Put the lens cap on your digital video camcorder. For the moment, forget that this small gadget shoots video. Instead, look around the body of the device and find the microphone. Every camcorder has one. While it may be hard to find, it should look something like the classic microphones you've seen before; maybe it's got a black or silver mesh over a little area toward the top or front of the camcorder. If you can't find it, check your manual.
Now, instead of shooting video, hold the camera in such a way that you can press the record button while holding the microphone a few inches from the sound or person you want to record.
If you're having difficulty knowing whether you're recording, you can keep the LCD flip screen open so you can see the red dot indicating that recording is under way.
Recording audio while you're shooting video can be extremely challenging for at least a couple of reasons. One is that every time you move to get a different shot, your distance to the source of sound changes significantly. When you record audio while shooting video, the microphone tends to take a backseat to the lens. The problem isn't the technology; it's just the nature of shooting video. Move away for a wide shot, and the microphone can't pick up any talking. Move close for a detail shot, and the voices boom. Using this sound is exceptionally difficult for technical reasons.
Another reason that it's quite challenging to record sound and video at the same time is because it's no small feat to record interesting conversation. When you really listen to them dispassionately, even enjoyable conversations are unbearably dull. You might have expected to record a fun bit of conversation, but it goes on and on, with no beginning and no end, and only a long stream of sound. Our brain fools us into thinking conversations are discrete and finitewhen in truth they are very slow, very repetitive, and often missing key words or using half thoughts. Even with great tools and lots of practice, when you try to record one, you still end up missing parts; it's hard to capture the entire thing.
To circumvent the challenges of recording a conversation in video and audio at the same time, shoot video for the picture part first, and later record audio. That way you can focus specifically on the goal of getting good sound, and you have a better chance of getting the raw materials required to make high-quality product.
Christopher wants to record some of the endearing things his daughter and her friends are talking about at her 12th birthday party. But instead of shooting video and concentrating on the sound at the same time, Christopher concentrates solely on getting the images he needs to edit. Then, at some later point in the event, he makes a mental shiftusing the camcorder only as a microphone to interview the girls, asking questions, eavesdropping a little, intently listening to the sounds of the event.
Using the camcorder as a microphone has many advantages, in addition to those just described. In the first place, there is something far less invasive about a microphone than a camcorder. People act differently when a lens is pointed at them. While they still might be a little uptight with you holding out a microphone (even one shaped like a camera!), they do tend to relax once you're making eye contact and standing closerboth possible now that the camera isn't in front of your face.
Keeping the lens cap on the camera tends to help disarm your subjects, for some reason. Anything you can do to help your subject relax will result in a better recording (audio as well as video).
Christopher holds the microphone about an inch or two from the mouth of whoever is speaking. This guarantees the voice will be very clear and much louder than any of the background sounds in the room. While it's always challenging to record people (as luck would have it, people always seem to be their funniest when you're talking to someone else and the microphone is so far away you can barely hear them), holding a camcorder like a microphone is a direct and easy way to get live sound.