Great Video Sound with a Digital Recorder, Dual Eyes, and a Dead Cat

dead_cat_beside_LS-10That’s right, I said a dead cat.  That’s what those furry things are called that you put over the end of your microphone when you’re shooting video outside, to keep the wind from making a rumbling sound as it passes over the mic heads.

The more you shoot video  the more you’ll come to realize that getting clear sound is even more important than getting outstanding visuals, because if your sound track is rumbly or too soft or muddled, your viewers may miss the dialogue.  Bad dialogue spoils the impact of your film.

Many cameras capable of taking excellent HD video, like my tiny, carry-everywhere D-Lux4, unfortunately lack an input jack for an external microphone.  At close range the very small recording mics on my camera work O.K., but their efficiency diminishes quickly if my interviewee moves away from me.

dead_cat_end_view

A very expensive solution to the moving interviewee problem is to attach a radio-transmitting microphone to him or her , which sends input to your also pricey camera.

What if you can’t afford this solution?  You sew your own dead cat (more about this below). You put it over the end of an excellent digital field recorder, like my Olympus LS-10, which costs around $200, and you teach your interviewee how to stop and start the recorder at the beginning and end of each scene.  Afterwards you’ll use a reasonably priced ($149) synchronization software like Dual Eyes, which removes the sound tracks from your video clips and replaces them with the much better recordings which your  interviewee made with the field recorder.

The video I made with this method shows what good sound quality you can achieve with relatively inexpensive and very portable equipment.  The only downside in my case was that I couldn’t find any black fake fur for making my dead cat, so it looks like my wife is talking into a vanilla ice cream cone.

You can probably order an over-priced dead cat on the internet to fit over the mic heads on your digital field recorder.  Or, you could buy some fake fur at a crafts store, as I did, then take some quarter inch foam, the kind that comes as packing material for many electronics purchases, and in about two hours you can sew your own dead cat.  Make two pouches, the slightly larger outer one with the fake fur, and the inner one with the foam slabs.  Just lay your recorder down on the material in question, and draw liberally around the periphery of the area to be covered.  Sew the bottom and top halves of your pouches with a loop stitch, and when you have finished each one, turn it inside out.  This will put the stiches on the inside of the pouch, leaving a professional-looking and strong seam.  Finally insert the foam pouch inside the fake fur one and your dead cat is finished!

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