Connecting two microphones to a consumer HD video camera

dsc_9589Sound is one of the most important factors to creating a successful online video, and too often overlooked.  Here's another quick tip to help you get the most out of your inexpensive video equipment.

Let's say you're creating a video with more than one subject, or want to understand both the interviewer and the subject.  You want to connect a second microphone to your camera.  You could use one microphone and move it between subjects like they do on a newscast interview on television.  You could also make it more complicated and employ a mixer or other such device between the microphones and the camera.

dsc_9590But let's think about the basic mechanics of the camera and the microphone.  Your microphone is most likely outputting a monoural, or single-channel, signal.  Most 3.5mm microphone inputs on the cheaper consumer-grade camcorders are stereo.  That's why we've advocated to getting one of those cheap 36-cent mono-to-stereo adapters for your microphone so the sound didn't play solely out of one speaker.  Why don't we just input one microphone on the left channel and one on the right channel?

Well, we'd need a splitter for that.  But a word of caution -- not all splitters are created equal, and not all will do what we're trying to do.  Most of the 3.5mm "Y" splitters are stereo-to-stereo, meant to allow you to connect two pairs of headphones to an audio player.  We're looking for one that has a stereo male end to go into our camcorder, and two mono female jacks to accept our microphones.

dsc_9588I've tried several different ones, but I've had the best luck with this one from Hosa, available for under $10 on Amazon.  The female ends are clearly colored black and red for left and right channels, respectively.  I tested this with two Audio-Technica ATR-3350 lapel microphones and my Canon Vixia HF M300 camcorder.

This splitter did an excellent job isolating the two channels, allowing both microphones to be recorded independent of each other.  Since we're connecting two mics together and cannot adjust their sound levels individually, this helps reduce the chance of one mic overriding the other.  Having each mic on a different channel also allows us the opportunity to make sound adjustments to each individually in editing.

For example, I could bring this video into my editing program (such as Sony Vegas Movie Studio) and simply combine the two mono channels into one mono source that plays back equally across the stereo soundfield we're going to end up with in our finished video.  We can also copy the audio portion of the video to a separate audio track, designate one track to play only the left channel and the other for the right channel, and make sound level adjustments or enhancements independently of one another.

One final tip:  If you use this method for connecting two microphones to your camera, see if your camera offers a setting for microphone "attenuation."   If so, turn it on.  It will ensure that the camera not only brings up the lower sound levels but manages the hotter sound levels that may cause distortion.

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