Guide 1: Making Good Recordings.

Achint
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Joined: April 28th, 2011, 4:18 pm

April 30th, 2011, 9:18 am #1

Ok, so call me a snob, but I honestly can't stand a lot of videos where webcam mics are used to record sound samples, not only in the ocarina world but other instruments in general. This is the reason my own Youtube channel has stopped with the videos for the time being cause I want to invest in a good mic first.

The purpose of this guide will be to tell you why I think this is important, the potential investments you will have to make in order to have a quality video/audio sample and how to go about recording.
I haven't seen a guide about this stuff so I'm going to post one. I apologize if there is one already and I somehow missed it.

So! Moving On!

Section 1: Why you would want to make 'proper' videos

1) Webcam mics suck.
Webcam mics, typically have a rolloff on the frequency spectrum where the low frequencies from about 250Hz get cut off at a rate of 6dB per octave. This is done because webcam mics are usually used for voice conversations on softwares like Skype and MSN, and since the human ear is most responsive to the middle frequencies from 2kHz to 4kHz, the low frequencies are not needed. This helps in reducing the cost of the webcam mic. Combine this with the fact that computer speakers also cut out low frequencies, especially on laptops and well... you've got a bad sound sample.
If you're going to showcase an instrument, you need low frequencies. Simple as that.

2) Distortion is a b***h.
Webcam mics, more often than not are what are called "Condenser Mics". Condenser mics, save for the Ribbon Mic are sensitive as hell. They're so sensitive you can't put them inside a kick drum because the sound pressure level will blow the diaphragm. You can't put them in front of a cranked up amp for the same reason. Combine the sensitivity with the fact that these mics are often quite cheap. And you get the bane of all audiophiles. Distortion.

3) Protect people's ears.
People use earphones/computer speakers. People have ears. People's ears are sensitive.
Now take a distorted, loud sound sample of your soprano oc that you just recorded on your webcam mic, and well... you do the math.
(Yes, unlike what guitar stompboxes will have you believe, distortion while recording simply means you've gone above the threshold that the mic can handle as far as volume goes.)

So how can you fix this? Read on!

Section 2: What do I need to make proper videos?

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but when people watch music related videos, they're looking to see what it sounds like more than it looks like. So you don't have to buy a crazy expensive camera, but you will need atleast a decent mic.

1) Get yourself a microphone.
USB Microphones nowadays are quite inexpensive and I will say there are some fantastic ones out there. Please keep in mind, none of these are "Professional" mics despite what the product might have you believe. Professional standards include an XLR cable and the second they have a USB cable, this type of mic becomes a consumer mic.
Examples of good USB mics which range to about $100 are:
1) Audio Technica AT2020 USB Model. (This one is my personal favourite.)
2) Samson C01U/C03U
3) Rode Podcaster
4) Blue Snowball

(Note, some dynamic mics will do an excellent job as well. Some inexpensive, great mics include: Shure SM57, Shure SM58. I personally recommend these.)

The Shure SM 57 is what David (docjazz4) can be seen using in his "Hey, Soul Sister" cover video. Here is a picture and the link.
[+] Spoiler
docjazz4's Cover of Hey, Soul Sister by Train

Now, you might be thinking "but he's using reverb!". Truth be told, reverb will only help me backup my point even better because reverb increases the potency of frequencies in the higher register, specifically 8kHz onwards. Now despite using reverb, a simple microphone can make that recording not sound annoying especially with a soprano ocarina... how cool is that?

(Thanks to Sig for this next bit)NOTE: Please note, that all of these mics have what are called "Cardioid" polar patterns. This is to say that they capture all their sound from the front and somewhat from the sides, which is why it is ok to tilt the mics at a slight angle (read on for more details on this).
A visual representation to help you out is as follows. This is once again, the polar pattern of the AT2020 USB.
[+] Spoiler
The blue lines, defined by the Legend, represent the frequencies that are picked up by the microphone. See how they converge at 0 degrees? However, if you notice, they have actually finished conversion by 30 degrees. So it is infact, safe to tilt your microphone 30 degrees, and still achieve optimal frequency response.
Also note, that 5kHz is being picked up from the back of the microphone. you want to avoid placing electronic equipment behind this since they emit mid-range frequencies which fall in that range.

