How to: Recording Audio For Vlogs
Stand out from the crowd with superior sound
YouTube, you may have noticed, does not lack for contributors. As a free, open online resource, it’s second to none. You can think of pretty much any subject and someone, somewhere will have uploaded a clip of them talking, doing or showing something related to the subject. As the world’s second-most used search engine it’s spawned entire industries and put video front and centre of every social network. Yet the one area where it perhaps comes up lacking – through no fault of its own – is quality control.
With the sheer weight of content added daily (around 300 hours are uploaded every minute) it means there is indeed some wheat but there’s also colossal levels of chaff too. In a lot of examples, the quality could have been improved very simply, using minimal extra equipment. If there’s one thing which makes the difference between a good online video and a bad one, it’s usually the sound. It’s the cast-iron, foolproof way you can tell if someone is serious about their vlogs.
In the spirit of public service, we want to help. We’ve put together a list of gear which will help anyone recording audio for vlogs.
We understand there is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to recording audio for vlogs. Different people have different requirements. Some favour being at a desk, while others favour a more roving style, which requires more flexibility from the equipment. What is clear is that there are two basic options available for recording audio and video at the same time.
The first option is to simply record the audio into your camera, at the same time as you record the video. While this option benefits from simplicity (the audio and video files you extract from the camera are perfectly in sync) it doesn’t provide much in the way of flexibility. Also, unless you’re shopping at the top end of the market, it’s unlikely the camera will have decent enough pre-amps to let the audio shine. You can add external microphones to some DSLR cameras but you’re still effectively tied to the camera and its location.
A better option may be to use a separate device for recording the audio. This isn’t as complicated as it may sound. All it takes is a loud clap at the start of the recording. This will then deliver the spike in audio you’ll use to match up the two audio channels from your camera and recording device in your audio or video production software later.
The other benefit of recording audio this way is the choice of microphones available. Devices like the excellent Zoom H6 feature multiple inputs so you can use a range of mics. For example, lavalier (lapel), desktop, room or ambient mics, or combinations of each of these. The sound quality is far superior to what can be captured on most cameras. Plus, you can import the audio files for further processing and effects later in the process.
Speaking of microphones, there are plenty of options on offer here, each significantly impacting on your finished videos. If your vlogs feature lots of monologues or voice-overs then it would pay to invest in a suitable mic. The Sontronics STC-20 fits the bill perfectly. As a high quality condenser mic it will accurately capture your voice clearly and in superb quality. The included pop shield will also save your audience from plosives and sibilance.
If you’re recording audio direct to a PC or laptop while you film, there are slightly different alternatives available. Assuming you’re using some kind of DAW to record into, you’ll also need an audio interface. This is to provide the link between microphone and software. The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is a great choice here, allowing the connection of two microphones at once. There’s also a decent package on offer from Focusrite – the Scarlett Solo Studio – which includes a perfectly usable condenser mic and headphones.
Once you’ve recorded your audio, you’ll want to give it the final touches to ensure it sounds as good as possible. If your audio expertise doesn’t stretch too far, you might consider one of the more entry-level audio workstations. Ableton Live Intro is a good example and will set you on the right path.
Finally, it’s important you can hear a true reflection of what you’ve recorded. Therefore, we’d recommend a set of monitor speakers to crown your setup off. The Presonus Eris E4.5 won’t break the bank but will ensure you can get your audio exactly how you want it.
Whichever way you produce your videos, it’s important to give as much thought to the audio as the visual output. Hopefully the above list will give you some ideas on recording audio for vlogs. It’s not difficult once you start to properly incorporate audio recording principles into your workflow. However, the results can be the difference between a good video and a great one.