How to Improve the Audio Quality of a Built-in Camera Microphone

In this tutorial, we’ll demonstrate some quick tips to improve the audio quality of built-in camera microphones.

Microphones built into mirrorless and DSLR cameras are known for poor audio quality. In fact, most filmmakers recommend only using the built-in camera mic for reference audio and recording your primary audio on a field recorder, or using a secondary plug-in microphone.

But, what if you don’t have another mic? In this tutorial, we’ll cover some tips you can use to improve the audio quality of your camera’s built-in microphone. These tips should greatly improve the camera’s audio and might even get you out of a jam!

1. Record Close to the Microphone

The first tip is quite obvious. But, in order to capture better audio, you need to make sure you’re speaking close to the microphone. Built-in camera mics tend to record extremely shallow audio, so you need to make sure you’re close to it when speaking. Ideally, no farther than an arm’s length away (about three feet or less.) This also helps prevent the microphone from picking up too much background noise.

Stock Mic
Record close to the microphone on the camera.

Keeping the microphone close to you is usually easy for vlog-style content. However, if you need to record some audio narration, I recommend standing right in front of the mic at face level and recording the audio on a separate video clip. You can then use the audio from that video clip for your narration sequence in the edit.

Preferably, record any audio narrations indoors. I recommend recording in a clothing closet. The clothing will absorb the extra audio bouncing around, resulting in less reverb and a cleaner sound.

Clothing Closet
Record narration audio in a clothing closet to reduce audio reverb.

2. Turn Off Automatic Audio Leveling Settings on the Camera

Next, turn off the automatic audio leveling setting or level limiters for the camera mic. In most cases, these settings will do more harm than good. From my experience, automatic audio leveling settings tend to increase room noise far too much when no one is speaking. I highly recommend turning these settings off and just monitoring the audio levels on the camera manually.

Automatic Audio Settings
Turn off any automatic audio leveling settings on the camera.

Afterwards, you’ll probably want to dial down the microphone input levels, too. I usually set the audio level down to -10 dB or -12 dB. But, your camera may be different, so do some test recordings to see which level sounds best with your camera.

3. Cover the Microphone with a Lens Cleaning Cloth

If you’re recording outside, cover the microphone with a lens cleaning cloth. Built-in camera mics tend to be extremely sensitive to wind, since they really don’t have any wind protection. Use gaffe tape to temporarily tape a cloth over the mic.

Lens Cleaning Cloth
To block wind noise, try taping a lens cleaning cloth over the camera microphone.

This probably won’t look pretty, but it’ll effectively act as a wind screen for the built-in mic. I recommend keeping a cleaning cloth and a small amount of gaffe tape in a backup filmmaking kit for video shoots.

4. Boost the Bass of the Audio in Post

The last tip is to boost the bass of the audio in post-production. As previously mentioned, the audio quality on built-in camera mics is usually shallow. Adding some bass to it in post can help make the audio sound a lot more natural. Adding bass to audio is fairly straight forward. In Premiere Pro, just search for the “bass” effect in the Effects panel, then add it to your audio. Then, using the Effects controls, you can increase the bass dB. You can also try tweaking the audio with other audio effects like: Equalizer, DeNoise, and Vocal Enhancer.

Adding Bass in Post
Add bass to the camera audio in post.

More About Microphones

If you’re looking to purchase a beginner-level microphone, I highly recommend miniature shotgun-style microphones, such as the RØDE VideoMicro and the Deity D4 Duo. These mics are handy because they just plug right into your camera and you’re ready to go. They provide much better audio quality than any built-in camera microphone.

Mini Shotgun Mics
Miniature shotgun-style microphones are handy for better on-camera audio.

Alternatively, you can also try recording audio directly to a field recorder. To learn more about that, check out Lewis’ tutorial on Recording Audio To A Camera vs. Field Recorder.

Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?

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