EDIT: Here is a perfect example of a comparison between a camcorder mic (better than a webcam mic) and, in this case, the Samson C01U. The lady in this video is using a Focalink Tai Chi Soprano G.

Without a Mic

With the Samson C01U

Here is another example this time, comparing Mountain Ocarinas.

With a Camcorder Mic

Notice how the tone is quite thin, especially on those high notes, where it can get pretty ear piercing?
Remeber how David's was not? Just by using a good microphone.

Here is one with a Nady RSM-4 ribbon microphone by Ubizmo.

Mountain Ocarina with a Ribbon Mic

The audio for this video has been attached so you can hear it without YouTube's compression.

So! How is using one of these microphones different from the webcam mic? Well let me show you.
[+] Spoiler
The chart shown is the frequency response of the AT2020 USB Mic.
Do you see the blue line? That represents the frequencies and at what levels they are captured. See how it is pretty much a flat response? There is a roll off after 10kHz because the frequencies from there on cause 'sibilance'. Sibilance is the phenomenon where you hear a lot of "sss" or "tss" sounds when you speak and is associated with pretty annoying frequencies.
Now in a webcam mic, that roll off would be on the opposite side of the spectrum and it would lower everything from 250Hz till 20Hz. 250 Hz is usually where the body and bassiness of a sound comes from. Also, in order to facilitate voice conversations there would be a small bump in the 2kHz to 4kHz region.

I hope you see why webcam mics, do indeed, suck.

2) Audio Editing Software
The reason you need this, is because a mic will not 'just work' simply cause you plugged it in. The microphone is simply capturing acoustic signals, and converting them to electric signals, or in the case of a USB microphone, binary code. You need somewhere to record this binary code. In addition to this, if your new awesome microphone is distorting, the software will allow for you to pull down it's "input gain" or recording level.
Some good softwares are:

Windows:
Audacity
Wavosaur

Mac:
Garage Band

3) Video Editing Software
Once again, depending on what platform you're working on there's a bunch of good free softwares that you can use. And if you're feeling rebellious there's always the word which begins with T, ends with T and has the letters "orrent" in the middle.
The reason you need this software is if you're making videos. You need to have.. well... video. And assuming you're camera is separate from your mic, the main purpose of this software is to sync up the audio and video. So what softwares can you use?

For Windows:
Sony Vegas (Highly Recommended)
Final Cut

For Mac:
iMovie
Final Cut

So, now that you have everything you need, how exactly would you make a quality recording? Onwards! to Section 3!

Section 3: Making an awesome sound sample or video clip.

Step 1: Setting up.
The first thing you need to do, is setup your camera and mic. Camera positioning doesn't really matter in a music specific video, but your mic positioning does. If you've gotten a mic such as the Snowball or the AT2020, I suggest keeping it about 1/2 - 1 Foot away from you. The reason this is done so that you can capture the full bass response of the microphone as well as the instrument. Like I said, you're using audio editing software to pull down the levels now, so you won't have a problem with distortion. Also, keep your microphone at a slight angle from you so that you don't capture what are called "plosives". These plosives occur when you speak fat "p's" or "b's" and air hits the diaphragm of the mic from the front.
Also, setting up your audio and video software is a must! Ensure that the audio is set to 44.1 kHz and 16 bits and that the video software accepts sounds at 44.1kHz. MAKE SURE THIS IS THE SAME OR ELSE THE VIDEO AND AUDIO WILL NOT SYNC.
To do this, there is usually an option when you start up the project.

(Thanks to Tonkatsu for this next bit)NOTE: If you are still distortion despite what's written above, I suggest trying to use what's called a "Pop filter", they're quite inexpensive and can actually even be made at at home. These things help reduce energy levels of a sound wave before it carries to the diaphragm.

