February 24

Audio for Video: Using Your Camcorder Mic


Decent audio for your video production is critical. If a viewer can not hear you, they will not stick around to watch your video.  H9w do you get good audio?

Is the microphone that comes attached to the camcorder good enough to rely on?  Yes and no.  It depends on what you are trying to record and what your environment is like.


panasonic video camera

The microphone that comes attached to a video camera could be the best quality mic in the world, but because it’s attached to the camera, it won’t always be in the best place to capture the sound.  Generally speaking, this on-camera microphone is going to be a shotgun style mic designed to pick up sound at a distance.  Shotgun microphones are highly directional with a unidirectional pickup pattern.

Microphone pick up patterns

As a TV news photographer, I relied on the shotgun attached to my camera mostly to pickup natural sound.  A news photographer always wants to pick up natural sound.  Plus, a news photographer never knows when something unusual will happen that they want to capture.  Many news cameras are set up so it’s easy to remove the shot gun and put it on a longer cable.  This can be handy for doing interviews at fast-paced events.

Generally speaking, the BEST way to get good audio when making video is to use a separate mic that can be placed close to the mouth of the person speaking.  Usually, this is a lavalier or handheld microphone.    The microphone would be plugged into your camera, (unless you are using a wireless) and using it probably overrides and shuts off the microphone that comes attached to your camera, but not always.

To record audio this way requires a camera that accepts a separate microphone plug-in. The smallest and least expensive cameras do NOT have this feature.

So lots of people have no choice but to use the microphone that comes attached to their camera.

Although it is not recommended, you can make this work and this post tells you how.

Even though recording audio with your on-board microphone is not the BEST way to do it, with a few pointers you can make it work in a pinch.

First and most critical, make sure the background noise is minimal or non-existent.  If you have complete control, turn everything OFF.  Everything.  Even white noise like fans and air conditioners.

If need be, leave and find a quiet corner. I’ve recorded audio inside a sealed up car MANY times.  That was the only place that was reasonably quiet at whatever location my job took me.

video camera

How to Make it Work When You Have No Other Option

If the background noise is absolutely impossible to shut down and there is no quiet corner to escape to, hold the camera and mic very close to your mouth (six inches or closer) and speak LOUDLY.  The automatic gain control of the camera will kick in, lowering the recording volume significantly.   (If you have manual gain control of audio, lower it before you do this.) At that distance, your voice is so loud compared to the background noise, that a lowered recording volume will eliminate lots of the background and your voice will dominate.

Hopefully, the automatic gain control will lower the audio record volume enough so that none of your audio is distorted.  Audio recorded this way will not be ultra fantastic, but it will probably be understandable.

If the background is quiet, it is best to be about three feet away from the on-board microphone when you are speaking.    Speak loudly and enunciate well.  Do not mumble.  Speak to the back of the room.

Under these conditions, the microphone on-board your camera will pick up the sound relatively well if you follow these tips. It won’t be as good as if you were able to record it with a separate microphone plugged into your camera, but it’ll do in a pinch.

canon video camera

There is ALWAYS a way to make video work. Lots of video “gurus” will tell you that you have to have a separate microphone to record decent audio for your video.     It does help, but you can also work within the confines of your equipment limitations if you know how.  Being a TV news videographer, I often had to adapt to less-than-ideal circumstances.

I see lots of YouTube videos where the audio would be MUCH better if they followed these simple suggestions.

Thanks for reading Video Production Tips.

Lorraine Grula


  • What kind of microphone usually comes attached to a video camera?
  • Generally speaking, what is the intended best use of this on-board mic?
  • If you have no other choice than to use your on-board mic for sound of someone speaking, what simple maneuvers can you do to make it work better?


Audio for Video, camcorder microphone, how well does camera mic work?, make video, record audio, using microphone on camcorder for sound, Video Production

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  1. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  2. Hi Miriam.

    Thanks for your compliment. I am glad you like video production tips. Please let me know if there is anything specific you want me to write about.


  3. Don’t you need some kind of pre-amp with an outboard mic? I’m assuming that with a video camera there is a very basic mic pre on the plug in microphone. Is that the only alternative?

  4. Hi Bruce.
    No, you do not need any kind of preamp when using the microphone plugged into a video camera. I have never used a preamp in any situation with a video camera and a mic. If you have the right kind of connection, (XLR or the little stereo plug) then it should work just fine. The mic may need a battery. I hope this helps you. Happy video making!

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