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ASK COREY: How Do I Record Clean Audio From Four People at Once?

Hi Corey,

My burning question is: What is the simplest way to get clean audio from four people at once? (As in a group interview.) It seems to me that there’s no alternative to four expensive microphones and an expensive recorder/mixer.



Max, I hate to say it, but you already know the answer. Yes, you need four microphones and a system for recording those four microphones. But don’t lose hope because there are a couple of options.

First, I’ll assume that you’ll be using at least two Nikon HD-SLR cameras to shoot the interview. Camera A will record tight shots of heads; camera B will be the pulled-back/wide shot.

To record audio in this situation, the best and most affordable option would be to pick up four Nikon ME-1 stereo microphones and mount them either above or below the four subjects, just out of frame. These relatively inexpensive shotgun mics are very effective.

But how do you record them?

Again, the best affordable option is to run the mics into each of your two cameras. Two mics go to camera A; two to camera B. To do this you will need four thin extension stereo cords (the type used for headphones) and two splitter jacks (one for each camera). Within each camera, you can split the audio by recording one microphone on the left channel, while the other microphone records to the right channel.

This could work whether you’re using shotgun-style microphones or laval microphones, or some combination of those two. Ideally, though, you’d use four of the same microphones for consistency.

Though this will get the job done on a small-footprint budget, it’s not ideal because you don’t have control over each channel. With a little bit of care, though, you’ll get in the ballpark of recording consistent-sounding audio.

So, that’s one option. … The next one is more expensive and will, of course, result in a much higher-quality audio production. In this scenario, you would ideally have two microphones for each individual: a shotgun mic pointed at each individual, and a laval ear mic hidden in their shirt. You’d record all four channels of audio, and have the redundancy built in of two microphones. This way, if the person shifts in his or her seat and the laval microphone records the shirt moving, you could fall back on the shotgun mic.

So … what would I do? Honestly, in a complex situation like this, in which you are recording four audio channels, I would hire a sound guy. Bottom line is that you can’t ask questions, operate two cameras and monitor four channels of audio all at once. Having an audio technician on location will free you up to focus on visual creativity, as well as asking the great questions that make for great interviews.

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