Now if you find, that you are still distorting despite being at the very lowest input gain. There is often times a little button on mixing softwares called "Pad" or "-20dB" or "-10dB". Use this and now you might have to even raise your gain a bit to get optimum recording levels. (If the meter is consistently hitting the "yellow" colour and not going into "orange" or "red" you're at optimum recording level.)

Also, condenser mics, if they're on the table might pick up some irritating noise from your desktop/laptop whirring loudly, the a/c in your room, etc. The all add to the "noise floor" and eventually your recording. To reduce this take all precautionary measures. In order to reduce the computer whirring noise, remove the mic off the table and use a separate barstool or something to keep the mic levelled with ur mouth/instrument.

Step 2: Test your recording levels
I cannot stress how important this is. Make sure you're not distorting before you record. If you are, rather than pushing the mic away from you and making your recording sound thin and annoying, find an option on your audio editing software called input gain, or gain and reduce this before you start recording.
For example, I use Pro Tools but have taken a screenshot from Garage Band to show you what I mean.
[+] Spoiler
Do you see where it says 0.0 dB? Well if you test your recording and it distorts at this level, then what you need to do, is pull down that little slider with the speakers on either side, till such time that it does not distort at the highest or loudest note that you play/sing.

Step 3: Ready your camera and software
Get your camera on timer mode, hit the record button, get in your seat, hit the record button on your audio software, and you're ready to go. Simple.

Step 4: Edit your final take.
Now, this is the final step in making an awesome recording. To have a good video with good audio, what you need to do is take the sound from your audio software and export it as a .WAV file. Please use this and not .Mp3 even if your software allows it (some don't) because .WAV is uncompressed and raw unlike Mp3 in which redundant frequencies are literally 'erased' to make the file size smaller.
Export the video from your camera and load it into your Video software, export the audio from your audio software and load it into the video software.
Sync up the audio, which can be tricky if it's an instrumental. Here's a tip to help your syncing. Say something in the beginning, even if it's just the song title so you can match the sound of your audio to the motion of your lips.

And Bam. Good recording that will not kill people's ears, make them appreciate your music more and you won't have to deal with having irritating videos with shrill annoying sounds.

I hope this guide helps! Please let me know what you think. Any and all feedback is welcome! =D

Cheers,
Achint



mountain_ocarina_comparisons_audio.mp3 (4.56 MiB)
Last edited by Achint on May 2nd, 2011, 5:52 pm, edited 10 times in total.
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:ocarina: Jade Everett AC
:ocarina: Oberon Ocarinas AC
:ocarina: Hind Tenor F
:double: Tytoalba DAG
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Philip
Triple Ocarinist x 5
Triple Ocarinist x 5
Joined: April 9th, 2009, 4:58 am

May 1st, 2011, 1:11 am #2

Thanks for the guide GA. Something like this has been missing from TON
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Achint
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Joined: April 28th, 2011, 4:18 pm

May 1st, 2011, 1:42 am #3

Thanks for the feed back Kyp. =)

EDITED: I've added 2 links to show the difference between an ocarina played on a camcorder mic (which are still better than webcam mics) and the same ocarina played by the same lady on a Samson C01U.

EDITED: Added a few checks for distortion. (Thanks Tonkatsu!)

EDITED: Added the importance of knowing your polar pattern. (Thanks Sig!)
Last edited by Achint on May 1st, 2011, 8:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
BATCHINT! <3
[+] My Ocarinas
:ocarina: Jade Everett AC
:ocarina: Oberon Ocarinas AC
:ocarina: Hind Tenor F
:double: Tytoalba DAG
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TimGreen
Triple Ocarinist x 2
Triple Ocarinist x 2
Joined: March 20th, 2011, 12:50 am

May 1st, 2011, 5:19 am #4

Wow, thanks a lot for this! I have been planning on possibly making ocarina videos sometime in the future once I get proper equipment, Ill keep this page commited to memory so that I will have good instructions to follow before making a video so that I might hopefully be able to stand out and do well.
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kissing
Site Admin
Joined: February 3rd, 2008, 12:55 pm

May 1st, 2011, 6:31 am #5

Great guide! Reading this made me glad that I'm doing some things right!
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Hyunwoo
Double Ocarinist x 4
Double Ocarinist x 4
Joined: December 5th, 2009, 5:25 am

May 1st, 2011, 6:52 am #6

I just got a new condenser mic. A samson c01u. I still get distortion when I record.. Why is this?

