Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Tech Tip Tuesday: Mic Att!

Hey peoples, time again for another Tech Tip Tuesday!

Last week we talked about what to do if your external microphone is picking up unwanted radio signals (if you didn't catch the post yet, check it out here). After posting the tip, I chatted online with friend of Reel Grrls and awesome video blogger Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:

ANITA: love your short little post about the mic audio problem!
me: Thanks!
ANITA: now if only you'll make one about why my audio is always so low no matter what mic I use
me: Hmm... low audio, I'll have to think on that one...
ANITA: I got it to work with a shotgun put right underneath the person speaking, but any further away is inaudibly low, even with a lavalier.
me: does your camera have auto & manual audio levels? have you tried it on both?
ANITA: no it doesn't have that unfortunately.
It has "turn mic attachment on" and then you can adjust the audio, so I guess it does, but even when it's all the way up it's still low
me: Wait, is the "attachment" setting just called att?
ANITA: ya it says MIC ATT
me: Actually, "att" stands for "attenuate" and it is used to cut off high levels on your mic. So when it's on it just brings your audio levels way down.
all this time!
I thought it was mic attachment so it would pull from the mic and not the built in
me: It's a common misconception, no worries.
Try turning it off and see if it helps. Let me know!

So, the big message is: MIC ATT does NOT stand for "mic attachment," but "mic attenuate"! And what does mic attenuate do? It makes your incoming audio LOWER. What exactly is attenuation? Check the definition from this great audio glossary Anita sent over:

Attenuation: The process of decreasing the amplitude of a signal as it passes from one point to another. Analog attenuation circuits typically use resistors to reduce the voltage of a signal.

So, as Anita next asked, why on earth would anyone want to turn mic att on? Great question! Truthfully, I have never had to turn this setting on, but if you were in a situation where the audio was so loud it sounded distorted or blown out (like yelling & clapping at a game or event), or if you had a mixer or similar line-out attached to your mic input (mics have a much quieter signal than lines), you might want to try turning on your mic att.

To sum all this up and illustrate the point for you, Anita made this fabulous little video about our friend (or enemy, as the case may be) Mic ATT. Enjoy, and thanks Anita!

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