound, or background noise – to absolute silence. Record a few minutes of “nothing” to fill in those gaps later on.
– Be aware of the wind. Everything will seem fine when you’re recording, but when you go back to edit, even the slightest breeze will cause unpleasant spikes in your audio. If you don’t have a way to monitor using headphones, and there is a chance of a breeze, you can simply make a wind screen (much cheaper than the store bought kind) just by using some foam rubber and cutting/taping it to the microphone.
– Avoid popping P’s. Sometimes P’s, S’s, and T’s will wreak havoc on your recording. Experiment with the microphone, doing a few dry runs to make sure you get it right. I often talk sideways across a mic rather than straight into it. But when that doesn’t work, you can do something as simple (and cheap) as bending a wire coat hanger into a loop and handle. Then take a nylon stocking and pull it over the loop. Trim the excess. You’ll be amazed – it actually works to eliminate popping p’s!