by Jon Chappell
When recording video involving anything to do with music—whether recording a concert from row ZZZ, or capturing your buddy’s acoustic fingerpicking patterns at close range—always use a handheld recorder, and don’t use the camcorder’s onboard mic for anything except synching the tracks later. Even the most basic video-editing programs—iMovie for the Mac and Windows Movie Maker for Windows—allow you to fly in added or alternate soundtrack.
If you import your handheld’s audio into the your movie program, you can use the video track’s audio to easily line up the quality audio track. The advantage o using a handheld it twofold: 1) it produces higher quality audio; and 2) you can position the mic anywhere you want. (The camera’s mic must always be where the camera is—not always the best place for sound.)
One of the best hand-held recorders to use for recording audio for video is Yamaha’s PockeTrak C24 (about $120). It’s small, lightweight, unobtrusive, and will run for a good long time using one AAA batteries (available anywhere, including all-night gas stations). The C24 has good mics, which are directional and manage to squelch ambient background noise pretty well. Resolution is no issue, as it delivers better-than-CD quality (as well as several MP3 formats). It comes with a retractable USB connector and a spring clamp. Hold it in your hand, clamp it to stand or a headstock, or even have your interview subject hold it herself and sing into it while you work the camera from a safe distance away.
Of course, there are plenty of other great hand-held recorders made by Zoom, Roland, TASCAM, Olympus, and others. They all have varying capabilities, so shop around to find what fits your needs the best. And if you wonder whether hand-held recorders are good enough for "real" recordings, check out the article Hand-Held Recording: The World Is Your Live Room - and you'll be convinced.