When you are shooting on the go and alone, the easiest way to get good audio of your talent is by having them wear a wireless lavalier (clip-on) microphone.
The basic steps of this are simple: plug a lavalier mic into a mini voice recorder, put the lav on the talent and the recorder in their pocket, record audio separately from video, then combine in post via the software plug-in Pluraleyes.
The full details of this method are described here.
The only problem with this system (aside from not being able to monitor the audio while recording) is that it’s often awkward to put a wire up the shirt of a stranger, especially in spontaneous situations like bars and parties. I wanted to combine the flash recorder and the lav mic into one tiny unit, and after vigorous searching, realized no such videography-oriented product exists.
So I searched the spy/surveillance websites and found this little gem:
It’s a voice recorder about the size of a pack of gum with a secure clip on the back for mounting to the subject.
I ordered two of them from penrecorderpro.com and put them to the test by shooting in a couple different situations:
Dual-cameras at home:
At a medium-volume bar:
- Convenient, discrete form factor; secure clip
- Passable audio fidelity (especially if mixed a bit with the in-camera ambience).
- Long recording times – Since it records 128kbps mp3’s, the 2GB internal capacity lasts forever. I have recorded single, continuous takes of up to 5 hours.
- Plenty of battery life – easily 12 hours of continuous recording on a single charge.
- Very little clothing/rustling noise – much less than traditional lavaliers.
- Audio clipping issues: The mic sensitivity only has three settings: 1m (lowest volume), 4m, and 8m (highest volume). The 1m setting is perfect for normal voice levels but tends to distort when subjects speak too loudly (such as at a bar). The recorder does offer Automatic Level Control (ALC), but this made little difference in my tests.
- Audio fidelity: Though it isn’t glaringly bad, the lackluster high-end will disappoint those looking to replace their high-quality lavalier mics.
- Silver mic clip is visible in the shot. This is okay for my documentary purposes, but hiding the recorder completely would require taping it to the backside of the shirt, which reduces the convenience factor a bit.
I am still on the lookout for the ultimate tiny voice recorder. Perhaps something like this would fit the bill:
I don’t want to pony up the $439 for a single unit, though, and it might still have audio clipping issues. All I need is something like my current units but with full manual audio levels and a bit higher fidelity. Any ideas?