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I'm just starting out...I'm learning to work with Adobe Premier Pro, and I just bought a Snowball/Blue microphone and am learning to record audios with Adobe Audio. I haven't even bought a video camera yet.

My understanding is that most video cameras record both visual and audio, BUT the experts recommend that you bypass the video camera's audio and record audio with a separate device. (I've seen a portable Tascam model recommended.) As I understand it, the reason is that a separate, external audio recorder lets you escape internal noises made by the camera.

So here's my question: Suppose I'm sitting around at home recording an audio. I'm simply talking into my Snowball microphone, which is plugged into my Mac. I'm using Adobe Audio to control the recording.

Is this the best way to do it, or should I be using an external audio recorder (to escape the noise made by laptop's fan, for example)?

It's hard for me to visualize the sequence, since I don't have the actual equipment to play with yet. If I do need an external audio recorder, then I'm assuming I would plug my Snowball mike into the recorder, which would in turn presumably be connected to my laptop, so I can use a software program (e.g. Adobe Audio) to manipulate the recording.

I guess another way of asking my question is how do the pros make simple audio recordings - with or without a separate audio recording device?

  • Your mac is the external recorder for your Snowball mic in this example. If your Mac's fans come on and are a source of unwanted noise, you can a) move your mac further away, b) close all unnecessary processes reducing CPU and memory load. – paulzag Jul 14 '16 at 3:40
  • An external mic into a video camera or laptop is all you'll need for what you're doing at the moment. Most modern digital video cameras will do a perfectly acceptable job of recording audio if you've got a good mic, with the caveat that you want to have manual gain control. If you follow Michael's advice about mic placement that'll get you 99% of the way, for recording a straight voiceover the quality of the preamps is the next 1%. – stib Jul 15 '16 at 2:51
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Back in the day when movie cameras recorded to film, the sound made by the cameras was something to be isolated from the sound recording process. Digital video cameras make very little noise (with the odd exception of things like early model RED cameras that needed high-powered fans to deliver sufficient cooling for their hot-rodded internals).

But that's less than half the problem. The larger part of the problem is that to get good sound you need a proper microphone in a proper location, and that location is usually much closer to your talent than the camera will ever be. As a rule of thumb, you want the audio microphone to be between 6-12" away from the mouth if it's a lav mic, 12"-24" away if it's a typical cardiod vocal mic, and 18"-36" away if it's a shotgun (boom) mic. And in all cases you want the mic oriented toward the speaker (protecting it from plosives, of course).

It is for this reason that you want to divorce audio and video recording and then remarry them in post-production. In that case, the audio recorded on the video camera will give you a very good idea about how to perfectly line up the audio from your audio recorder, and once you have done that you can mute the audio from the video camera and use the audio from the audio recorder.

If you shoot 10' away from the subject and try to record audio from the camera's location, it's going to sound terrible, no matter how much you spend on microphones (unless you also spend $1M+ on an amazing acoustic environment).

Here's a link to a video that really goes over this in detail.

And of course if you do have fan noise you want to avoid, or other sources of noise, that's also a reason to move the microphone, and the talent, away from those noise sources. If the noise sources are intrinsic to the room (such as a refrigerator you cannot turn off), then you begin to understand the logic of why people rent sound stages...

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Your question mentions video cameras, but your examples say recording Audio.

If it's just audio, you don't need a separate recorder, you mac is the the recorder. But you probably should be learning about DAW's, audio interfaces and microphone preamps.

If it's video, it depends on what sort of video you want to record, and where you want to record it.

Separate audio recorders free the sound recording from being tied to the camera. Few cables or wireless problems by not having to send sound to the camera. Camera can then just focus on the picture.

Most non-broadcast cameras have poor audio preamps. Sound purists hate recording audio to camera.

How do the pros do it?

Wandering around a Trade Show many videographers just shoot camera sound with a shotgun video mic mounted on the camera recording to the camera within 3 feet of a talking subject. Mainly because a single shooter can move around quicker and easier than a 3 person crew in a crowded show. The absence of an audio recorder gives the videographer one less piece of kit and connection to fail.

Documentary, News & Current Affairs often shoot camera plus separate sound recordist who can get in close with a boom mic just out of frame. Or the on screen talent holds the mic. The sound recordists' job is to monitor the sound and make sure it's usable, holding the boom is just a way of achieving it.

Scripted and long format crews add more specialised crew to control the environment and capture more footage. Grips, gaffer, hair & makeup, focus puller, sound dept, camera dept, art dept, etc.

A small reality show I was on a month ago shot with 2 Sony broadcast cameras recording sound on camera, and wireless lav mics on each of the 2 subjects going to a separate audio recorder mounted on one of the cameras. The director monitored the primary camera vision and wireless sound. Total crew 2x Camera Operators, 1x Director, 1x Production Coordinator.

Online video channels (like youtube) record to separate audio recorders if they want better preamps than most cameras have.

That's how the pros do it.

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