Do I need a shock mount for my mic?
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Achint
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Joined: April 28th, 2011, 4:18 pm

May 1st, 2011, 7:41 am #7

Thank you! I'm glad it's helping people!

@tonkatsu
Ok, distortion can happen for a couple reasons.

1) Your input gain is too high. The recording level is basically through the roof. Find an option or a knob or a slider called "Input gain" and bring it down enough to reduce ur distortion.

2) You're too close too the mic. Condensers are incredibly sensitive, and so aren't the kind where you have to be 'kiss' them like dynamic mics. I would suggest keeping the mic half a foot to a foot away from you. Another option to reduce sound pressure levels is to use a pop filter. This is so that sound waves don't hit directly and it goes through a 'grill' to reduce its energy level.

3) Now if you find, that you are still distorting despite being at the very lowest input gain. There is often times a little button on mixing softwares called "Pad" or "-20dB" or "-10dB". Use this and now you might have to even raise your gain a bit to get optimum recording levels. (If the meter is consistently hitting the "yellow" colour and not going into "orange" or "red" you're at optimum recording level.)

4) Also, condenser mics, if they're on the table might pick up some irritating noise from your desktop/laptop whirring loudly, the a/c in your room, etc. The all add to the "noise floor" and eventually your recording. To reduce this take all precautionary measures. In order to reduce the computer whirring noise, remove the mic off the table and use a separate barstool or something to keep the mic levelled with ur mouth/instrument.

5) Keep the mic angled away from you so that none of the sound waves hit the diaphragm head on, rather at an angle.
Last edited by Achint on May 1st, 2011, 7:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
BATCHINT! <3
[+] My Ocarinas
:ocarina: Jade Everett AC
:ocarina: Oberon Ocarinas AC
:ocarina: Hind Tenor F
:double: Tytoalba DAG
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Sigurthr
Quadruple Ocarinist x 2
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Joined: January 28th, 2010, 7:41 pm

May 1st, 2011, 8:18 am #8

It's also important to know the spacial reception pattern of your mic, sometimes just turning your mic 15degrees will reduce the levels to the perfect amount (obviously doesn't work for an omnidirectional mic).
Flutist and Extra Class Amateur Radio Operator
::Disclaimer - If my comments seem to be odd or creepy at times, it is only because you haven't been a part of TON long enough to know me. Just ask some of the Senior Members, they'll fill you in. /eyebrowraise. ::
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Achint
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Quadruple Ocarinist x 5
Joined: April 28th, 2011, 4:18 pm

May 1st, 2011, 8:38 am #9

Ah yes, thanks for that, I'll add that in!

@Tonaktsu, I just heard your Rurouni Kenshin recording, and it sounds pretty great! Your distortion is not from the ocarinas, rather from your piano. I suggest pulling down the gain on the track for ur piano next time, and also you can afford to move the mic away by about 2-4 inches. Hope that helps! I look forward to hearing your next recording!
Last edited by Achint on May 1st, 2011, 11:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
BATCHINT! <3
[+] My Ocarinas
:ocarina: Jade Everett AC
:ocarina: Oberon Ocarinas AC
:ocarina: Hind Tenor F
:double: Tytoalba DAG
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Jack Campin
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Joined: October 4th, 2010, 2:48 pm

May 2nd, 2011, 12:38 am #10

I suggest you calculate how much you're expecting people to spend.

For my budget, dream on. Final Cut? You have got to be kidding.
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