The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue

One of the most common mistakes that creators make when producing videos is not paying proper attention to the audio. No matter how expensive your camera and film lights are, if the sound isn’t up to par, your viewers will probably feel like your videos are missing something. Want to know how to record dialogue more professionally? Then read on!

Built-In Camera Microphones

Got a camera with a built-in microphone? Then it’s worth realising that the internal microphone is nowhere near as good as a separate camera microphone mounted onto the hot shoe would be, especially in terms of frequency response and noise reduction. However, not even an external mic can solve your biggest potential issue: too much distance between the microphone and the source. No matter how good your microphone is, if it’s too far away from the sound you want to capture, it’s going to be impossible to get a clean recording. After all, the more you up the gain, the more you amplify background and self-noise. So what’s the secret to pro-grade audio? Simple: set up your microphone as close as possible to the actor, presenter, host, interviewee or whoever is doing the talking.

The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue

Camera-Ready Microphones

The microphone being in the shot is no problem when it comes to vlogs and reports, meaning you have ample options to choose from here. Reporter microphones, which are usually dynamic microphones with an omnidirectional pickup pattern are perfect for interviews on-location since they’re built to withstand wind and handling noise. If you work at a desk, you’re better off with a broadcast microphone or perhaps even a large-diaphragm condenser microphone.

The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

You might’ve heard of the Starbucks cup that infamously featured in Game of Thrones. It’s slip-ups like these that break immersion and pull viewers out of the narrative, so you have to do everything you can to avoid them, no matter how hilarious it might be. In other words: if you’re creating fiction, always keep your microphone out of the shot. If you need to, use a boom pole so the microphone can be held aloft so that it hovers above the actors, and out of the frame.

The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue

The Right Microphone for the Job

If you’re working out in the open, you’ll want to use a shotgun microphone. This type of microphone is highly focussed, meaning it captures sound from a specific direction while blocking sound coming from other directions. While they’re great at dulling background noise, shotgun microphones aren’t really suitable for use in small rooms since they dull reflections, so any sounds and dialogue bouncing off the walls, resulting in unnatural sound. When filming inside, you’re usually much better off with a small-diaphragm condenser microphone loaded with a super-cardioid or hyper-cardioid pickup pattern.

The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue

What About Wide Shots?

In wide and very wide shots, there’s a lot of space around the actor, making it tricky to get as close as possible with your microphone without it getting in the shot. If it’s a scene in which the actor remains in one place, it can be a good idea to hide the microphone somewhere close to them.

Going Wireless

If the actors are constantly moving, you have no choice but to use a lavalier (or clip-on) microphone: a tiny microphone that can be clipped to clothes or concealed in someone’s hair. Since cables severely limit the actors’ ability to move around freely, wireless lavalier microphone systems are pretty much standard in film and television. Unlike cabled systems, wireless microphone systems typically feature a battery-powered receiver. In the case of wireless lavalier systems, you have the pick of cardioid and omnidirectional systems. Here, an omnidirectional microphone is your best bet for film and television productions since it sounds more natural and doesn’t suffer from wind and contact noise as much.

The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue


In some situations, it’s simply impossible to capture clean sound due to loud background noise or poor acoustics. In this case, the best solution is to record the audio anyway, even if all you have at your disposal is the built-in microphone of your camera. That’s because you can use those takes to synchronise any re-recordings of sounds and dialogue – a process known as dubbing. Dubbing dialogue is also known as Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR), which comes with one pitfall: the re-recorded voices sound much ‘closer’ than expected based on the image. This can be fixed by filtering out some of the treble and bass frequencies using an equaliser. Also, be sure to re-record your dialogue in a ‘dry’ room, so a room where the reverb is cut down to an absolute minimum. You can then use the reverb effect in your DAW or editing software to carefully mimic the acoustics of the set and end up with realistic sound.

The Right Microphone for Recording Dialogue

Using a Separate Recorder

While saving the audio directly to your camera can save you and the rest of the production team a ton of time and work, there’s a reason why professional film crews generally opt for a field recorder, and that reason is simple: better audio quality. The preamps and converters inside a professional audio recorder not only easily outperform the preamps and converters found inside most cameras, they also support higher audio resolutions. A higher sample rate, for instance, allows you to drop audio recordings in pitch without sacrificing high frequencies, while increased bit depth gives you a bigger dynamic range. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to end up with distorted sound if you’re using a recorder that boasts a 32-bit floating point. The only downside to working with a field recorder is that it takes a little more effort and discipline because you have to keep track of which audio recordings match which footage as well as synchronise audio and video in post-production.

See Also

» Camera Microphones
» Reporter Microphones
» Broadcasting Microphones
» Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
» Boom Poles
» Shotgun Microphones
» Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphones
» Lavalier Microphones
» Wireless Lavalier Microphones
» Wireless Camera Microphones
» Recorders
» All Microphones
» All Studio & Recording Gear

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» The Difference Between Dynamic and Condenser Microphones
» How to Prevent or Fix Phase Issues in the Studio
» Polar Patterns Explained
» The Best Microphone Set-Ups for Stereo Recordings

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