built-in or external microphone?

Hal Robertson has some recommendations for collecting natural sound or “nat sot” for video. Some of these recommendations apply to making slide shows as well, and some of them don’t. For example, we can’t use the built in microphone of a camera to record audio while we are taking pictures, because, obviously, the camera’s built-in microphone only works with video. However, his advice on the nature of the sound and its relevance to the video can be used in taking audio for slide shows as well.

As Robertson mentions, the process of gathering audio depends very much to the complexity of the type of sound we want to record. We can either use our built-in microphone of our sound recorder or an external microphone based on the subject of the audio. Robertson speculates that a high quality built-in microphone of the camera would be a good device for gathering background audio that complements the video footage. Similarly, my guess is that using the built-in microphone of our sound recorder would be better for collecting background sound, than using an external microphone. I think that way because a good external microphone records only the sounds close to it. In fact, a good microphone blocks out most of the surrounding sounds and therefore is great for interviews. However, if we want to grab a sense of the whole environment, the built-in sound recorder that records all its surrounding sounds would be a better option.

Robertson says:

If you shot the production footage, you know the environment of the scene and how close the subject was to background noisemakers. Using your ears as a guide, find a recording location that closely matches the original footage.

Does that mean we should use the external microphone but put it close to the main background sound that has been closer to the subject of our video/picture? What do you think about this? Have you ever had any experience with recording the background sound with both a built-in microphone and an external microphone? If yes, which one works better?


1 comment so far

  1. Mindy McAdams on

    There’s no question: The external microphone will always give you a better result.

    I have a more professional recorder (the Edirol R-09) that has a good-quality built-in mic. It is fine for interviews, but not great for room sound or sound beds. It also costs almost $400 …

    Remember that the guy who wrote this article was writing about VIDEO. You must use an external mic to get good sound for video.

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