Video Editing

How to record professional audio on a smartphone – Clipchamp video production tips

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**** updated on 29th May 2020 ****

Video and audio are powerful. They can make your business more accessible and open up a dialogue with your customers. But hiring a professional sound recording studio or a production company can get expensive. What if all you want to make is a quick little video to send to clients? Or a video cover letter?

In this video tips series we show you how, with minimal outlay, you can make the best looking, best sounding video on your mobile phone for under $150. 

We’ve shown you how to set up great lighting for your video shoots, now we want to show you how to record professional audio with a smartphone microphone.

Why sound is important

Even if you don’t want to invest heavily in film gear, we implore you not to skimp on audio. Online audiences are somewhat tolerant of bad lighting and dodgy effects, but poor sound is going to drive them away in droves.

Before you learn anything else, we want to be sure that you know how to capture the best sound when recording on your phone. All you’re going to need is your smartphone and a lavalier mic from amazon or eBay. If you want to be able to monitor your recording, you’ll also want to get some kind of headphone splitter.

Where to record sound

First thing we’re going to discuss is where you’ll be shooting. Ambient sound can compete with your voice and distract the audience. Where possible, try to record your video in a space where you can control the ambient noise.

In an office setting fans, air conditioning and computers generate a lot of sound. Switching these off or switching them to their lowest setting will mitigate any humming or droning sounds.

Another thing to be wary of is big empty rooms. If you go into a professional recording booth, you’ll notice how small they are. This is because sound bounces, which causes echo. When you’re looking for a space to record, steer clear of large rooms with high ceilings, hard floors and no furniture. These spaces produce an awful echo that can be hard to get rid of. 

You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars making an acoustically insulated studio. Sometimes throwing down a carpet can reduce echo. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the room and the more furniture it has, the better it will be for sound recording.

Filming outdoors presents different challenges. A little bit of ambient sound is okay, in fact the audience will expect some natural background noise. But strong wind is a nightmare for sound recording. Covering the mic or hiding it in your clothing can mitigate the effects of wind, but if it’s really strong you may have to consider another location.

Picking a smartphone microphone

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So after a little bit of searching and testing, you’ve found a space that is low on ambient sound. Let’s talk microphones. Even a cheap lavalier microphone will record clearer audio than your smartphone’s basic mic. We’ve used a $12 PoP lav mic and $73 Rode smartlav+.

The Smartlav sounded a bit better and didn’t require an external power source, but the cheapie mic didn’t give us any problems. When you start recording, your camera should immediately recognise the external mic and use it.

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Help, I don’t have a headphone jack anymore!

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If you have an iPhone 7, which doesn’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, don’t worry. Your phone came with a lightning to 3.5mm adaptor. This should still work with the majority of lavalier mics you can buy online. If you can’t remember where it is, you can get new ones online.

Wearing a smartphone microphone

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Most lavaliere smartphone microphones are small enough that they can be worn discreetly on your shirt or jacket. If you don’t want to see it at all, pinning it to the inside of your shirt or jacket is the safest best.

For the most part, most viewers aren’t going to care that you’re wearing a mic. One thing to be careful of is the microphone rubbing against fabric. When mounted, make sure the mic itself isn’t resting against any material that might move while you’re speaking.

Audio monitoring and playback

It’s always a good idea to play back and listen to anything that you’ve recorded. Sound problems are incredibly difficult to fix after the fact. If you want to monitor the recording, you’ll need that headphone splitter we mentioned earlier. This device lets you plug in both a microphone and headphones.

But let’s say you don’t want to film yourself wearing headphones. If you don’t have a friend or colleague you can coerce into monitoring your audio, the safest option is to play back what you’ve just recorded. When in doubt, do one more recording for safety. Make sure to use good quality headphones for your project as well.

Syncing audio and video

Now you’re recording good quality sound on your phone with an external microphone... but what if you decide to record your video footage on another camera or device? Or even on several cameras from multiple angles? You’ll need to sync up the audio and video files later when editing your video. 

To save time and spare yourself a major headache, we recommend using a clapper board, or simply standing in front of the camera (or cameras) and clapping your hands once before each take. This way you’ll have a visual guide to help you manually sync up the audio and video tracks.

So those are our tips on how to record inexpensive, high-quality audio with a smartphone microphone. We hope you now feel more confident to get out there and start capturing better sound for your videos!

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This article is part of Clipchamp's "video production for the rest of us" series. Use our tips to create awesome videos and photos for your next digital projects. Clipchamp also has the tools to help you with that, for instance our free online video editor.

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