Friday, January 16, 2015

How to Video Your Art: Microphones / Recorders

Four recommended microphones / recorders: MXL TempoZoom H1Zoom H2n, a Lavalier Microphone
The current issue of International Artist magazine published Part 2 of my series on How to Video Your Art. In this post, I want to discuss how to get good audio.

Audio is the most common flaw in art videos. It’s usually caused by trying to record a voice with an onboard camera microphone that’s too far away from the person who is speaking. It’s fairly easy and cheap to overcome this problem. Good audio will do more to make your videos appear professional than anything else.

When I’m making an outdoor video, I like to record a few introductory comments on location before I start the painting. Later, I record a voiceover in the studio over the final edit. In the voiceover, I speak in present tense, as if it's happening now. This makes the voiceover blend in with the field-recorded voice audio.

Hearing the voiceover is as important as seeing the paint strokes, because it allows viewers to get inside your mind as you’re making painting decisions. Doing the voiceover after the fact makes the painting process much easier for me because I don't have to talk while I'm painting, and it makes the editing much easier, too.

In the photo above are four recommended microphones / recorders.

MXL Tempo Microphone
This microphone is specialized for voice and for studio settings. It has a USB connector that plugs into the computer. It makes recording voiceover in post production much easier because you can record directly into the editing timeline and do as many retakes as you want. It's a bit bulky and fragile to take on location, and it takes a while to set up, but it gets excellent sound quality. You can also use it for music performance, podcasts, Skype, etc. 

Zoom H1 Recorder
This small portable digital recorder captures high-quality digital audio to supplement the audio captured by the cameras. It records in stereo in WAV or MP3 files, and has a lo-cut filter. You can select either manual level control or automatic gain control. It's small enough to fit in a pocket or carry on a belt. It’s also useful for recording audio clips from interview subjects. Wind noise is a persistent menace when recording audio outdoors, The best defense is a furry microphone cover called a deadcat windscreen. These windscreens are available commercially, or you can knit your own from novelty yarn.

Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
For around $159.00, less than the price of the two previous items, you can get one device that works as both a USB-microphone and a recorder. Through a USB cable, you can attach it to the computer and use it as a voiceover mic. As a recorder, it has far more features, and an easier set of controls than the Zoom H1. The five microphone elements can be selected in four different field patterns to get a surround effect, a mid-side field or a conventional stereo effect. The manual gain setting uses an old fashioned wheel, rather than a push-button interface, which makes it much easier to use. It runs on two AA batteries (I use rechargeable NimH) and records onto an SD card for many hours of audio.

Audio-Technica Lavalier Microphone
If your video camera has an input for an external microphone, you can use a lavalier microphone. The small mic clips to your shirt beneath your chin. It captures very good audio, especially with the Canon VIXIA camcorders that I use (more in the post Camera Guide). At less than $30.00, wired lav mics cost far less than the wireless models, and they’re less prone to electronic interference. When you don’t need the lav mic for voice, you can clip it to the canvas or sketchbook to capture the contact noise of the pencil or the brush.

Editing tips
• WORKFLOW: 1. Visual edit, 2. Color correction, 3. Background audio, 4. Foley if necessary, 5. Voiceover, 6. Titles and Transitions
• Whenever possible, conceive of the piece as a 3-act story: Articulate goals, grapple with challenges, and figure out solutions.
• Use authentic sounds instead of music under time lapse. Use music only at the beginning and end if necessary for mood. Don't use music as an acoustic floor throughout.
• Edit to match the speed of viewer's mind, not real time.
• If you change speed in a shot, tell the viewer that you're doing it in VO.

Online resources
• Check out my painting tutorials on Sellfy
• You can also get my videos on Gumroad
• Link for all my videos on DVD at Kunaki.
• You can also get my DVDs at Amazon
• Longer post on GJ: How to Video Your Art (goes into more detail about gear)
• Helpful filmmaking tutorials on the older uploads from Indy Mogul (YouTube channel)
• Also some good tutorials on Film Riot and Frugal Filmmaker


Unknown said...

James---Thanks so much for posting this. Great info!

Anonymous said...

I had considered this, but I'd be using my MXL ribbon mic that I recently got for my small studio setup. I have an audio interface to take the XLR input, add phantom power and send it USB to a computer. It's a really nice inexpensive mic, and you could get a smaller 2-input interface with a single preamp instead of the more expensive unit I use.

tristen grant said...

I also recommend the Rode SmartLav+. Its a lavaliere mic that plugs into and records to a smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc). Its like having a wireless lav mic, without the cost.