The best ways to record sound with your Nikon D5200

There are two areas where photographers really struggle when they try to move into making videos. The first is understanding that, with moving pictures, they can use the movement of the camera to help tell the story – so they don’t need to fit everything into the frame from the start. The second is sound. Sound is completely irrelevant to stills photography. In most situations you can make as much noise as you like and it won’t effect the image. However, with movies, sound is more important that the picture. Just try watching a movie with poor images and an movie with poor sound. Your brain will cope with poor images, but the lack of quality sound makes the whole experience unbearable.

So, as we start to look at movie making with the D5200 in more detail, sound is the obvious place to start. We welcome Cheryl Howarth, who has just completed her degree in Music Technology and is a professional sound engineer for a video company. She will take us through the complexities of getting the best possible sound for your videos.

 Getting the sound right is a tough job for photographers

The place to start is with the Nikon D5200 itself. boosting the internal mic from mono on the D5100 to stereo on the D5200 is really only a small change. the mics are very close together and, more importantly, very close to the lens. This means that, even with a SWM lens, there is a good chance that the Mic will pic up the noise of the lens focussing and any other camera noise. The Mic also has a wide recording pattern which means that it will pick up any noise from anywhere, not just what you are trying to video. This may suggest that the internal Mic is useless, but it does produce good ambient sound and is fine if you are close to your subject in a quiet spot. We have recorded on the internal Mic before in the studio, and it is perfectly useable.

A rode Mic for a Nikon D5200If you want to record sound from a specific point, you will need a directional Mic. Rode make good ones. You can get a couple of types – ones designed for a DSLR and ones designed for more general use. The DSLR Mics will come with a hotshoe attachment and a short cable to fit into the camera. These will run off a battery and feed the sound directly into the camera. Others, like the Rode NTG2, are more flexible, as they can run into a seperate sound recorder or ( with the right cable) into the camera. The NTG2 is the sort of Mic you will see being used by professional video crews. Often with a ‘dead cat’ wind muff, they are placed on a boom and sit above the subjects head, just out of shot. Because it is a directional Mic, it doesn’t pick up much ambient sound and is very versatile. With the right cable, it can fit into your D5200.

Tascam DR05 for the Nikon D5200It could also fit into a digital sound recorder, like a Tascam. These are great if the action is away from the camera and there would be too much noise interference to use a directional Mic on or near the camera. You can place the recorder near to the subject, and use either the inbuilt Mics or a directional Mic to pick up the sound. These recorders produce superb quality sound. The only downside is that you are recording the images and the sound separately, which means that you will have to put them together in post.

Sennheiser radio micsIf you are working with the subject and he/she is too far away for a directional Mic, or is going to be moving around, or there are two subjects, then the best way to record them is with radio Mics. these fit on the clothing of the subject and connect to a transmitter. the receiver is connected either to a digital recorder, or the camera. These work really well because they are always with the subject/s and clearly record their sound. Of course, you have to be careful not to record other sounds, like their clothes rustling, and if you have two Mics working into the same feed, the subject off camera needs to remember to be quiet.

We are producing a series of videos talking about Sound. Some of them will be available on the Nikon D5200 Channel on Youtube, and some will be exclusively produced for our manual. Cheryl is really looking forward to explaining some of the complexities of sound recording and show us how to get the best sound in different situations. Also we are grateful to Rubadub Audio in Glasgow, who specialise in sound recording equipment and are lending us some gear and further expertise. All the products mentioned in this article and in others are available to our UK readers here. For our US readers, check out these links.

See more videos about the Nikon D5200 DSLR here