We don’t need to use the very best available equipment to capture great sound on our corporate videos, and we don’t necessarily need a dedicated sound recordist in our crew, whose job it is to do this. However, in order to ensure that we get high-quality sound during our corporate interviews, we do need to adopt certain habits and routines for working with our audio gear. And, if we’re working alone, as solo shooters, that responsibility sits squarely with us.

It’s all too easy to put all our effort and concentration into the visual side of our corporate movies, with thoughtful camera angles, engaging slider shots and cool focus pulls, etc; because the sound is, well the sound and it takes care of itself, right? The truth is that, in most movie production, including corporate marketing videos, good audio is every bit as important as visual content, particularly when it comes to speech. This is because the spoken elements, whether feature film dialogue, voice-over narration or, in our case, interviewee responses, are where the story is being told. So, making the sound of the storyteller, in our case the corporate talent, as ineligible and as engaging as possible is key to success.

In this post, I’m going to go look at some of the basic procedures that we should adopt to ensure that the speech we record in our corporate interviews is as clear as possible, thereby raising the game of our corporate marketing videos considerably. I’ll be talking in the context of a solo shooter who is directing, filming, interviewing and recording audio during corporate interviews; but the same ideas can be applied to all sorts of movie-making, whether working alone or as a sound recordist in a production team.

Basic issues and misunderstanding

Camcorder microphone

Even built-in mics on professional camcorders can never do a really good job of capturing targeted audio for something like an interview.

One of the most common problems that novice shooters encounter, and often don’t realise the cause of, is that of indistinct, ‘echoey’, and noisy sound from the microphones built into their recording devices, whether they’re using DSLR cameras, camcorders or even mobile devices. They are, in fact, facing several issues, which combine to produce very disappointing results! Firstly, despite what manufacturers might claim, the quality of built-in camera mics is inevitably poor, particularly on mobile devices and DSLR or mirrorless cameras; as they receive only a tiny portion of the development and manufacturing budget when compared to the rest of the device. While built-in mics on professional-grade camcorders may be better, in reality this trend doesn’t end, because manufacturers realise that anyone who’s serious about video production understands two other major problems with built-in mics:

  • that they pick up electronic, mechanical and handling noise from the camera very easily
  • that to record anything other than ambient sound well, you have to get the mic in as close as possible to the target sound source, which is difficult if it’s built into the camera.

In our interview scenario, we have a very clear need to record a specific target sound, i.e. the voice of our interviewee as well as possible, which means that built-in mics will never give good results! To get good results we need to use a separate, external microphone, ideally mounted off-camera, to provide our audio.