i-Microphone for the iPhone

**warning** the first part of this video is very quiet, and the last part is LOUD – don’t scare your office-mates!

I occasionally shoot video with my iPhone, and have noticed that the internal iPhone microphone really isn’t all that great. Which is one reason I don’t use the iPhone video feature more often – the audio it records for video varies pretty wildly. For me, anyway!

So when I saw a link to Amazon for the i-Microphone, I clicked and read. And bought.

It’s cheap – it’s listed at $25.99 at Amazon right now. And it’s LOUD. The manufacturer’s website claims the i-Microphone boosts the audio level “up to 12 dB louder” – and I believe them!

Check out the video I made (embedded in this post). For the first part of the video, I’m using the built-in iPhone mic. Then I plug in the i-Microphone … and you can suddenly hear me. There is a HUGE difference in levels. HUGE.

So – if you like to shoot videos (or record audio) with your iPhone (or pretty much any device that can use a headphone jack plugin for audio) – you might find the i-Microphone pretty darn useful.

Three Nice Microphones

A couple of people have recently mentioned they like the quality of the sound in my videos, and have asked what microphones I use for videos and screencasts. Here’s what I’m using right now:

Audio-Technica ATR3350 lavalier

I usually plug this lavalier mic into my Sanyo Xacti videocamera. It’s cheap, it sounds fine, and it allows me to improve the sound of my videos. Did I mention it’s cheap (like $20 or so)? And for my Xacti anyway, it’s very easy to use – I just plug it into the viceocamera’s external mic input and forget about it – nothing else to mess with.

Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser and the Blue Snowball

When I’m making a screencast, I usually plug one of these two mics into my laptop via a USB cable. I like the Samson better – it sounds better to my ears. Also, the Blue Snowball had an issue with Windows Vista (as in it didn’t work for me), so it hasn’t gotten as much use at work (my work laptop has Windows Vista loaded). I have used it without a hitch on my Mac laptop – it sounds great, and has a couple of different mic signal patterns that you’d use for different micing situations.

RØDE VideoMic

We have a semi-pro videocamera at work (the Canon GL 2). It has an ok mic built into it, but the RØDE mic is a fine shotgun mic. Plug it in, aim it at someone, and they’ll sound like they’re talking into the mic, even if you’re 10 feet away from them.

Tips on using these mics:

  • If you plan to plug the mic into your computer, buy a USB powered mic. Otherwise, you will also need to buy some type of soundboard or analog/digital signal converter to boost the audio signal up loud enough to play with. You might like doing that – if so, great! You’re sorta like me. But even though I happen to have some of that type of recording equipment, for a quick Jing screencast, nothing beats plugging the Samson USB mic into my laptop. One step and I’m done.
  • Batteries (the lavalier mic I use needs them) – buy two at a time. Because you WILL sit down, all ready to record, and find out that the battery’s dead … because you didn’t turn the mic off last time you used it. Been there, done that.
  • While we’re talking about on/off switches – if the mic has one (the lavalier and the RØDE Videomic do, doublecheck that you flipped it “on” before recording. I had to do some fancy editing on a video because part way through recording, I realized the mic was off (one of my more watched videos, too).
  • The really long cable (20′) on the lavalier mic will get frustrating. It gets tangled easily. But then, it only costs $20, so I can put up with that. I guess.

How I Made my Screencast

I’ve been asked by quite a few people, so … here’s how I made my Facebook Pages screencast:

  1. I used Jing Pro to record the screencast. There’s a free version – I whipped out $14.95 (have to pay it every year) for the pro version. Why? The pro version comes with that cool “webcam in screen” effect I used at the beginning and end of the screencast. It also records in MPEG-4 format, so I could easily edit it. It only records up to 5 minutes at a time, which is no problem – just record separate clips, then dump each clip into a video editing program (more on that in a sec).
  2. I plugged in a Samson CO1U USB Condenser Mic to get good quality sound on the speaking parts. It came out a little quiet – will need to play with that some more!
  3. Once the parts and pieces were recorded in Jing, I dumped each screencast clip into Apple’s iMovie, which is an easy-to-use video editor. I didn’t do much there – added a fade in and out to the beginning/ending of the screencast, spliced the clips together, added a bit of text … and removed all my goof-ups, extraneous pauses and “uhms” where I could. My goal was to get the screencast under 10 minutes so I could dump it to YouTube (and I was successful!).

And that’s about all! The combo of Jing Pro and iMovie worked great, the mic was easy to use … any questions? Anyone else used Jing Pro?

Playing with Mics

I was playing with different microphones this morning – testing out four microphones for podcast & videocast quality, and decided to do a video test, too.

So here are 4 mics, plugged into my MacBook Pro laptop. Video is the cheesy-but-easy PhotoBooth. Microphones I tested were:

  • Samson C01U
  • Blue Snowball
  • Bescor TCM-88 lavalier mic
  • … and the Mac’s internal mic

So… which one do you think sounds the best? The worst? Were any/all/none adequate? Why? Thanks!