How to Capture Sound in Cars – Video Tutorial

I have been providing the film community with several articles educating filmmakers on how to capture excellent audio. Now, it is time to give some video tutorials. These first two videos demonstrate how to capture car interior sound. In this first video, I will discuss 3 simple techniques, microphone types & placements for car interior sound.

In the part 2 video, you will hear the audible differences using these methods discussed in the part 1 video. There will always be continued debates in regards to equipment selection, choices & methods, however, the objective of these tutorials, both written & video, aims to provide cost effective and practical solutions to independent filmmakers without breaking the bank balance. The main goal in this video is to illustrate the point that you can yield very useable & desirable results. Keep in mind that these results will vary depending on microphone types, recorder types, analogue to digital conversation quality, different placement & mounting options, proximity, etc. The important part here is to capture clarity, and keep experimenting to yield better sonic fidelity. All audio samples of dialogue in the following in-car video are unprocessed and have no EQ on them. Only a low-cut filter was applied. This is a good starting point, and provides more latitude to mix & process during sound editing or at a later stage. Enjoy & Learn!


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16 Responses to “How to Capture Sound in Cars – Video Tutorial”

  1. Shannon on January 15th, 2012 10:36 pm

    I find it interesting that a tutorial on acquiring quality audio, has such low quality audio. From the studio to the car. All low quality. I’m not sure if Mr Harn is an industry professional, and searching his body of work online shows nothing. I really like most of Zacuto’s web series, but please keep the standard up guys.

  2. Steve Weiss on January 15th, 2012 11:31 pm

    I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say low quality audio?  Low level or poor audio quality.  I think the quality of the audio on some of the mics is very natural sounding for the interior of the car.  Some of the other sources like the H4N, I’m not crazy about but that was the point of the exercise to show you what different styles of micing will sound like.  The Audix ADX20 sound the most natural to me.  It’s close sounding with natural presence in the background.

  3. Clinton Harn on January 16th, 2012 12:00 am

    Dear Peter, sorry i meant Shannon, I assume that is your real name. I won’t take your comments personally and am well aware that there will always be people who either love or hate your work, It’s a given 🙂  

    I’m also not sure what you mean by “low audio quality”. The aim of my articles and tutorials is to provide filmmakers alternative means to positive sound reinforcement without spending an obscene amount of money.

    I encourage you to share your professional findings with us here should you wish to make a point. Perhaps, you could record & shoot a similar video to illustrate your point. Also, please send me a contact email address and I’ll be happy to send you a resume. Alternatively, you can find me at JMC academy where I’ve been teaching related topics for the last decade. Pls come in and say hello, and perhaps you could suggest what you would like to see and hear to maintain your expectations.

    Best Regards. 

  4. Clinton Harn on January 16th, 2012 12:07 am

    As I stated in a recent press release:“The intention with these articles is to broaden the knowledge base for independent film-makers who want to ‘do it themselves’ and expand on their fundamental knowledge on basic sound for film rather than rely on a sound recordist or mixers to do the work for them,” says Harn. “My aim is to educate anyone with a yearning to learn and transform themselves into consummate filmmakers, not just camera operators. Information is knowledge, knowledge is power and power leads to endless possibilities in creativity. As an old Latin proverb states, if the wind will not serve, take to the oars.”

  5. Peter Holz on January 16th, 2012 1:38 am

    I don’t find anything low quality about the audio in any of Clinton’s videos.

    As far as capturing live dialog inside a car, all of those microphones would be fine in post production.
    Of course you are going to capture some ambient noise as Clinton mentions, however once this is placed against other elements in a scene and processed accordingly the end result would be fine.

    I guess I am a little confused as to what the low quality audio is, please elaborate on certain points that bring you to this conclusion and perhaps offer some examples of what you consider to be ‘high quality’ in a similar medium.


  6. Mike Crick on January 16th, 2012 2:21 am

    I must agree, not only do I personally work with Clinton on a regular basis but even just watching these videos I fail to see your point.

    The point is not to show how good these microphones can be when mastered in a studio. The point is to show (or hear in this case) the difference each microphone offers in terms of basic sound quality. It’s quite clearly mentioned that only a low-cut filter has been applied. I haven’t discussed the matter with Clinton but I’m assuming this was done to give people like myself, who learnt the arts of film making and not audio production, a decent impression of just how good you can make in-car recording sound with a minimal amount of knowledge.

