News videographers do more than shoot video. They shoot for sound as well.
As the photographer is surveying the news scene and deciding where and how to shoot the best pictures, she or he is also noticing the sounds, asking What do I hear, and what do the sounds tell me about the story? How can I best capture sound to make the viewers feel as if they were here? In addition to noticing nat sound—the natural sounds of the environment—the news photographer will have to get clear audio when the reporter talks directly to the camera or interviews people. Using headphones helps photographers ensure they are capturing good quality sound.
Requirements for good audio include using an appropriate microphone and having it in the proper location. Generally, the microphone needs to be close to the desired sound. The reporter may wear a wireless microphone to pick up a good audio level when he or she is talking. For an interview, the reporter may hold a microphone to capture his or her own voice and move it to get audio when the interviewee is talking. In both cases, the shooter is responsible for the audio levels. For stand-ups and interviews, the videographer will need to notice whether there are distracting background sounds. If so, the reporter or subject may need to wait for a truck to pass or a siren to move out of hearing distance before speaking.
When you are recording audio, be aware of wind and whether it will distract from the sound. You can try to find a spot at the location that blocks the wind, or use a windscreen, a microphone cover, usually made of foam, that reduces wind noise.
Photographers should try to capture some of the nat sound at a news scene. At the scene of the fire, the natural sounds will include sirens, water hoses, people moving about and the fire crackling. At the park, the camera mic will pick up general sounds of people and animals, or leaves rustling in the wind. If the story is about inline skaters irritating business owners, the photographer might want to put the camera close to the ground to capture the sound as the wheels go by. At a banquet, the camera could be set up to get pictures and sound of glasses clinking or a knife being put down on a bread plate. The microphone attached to the camera is usually sufficient for natural sound, and the photographer may let the tape run for 30 seconds to a minute solely to capture the natural sounds.
The shots described above capture the natural sound and also make excellent cutaway and transition shots. The sound may also be edited under different pictures. For example, the photographer may have a distant shot of the president clinking glasses with a foreign dignitary to celebrate a new trade agreement. The editor can use the clinking sound captured from another toast at a nearby table under the distant shot. If the crack-of-the-bat sound is better from a previous hit, the photographer may use that sound underneath the shot of the game-winning home-run hit.
A videographer can accomplish a lot by using a lavalier mic, or lay, which clips onto clothing so that the reporter doesn't have to hold a microphone. Subjects are usually more at ease and pay less attention to the microphone when it is clipped on rather than held in front of their faces. One problem with a lavalierr mic is that the fabric moving across or near the mic can make a distracting sound, especially when the mic is clipped underneath clothing.
A wireless mic (see image, right) contains a tiny transmitter that sends the audio over the air for a short distance directly to the camera. Wireless mics are useful for interviews and can help you capture excellent natural sound. The dramatic-looking guy at the baseball game with the painted face and big hat could probably be persuaded to wear a wireless lavalier mic as he walks up into the stands to be seated. If he greets friends, orders a hot dog or makes casual comments, these sounds are good candidates for natural sound breaks.
A wireless mic allows the reporter and photographer to do interesting stand-ups, because the camera can capture clear sound from some distance away from the microphone. The reporter could conduct an interview while riding horses or walking down a street. Or the photographer could shoot through a window and receive clear audio even though the reporter is inside the house and the camera outside. The distance for good audio varies with the quality of the wireless mic.
Some microphones are omnidirectional (see image, left), picking up sounds from all directions. Other mics, with a heart-shaped pickup pattern (sometimes called cardioid or unidirectional), are more sensitive at the front of themicrophone than at the back. Shotgun mics (see image, lower right) pick up sounds within a narrow range and have a dead zone along the sides and bottom of the mic. Some shotgun mics can pick up sounds clearly from a great distance.
The photographer must be aware of the sound and the type of microphone in use when framing shots. In a wide shot of a fire, the sounds will be more general if the microphone is an omnidirectional one. The mic would pick up a mix of the fire and peripheral noise. If the photographer is shooting the fire scene from a distance with a shotgun mic, the mic would pick up the sound of the flames and mute the sounds of traffic, sirens and other peripheral noise.
Good videographers understand shot composition and proper lighting, and they also master the audio part of the camera. Knowing the type of microphone in use and its limitations can help you plan the audio portion of the story.