Video with your DSLR Week: The Challenge of Audio for Video

August 3, 2010


[Editors Note: This week is “Shooting Video with your DSLR” here on DPE with Rob Sheppard, Art Howard and Juan Pons. We will be bringing you a new article every day this week, make to sure to check them all out!]

Audio is pretty important for the bee video I did. Imagine the different impact if you never heard the bees. In addition, there is no extra audio, no music, no sound effects — everything was recorded on site.

A challenge for photographers going to video is audio, and not simply because the microphones built into DSLRs are so crappy. The problem is one of perception. When you are shooting video, you only see what is in front of the lens, just as when shooting still photos. However, audio is happening all around you and most microphones will pick it all up, from your handling of the camera to rustling of nylon jackets to shuffling of feet, none of which show up on camera.

So the first thing to do about video is just listen. What do you hear around you besides your subject? The Santa Monica Mountains, where the bee video was shot, are sometimes below landing patterns going into LAX, depending on wind conditions. Planes are still high, but the sound does carry and the only thing you can do is not record then or record something over if the planes come in during the recording.

The second thing to do is think about the microphone. I used a Sennheiser MKE-400 mini-shotgun mic. This is a good little mic, especially for the price of around $200. It slides into the hot shoe on the camera and plugs into the mic jack at the side. It is very easy to use. Sennheiser has a well-deserved reputation for microphones. I also have a windscreen that is made for the mic from A friend of mine has a Rode stereo/video mic (which a lot of folks love) and I used it one morning up in the mountains, alternating it with mine. I liked the sound from my Sennheiser better.

The Sennheiser is a shotgun mic which means it narrows the angle of acceptance for sound (although, like all shotgun mics, it will pick up sound both in front of the mic and to a lesser degree, behind it). You don’t pick up as much sound at the sides. This was really helpful to record my narration as it focused the mic on me, still picking up bee sound, but allowing me to be heard well.

I had a lot of bee sounds and that is important. There were shots that I liked of close-ups of bees that had bad sound from noises around the area (including planes). I could still use the video by removing the audio when editing the clips together, then covering that blank audio with good audio from another clip.

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This post was written by:

- who has written 27 posts on The Digital Photo Experience.

Rob Sheppard is the author/photographer of over 30 books, the editor-at-large for Outdoor Photographer magazine, and a nationally known presenter and workshop leader. His specialities are nature photography and helping photographers with digital technologies from getting the most from small sensors to Lightroom to Photoshop. Check out Rob’s websites at and

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One Response to “Video with your DSLR Week: The Challenge of Audio for Video”

  1. Juan Pinalez Jr. Says:

    How were you able to overcome the Automatic Gain Control of the 7D without a preamp or separate audio recording device?

    The audio in the movie sounding crisp with no hint of AGC hissing.


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