The first mistake web video bloggers make

By Alec C. Tefertiller

You need video on your website. You need an active YouTube channel.

You know this. Your SEO guy told you this. Your web developer told you this. Your landscaper told you this. So you’re ready to dive head first into the world of web video. You go out and buy a webcam, a flipcam, or you figure out how to turn on your laptop’s built in camera.

Good.

And then you make your first mistake.

You produce a video that looks great but sounds like something my cat coughed up at 5:30 this morning.

How could this be? Your flip camera records HD video. It looks as good as some stuff you’ve seen on TLC. How come it sounds so awful?

The answer is in pretty much every consumer grade camera out there. The stock microphone included on your flip cam, your computer, your cell phone — they’re all designed to record as much around them as possible. They’re made this way because they know the average person shooting video of their kid’s soccer game wants to catch all the action, so they use an omnidirectional mic (a mic that records in all directions). It’s great for catching all the action at the party, not so great for an intimate sales pitch.

How do you solve this problem?

Get a Lav Mic
When spending a couple hundred bucks on your consumer grade HD camera, it’s worth it to a) get one with a mic input, and b) go ahead and spend another 50 bucks on a wired lavalier microphone you can attach to your lapel and plug right into the camera. You’ll record your voice, and that’s pretty much it.

Here’s some other practical tips for recording great sound that might even help you if you don’t have a lavalier microphone:

  1. Choose Your Room Carefully: While your office, the breakfast room, or the dining room might have the best background image, they also have the most highly sound-reflective surfaces, which create distracting echoes on your soundtrack. Your hardwood floor, desk, granite countertops, and mirrors actually bounce sound around the room. A great alternative is your bedroom. If you can find a corner of the room that looks nice, there’s usually enough fabric in there (comforter, pillows, couches, chairs, curtains, etc) to absorb ambient sound, helping to create a cleaner soundtrack.
  2. Turn it Off: Ceiling fans, appliances, computer equipment, and air conditioners all create ambient hums that while not so obvious to the ear, are almost always picked up by microphones — especially omnidirectional ones. So turn it all off, including the AC (or, if you live down South where that is impossible, wait until the AC isn’t running to record.)
  3. Speak up: After you’ve moved into the bedroom and turned everything off, the best way to overcome whatever ambient noise is left is to speak clearly at a decent volume. Enunciate. Choose your words carefully, and don’t lose any words under your breath or to the side. It’s high school speech class all over again.

Finally, if you’re somewhere where you can’t choose your room and turn everything off, it means you’re probably in a place where you need a microphone. It’s worth it to have one. If you try to record your amazing web video in a crowded restaurant using the awful built in mic, you’re going to lose your audience when they can’t understand what you’re saying.

The web has too many distractions begging your audience to turn their attention away from your video. Don’t give them another one.

 

Photo Credit: Alexa Szlávics [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

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2 thoughts on “The first mistake web video bloggers make

  1. Great post Alec! I know one of the biggest problems I had when I first started recording things in the office was sound quality. I too would have to turn off the AC, get the camera closer than I felt comfortable, and felt like I was yelling into the screen. Great advice to everyone struggling to get their videos to the quality they are looking for. Keep up the good work!

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