    That’s all been explained in previous articles and even the written text of this article which I’m assuming you took the time to read. Clinton doesn’t need me to defend him, and I’ll note that he hasn’t asked me to provide this post either. His work speaks for itself, even without knowing or seeing any of his other work (which I’m surprised you can’t find!). I do this because I feel this post is quite unfair and not accurately judgeing the work present here which I, among others, find very useful.

  7. Shannon on January 16th, 2012 4:33 am

    Let me begin by saying Im very sorry if I offended Mr Harn or Mr Weiss. I am a huge fan of Zacuto equipment and the Zacuto website. I have found the Zacuto videos to be most helpful and insightful in the past and I’m sure they will be helpful going forward. So a big thankyou to Zacuto for this invaluable resource.

    Mr Harn, I apologize but I am just a film student, so therefore I have no body of work to show you other than film-school productions that ive been working on in my classes. But seeing as I am a student and watching the Zacuto web-series with a view to learning more about all facets of film-making and you are ‘the teacher’, I’m not sure its my role as a student to prove my worth to an industry professional. Conversely, perhaps you could guide me to some of your work (films, documentaries etc) so students like myself could see (and hear) and appreciate your work in the light its meant to be shown.

    Thankyou for your time.

  8. Clinton Harn on January 16th, 2012 12:06 am

    Thanks Woody, great there was something you could gain out of it.

  9. Clinton Harn on January 16th, 2012 12:08 am

    Cheers Niki 🙂

  10. Mike Crick on January 16th, 2012 2:25 am

    Great work as usual Clinton. Oh, and your TOS Enterprise must now appear in EVERY episode, it just looks so awesome back there 🙂

  11. sauna-l on December 1st, 2013 6:41 pm

    thanx a lot. Good job. The music (Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen) is cool too !

  12. Myke Toledo on November 20th, 2014 1:44 am

    I do a lot of tutorials and sometimes talk about my industry in the vehicle since it’s a mobile base company. I completely agree with Clinton about experimenting with mikes. I have even used a rode ntg 2 on my dslr and had very good success. I also used the Senken lav mic too with the H6. These videos were helpful and gave me some ideas and good feedback that I wasn’t missing something too far off. Thanks Clinton for the vids!

  13. Christian Lainez on January 26th, 2015 3:50 am

    This was an extremely helpful tutorial! I’m a freelance production sound mixer, and, from personal experience, they’ve covered some really great points on recording sound in a car interior! Not only have they used methods I’ve used before on independent films, they’ve got better ideas than when I was just starting out as a sound recordist. There are other mic options I’ve used in interior car scenes like the Sanken COS-11 and Sennheiser ME-2 mics, both of which rival the ever loved and used MKH-416 in low end response. But, I never thought to use an Audix mic outside of a music production studio. Will be trying it! Good job!

  14. DC on March 16th, 2015 2:17 pm

    I must say that I thought the Audix ADX20 sounded very good, I am actually amazed that a mic that was orig designed for sax and instruments could be used to record dialog, let alone in a car and sound this good.

    I too will e trying this out as the results to my ears sounded quite natural and def the best of the bunch. Thanks for the vid.

  15. Graham on September 15th, 2015 11:53 pm

    This is really cool! Simple and informative.

  16. Morten Blaabjerg on October 1st, 2016 9:24 am

    Thanks for this tutorial, which I look forward to diving into!

    Just one quick comment, which I have to get off my chest : the background music in the first video is mildly distracting to me when I try to hear and focus on what is being said. I suggest you turn that off completely, once the intro is over instead of just turn down the volume of it.

About the Author

A cinematographer, filmmaker, producer and audio recording engineer, Clinton’s peers & colleagues regard him as a “Renaissance” man, as his passion for creative technology has seen him delve into almost every facet of creative & artistic media content. After years of being entrenched & producing work for the music industry, 2013 will finally see Clinton shoot his first full length feature film, which is currently in production, with a 2015 scheduled release. His recent endeavors includes working as camera operator and AC to Rodney Charters ASC, known for lensing numerous TV dramas such as 24, Dallas, Shameless, Roswell, and many more.


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