Jeremy Sexton
Jeremy Sexton rows

Getting Audio for Your DSLR

Unless you’re shooting a music video, audio is as crucial to your final product as the image you get from the camera. I figured I’d share a little workflow I’ve cooked up that I’m currently using on my freelance gigs that might interest some folks out there. It’s simple, relatively inexpensive compared to some other options out there, and you probably already have the most important pieces to the puzzle.

All I Need is One Mic

First things first, you need a decent mic. The kind of mic you need is going to depend on what you’re doing, but the kind of mic I use the overwhelming majority of the time is a shotgun mic.

You can drop some serious cash on one of these. As much as you have to spend, there is a mic that exists at that price range. I recently purchased the Rode NTG-1, and I’ve gotta say; so far, I’m really happy with it. It’s a few hundred dollars cheaper than the Sennheiser counterparts, but performs just as well. There have been some folks who’ve complained about a boost in the low end that they’ve experienced, so maybe don’t point it at appliances. I’ve been nothing but impressed so far, though.

If you’re looking for something super cheap, Audio Technica makes a mic called the ATR-6550 that appears to be solid for the price point. It’s not going to give you the clarity of a higher priced mic, obviously, but it’ll do the trick if you’re short on funds.

Cable Goes Where?

Alright, you’ve got a mic. Now, what do you plug it in to? If you’re like me, you’re using a DSLR as your primary camera. The DSLR is a great option because it looks professional and it’s cheap. I know the 7D’s $1,300 price tag might look steep, but it’s $8,000 cheaper than the HVX200 I was using years ago and it looks much better!

The major downside to the DSLR is that audio can be tricky to capture. There is a mic onboard which gives you an echo-y mess. There is a 1/8” mic jack on the camera, but with no levels on the screen while you’re recording, I feel it’s a little too risky for my tastes.

Rode makes a product called the VideoMic for getting audio directly into your camera, but honestly, it doesn’t sound that great. I feel like you’re better off saving your money for a real mic. For run and gun doc footage, it may be alright, but I wouldn’t use it for actors or an interview.

So if not on camera, what do I use to capture my audio? A lot of folks use the Zoom h4n, which is a great product, but why spend an extra $240? If only there was a device that you already have that could capture professional quality audio…

This One Goes to Eleven

My weapon of choice is the same one that was used to write this blog post. You guessed it, my iPhone. No seriously, I record all my audio onto my phone and it sounds fantastic. Now, obviously I’m not advocating using the speaker on the iPhone. There is, however, a way to connect your fancy microphone to your iPhone AND give it phantom power and it’s surprisingly inexpensive.

The IK Multimedia iRig Pre is a device that plugs into the headphone jack of your phone and gives you an XLR in and a headphone out. It also features gain control and +48v power as I mentioned earlier. I cannot say enough about this piece of equipment. It’s a life changer. I’d used a cable from some random website that did this exact thing minus the gain and power controls and it worked alright, but this takes it to another level. For $35, you just turned a device you already own into your own personal audio recorder. You just can’t beat that.

Apps on Apps on Apps

Now, of course, to go with your newfound mic connectivity, you need an app that can do some serious recording. My weapon of choice is FiRe 2 by Audiofile Engineering. FiRe 2 allows you to record uncompressed audio, adjust levels, playthrough while recording and playback after the fact. It features compression and eq’s from Izotope, as well as the ability to edit your audio on the spot. When you’re finished, you can bake to any kind of file you’d possibly want and send it to your computer through iTunes File Sharing, Dropbox, or FTP. You can post directly to Soundcloud as well, in case you have to get your message to the masses toot suite1.

With the iRig Pre and FiRe 2, you can capture professional quality audio on your phone. That sentence still blows my mind, but it’s true. I’ve noticed absolutely no quality loss whatsoever in moving from an h4n to my new setup. What I’ve gained is flexibility, simplicity, and speed.2

Give this setup a shot, you will not regret it. If you’ve got any questions or comments, drop ‘em below.

  1. I just got HootSuite’s name when I typed that. Well played, internets. 

  2. With the Dropbox integration, you can send your audio to the cloud and to your computer as soon as you wrap, leaving it waiting for you when you get there. It’s amazing. 

This post was written on May 17th, 2013.
It has been tagged audio, video, shooting, production, filmmaking, gear.