Looking for advice on mic set-up for video recordings

Dear all,

I managed to get back to Cameroon for my fieldwork ( :partying_face:) and am now recording more natural speech. My project is based on syntax/information structure but the idea is to put these videos up in an archive and share them with others interested in the language/culture. I was looking at the videos for some stories I recorded the other day and wondered if the visibility of the audio recorder in the shot is an issue – what do you think? Here are two screenshots to give you an idea:

I was using a Zoom H5 + Shotgun mic with cover; I wouldn’t be able to move this out of shot without making the audio pick-up too weak for my liking. And I don’t want to crop the video to film just the face, as I want to be able to pick up gestures as well.

There is someone who could lend me a lavalier/clip-on mic, which would be less visible on the video, but I wonder whether the sound quality is as good as my current set-up with the shotgun. So two questions:

(1) Audio set-up being visible (as in screenshots): Is this a problem or does it not matter?
(2) Is a lavalier mic better/worse/the same sound quality as a shotgun in this kind of scenario (static, single-speaker)?

Thanks in advance!


PS: Here is a sample of the audio output with the shotgun - I’m happy with the clarity:


I confess that I thought at first that this speaker was having an animated conversation with a squirrel.


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I wouldn’t care about visibility of the mic personally, so I think this setup is great. Seeing the mic might even offer some transparency/metadata value. But if you want to make a nice documentary for a public audience or some such you might regret it later.

If I have a stationary speaker in a controlled setting, I am fond of both a shotgun mic on the camera and a headset or lapel on the speaker. Lav mics are more likely to get bumped by the speaker or their children occasionally, but can be more convenient than a headset. That said, I imagine the difference between a lapel/headset/shotgun in this kind of static setting would be very small.


Thanks for the response, I think this makes explicit the tension I’m feeling between best practice for linguistic research and for using videos for other purposes. I like the idea of the lapel + shotgun set-up, thanks!

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or with a dead cat! :wink:

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I think the general view from Documentary Linguistics is: don’t worry about the microphone being present in the video if that’s how you get the best audio. As mentioned, that creates some transparency around the speech event anyway.

I had a good experience with a Rode lavalier, but I wasn’t doing any detailed phonetic/phonological study. Another option, if you have help, is to get a boom pole to hold the mic overhead out of the camera frame, but that’s not always practical.

Another thought is that you might be able to move the camera a bit to one side and the mic a bit to another so that the microphone doesn’t block the view of the speaker so directly.

But if you’re feeling the tension between the different purposes of video documentation then you’re probably on the right track! Perhaps once you’re confident that the phonetics/phonology is well-documented you may want to take into account more aesthetic considerations – especially for how members of the community might want to use these videos in the future.

PS is this Tunen or Nyokon?


Thanks Joey, and it’s Tunen! Hoping to meet with Nyokon speakers too, but depends on whether I can extend my trip a little longer

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