DIY Budget Video Pro Tips
With all the recent advancements in digital camera technology we’re starting to discover that many of our clients and partners are recording their own video content for their sites and social media channels. Engaged Video encourages this practice! We offer support services for these situations and provide recommendations on equipment. We also offer video editing services to help you compile the video you shoot for your digital spots. That said, there are always certain problems that arise when our clients choose the “Do It Yourself” (DIY) route for producing their video content. It seems like everyone is carrying around a 720p HD video camera in their pocket these days, but the quality of that video has some limitations that we encourage our readers to consider before they start recording their first in-house video asset on an iPhone, Android, Flip or other handheld mobile device.
Many of our clients and partners film video content on handheld mobile devices and neglect to consider the importance of quality audio for their recordings. I’m not going to suggest that every video produced for social media requires exceptional audio quality. This type of video content often has a shelf-life of no more than three weeks and shouldn’t be treated like a major marketing investment. The reality is that most video content recorded for social media outlets doesn’t require the use of boom, lapel, or handheld microphones. However, if you’re using a smartphone to record your video, you’re going to face a handful of challenges that should be considered before you hit record.
- Background Noise: Our clients often forget that recording on a smartphone or similar device, like a Flip UltraHD, means that you’re using a device that has an omnidirectional microphone that will pick up any sound that is taking place around the site of the recording. This is a problem, especially when you’re recording in a crowded space or loud lobby after an event takes place. Often the voice of your intended subject is dulled or drowned out by background noise and chatter from other people. If you’re going to record without the aid of a directional shotgun microphone, boom, lapel, or handheld microphone then we encourage you to seek the shelter of a quiet space before hitting the record button.
- Distortion: The reality is that the microphones on these devices are perfectly adequate for the majority of situations but you should think twice about recording live concerts with loud speakers, or subjects with extremely quiet voices from a distance. This might seem like an obvious point, but extremely loud situations will result in distortion in your recording and extremely quiet subjects will require the audio to be boosted during post-production, resulting in similar levels of distortion. Extremes in audio volume are not conducive to quality recordings on your videos when using a handheld or smartphone device.
- Pitch Issues: People with high-pitched or very low-pitched voices can also be difficult to understand on recordings using a handheld device. Great examples of this issue are recordings of young children or men with extremely low voices. The microphones on these devices are not really designed for extremes in any spectrum of volume or pitch. They’ll still work and often you’ll end up with a recording that is passable for many uses, but if your message is being delivered by someone with an extremely high or low voice you may discover that the audio recording is hard to understand or words are dropped in the recording because of the limitations of the microphone in your device.
Each of the issues outlined above have simple and often obvious solutions that can be followed to avoid audio issues in your recordings. The reality is that background noise is going to be a problem if you’re in a loud space. The solution to this problem is simply moving your recordings into an alternate location where you can control background noise. If that isn’t an option for the type of recording you’re doing consider using a secondary device to record audio and mix your video and audio in post-production. Our clients and partners have found a great deal of success in using a TASCAM DR-05 Portable Digital Recorder without any microphone. Simply hit record and hand the device to the subject of your recording and you’ll find that the audio from the Tascam more than makes up for more background noise issues. The same solution can be employed for video recordings that have the potential to be subject to situational audio distortion because of volume or pitch issues. Without any microphones the Tascam recorder is much more flexible at picking up audio in both loud and quiet situations, and has a much more dynamic condenser microphone that is capable of handling extreme audio situations. When you’re in a situation that pushes even the limitations of the Tascam’s built in microphones, the unit’s convenient external microphone port will allow you to plug into the audio mixing board at a presentation, conference, concert or other potentially loud event with a lot of background noise. Alternatively you could purchase an affordable boom or shotgun microphone depending on your situation, though you should be aware that microphones and their supporting equipment can get very expensive very quickly.
We’ve actually found that many of our partners who use handheld or mobile devices to record their videos are also choosing to shoot dynamic video without any emphasis on audio during the shoot because they intend to use text and voice-over added in post-production to tell their stories. This eliminates the need to worry about audio at all during the recording process, but it also means that having people talk into the camera is not an option. Obviously there are a lot of considerations when it comes to audio and these are just a few solutions for basic issues you might encounter when going down this road.
LIGHTING YOUR VIDEO
The second most common problem many of our clients encounter is recording their videos in low light situations that result in highly degraded image quality in their videos. The nice thing about the iPhone is that the camera built into the 5S is actually pretty good at recording low light video, but the image quality naturally degrades in these situations. Many handhelds and mobile devices just aren’t designed to record high quality video in certain types of light. The solution to this problem is obvious: record your video in a well-lit space. If that isn’t an option, consider purchasing an affordable portable LED light solution like the NEEWER CN-216 Dimmable LED Light Panel. This unit is less than $40 and can literally light a completely darkened room well enough to record really simple videos. You might also consider getting a cheap light diffuser to make standing in front of such a light more tolerable for your subjects.
These recommendations are intended for people and organizations interested in producing extremely low-cost video spots. Because of the intended audience we are recommending affordable and simple solutions to basic problems inherent in the recording process when using handheld and smartphone devices to record video. Obviously if you’re interested in recording higher quality spots with more advanced equipment that would completely change the nature of our recommended solutions. It’s easy to tell a client that the solution is always going to be a better camera, better microphones, and studio lighting…but if those things aren’t available or financially feasible for your organization and you’re looking for real-world solutions using the equipment you have at your disposal, then this article is for you. If you have questions…we’ve got answers! Post them in the comments section below.