Capture Better Wedding Audio Without Pro Recording Gear

It’s wedding season again!  Whether you are a family friend who has offered to capture the big day with your consumer level equipment or you’re a professional wedding videographer, capturing high quality audio is a must.  Here’s a cheap, inconspicuous way to record surprisingly high quality audio during the wedding vows that every videographer should know.

There’s a pretty good chance that you or someone you know owns a smart phone these days.  According to Forbes, as of June 2013, at least one out of every two people in the US have one.  This means that you most likely have access to a fantastic, high quality audio-capturing device.

The built-in microphone, combined with the audio compression and limiting capability, allows the smart phone to rival even some professional-level digital audio recorders costing hundreds of dollars.

You’ll need a good audio recording app.  The iPhone (which is my personal smart phone of choice these days) comes with an audio recording app, but you may want to consider others.  I’ve used quite a few, but I’ve narrowed it down to a really simple one called Voice Recorder HD (by eFUSION $1.99).  It has become my favorite because it’s very uncomplicated with a simple start-up interface as described in Macworld.  Especially in high pressure situations (like weddings), I don’t have time to mess with settings.  I simply need it to work and this one does.  It’s also my app of choice for this type of job because it sends audio files directly to my Dropbox so I can get it to my production studio quickly and easily.  Voice Recorder HD also delivers WAV files which work well with most video editing software.

Putting the phone near (or at the feet of) the bride or groom is good.  Better yet, use the microphone built into the earbuds as a substitute lavaliere mic.  Place the iPhone in the groom’s shirt or inside coat pocket after pushing record.  Run the white earphone microphone through his shirt and near his collar.  Common lavaliere techniques, like the use of mole tape to keep the mic in place away from clothing, would also be beneficial.  This would help to avoid picking up excess noise from the mic rubbing against any clothing during the audio capture.

After you’ve captured separate/additional audio from your smart phone, the question becomes how does it sync up with video?  Well there are several video editing applications that can handle the task and several different techniques to use.  Final Cut Pro X has a nice sync feature and if you’re using something more accessible like iMovie you could use the hand clap method to sync up your footage.

I want to make it clear that this is NOT A SUBSTITUTE for professional audio equipment.  But, it is substantially better than trying to capture audio solely from your on-camera microphone 50, 20, or even 10 feet away from your source.  Professional videographers who already own the necessary audio recording equipment to get the job done may want to use this little technique as a secondary back-up plan.  No matter your level of experience as a videographer, not getting good (or better) audio during those special wedding moments is like a photographer forgetting to get a shot of the cake.

Beware, you may want to make sure you put that smart phone on “Airplane Mode” (or at least vibrate) so you don’t hear your phone ringing during the vows!  Wow, that would be embarrassing. It would also be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the audio recording app, the technique, and it’s limitations before putting it in action and relying on it for the big day.