So audio noise is unfortunately an ever-present issue you’re gonna get when you record any type of audio, especially when you’re recording sounds straight into your camera.
1. The Obvious Things
Now we can do the obvious things like using a dedicated audio recorder or perhaps an XLR lead instead of a 3.5 mm audio jack, removing sources of interference, or even using windshields on microphones. But despite all of that there will always be an element of noise present on your audio circuit and we hear that as hiss or electrical hum, sometimes it’s even called white noise. To combat that noise all we’re able to do is use good equipment and good technique to combat what we audio nerds call The Signal-To-Noise ratio. That is the difference in volume between the noise that’s always present and the signal or input that we’re putting into our recording.
Things like dedicated audio recorders tend to have a really good signal-to-noise ratio straight out the box, but cameras and in particular microphone preamps on DSLRs tend to be pretty noisy devices, even when a high-end external microphone is attached.
2. Mic Technique
So if we are recording sound with our camera how do we improve that signal noise ratio? How do we combat that noise that’s always going to be present? Well the first and most obvious thing to do is to get your microphone as close to the source of sound as possible obviously not too close when you’re closer to the sound source. That gives you a fighting chance of getting a strong enough signal to improve the signal-to-noise ratio on your recording.
3. Manual Gain
Now the next and most important thing to do is to switch off auto gain or auto input level on your camera. Now this isn’t always practical I’ll admit. If you’re a vlogger having Auto-gain on is actually a really handy tool, but for talking headpieces like this, where you’re sat in a studio style environment, then you should always set the input gain on your camera yourself. This is because of the simple fact that when the input gain gets turned up so does the noise present on the recording, so when your cameras in ‘auto mode’ and the situation around it goes quieter the input gain will turn up to compensate and when it does that it turns up the noise with it. That will increase the noise level, meaning the signal-to-noise ratio becomes closer; the noise you hear on the recording becomes louder.
Set the input gain to be appropriate for the situation, you should aim for the loudest moments in someone’s talking to be just below 0dB. That will give you the strongest signal to noise ratio. Obviously be careful to make sure it doesn’t go above 0dB, as then you’ll get the other problem which is distortion. But by setting the input gain yourself you’re taking control of the amount of noise that’s going to be present in your videos.
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