04 MAY 2017
written by Mike
SOUND RECORDING BASICS
Throughout the years, capturing sounds has evolved in a dramatic way. From phonograph to a microphone in a mobile phone. From analog to digital.
People still use analog recording, but I will focus on a few aspects of digital recording. Digital recording is the most common, cheapest, and easiest method of capturing needed sounds.
Sound recording can be fun, exciting, hectic, tiresome, laborious and unforgiving gig. But with a few guidelines and basic knowledge, the difference between amateurish and well sounding production can be huge.
Just try to remember last Internet video that you watched.
Was a picture quality good?
What about the sound?
How many times do you have to play with your volume control when switching between videos?
How noisy are the recordings of that famous vlogger you follow?
The forgotten art of quality sound recording tells a difference between a wannabe Internet star and a professional.
The simplest setup for recording sound would be a microphone, cable/lead and a sound recorder. Connect the microphone via cable to the recorder and voila!
Of course, there is a lot more to it, and professional recording sessions are much more complicated. But the basic principles stay the same.
Let’s have a quick look at the basic three components of the setup.
There are a lot of heavy, big books on microphones alone. But to have a good understanding of the subject we can distinguish two types of microphones: dynamic and condenser.
Condenser microphones are bit more sensitive than dynamic. You can use them to record vocals in the studio, wide range instruments such a piano or violin. DPA Microphones debunks some of the myths here.
Most common cables used to connect a microphone to the recorder are XLR balanced connectors. They can carry the sound over a long distance without inducing any unwanted noise.
USB cables that connect a microphone to the computer are also popular.
The subject of sound recorders is wide as the sea but just try to think about it for a second. Anything that can capture a sound is a sound recorder. A mobile phone is the most common one; a simple stereo recorder like Zoom H4N can be handy too. At the professional end, there are a lot of different kinds of sound recorders.
Small, portable ones we use for interviews. The medium we can use for recording dialogue on a movie set. Recorders from Sound Devices have a good opinion.
For a beginner, a simple, direct USB microphone will do but even a basic setup through audio interface will always get you a superior quality.
Techniques of recording audio are an art in itself. There is a choice of correct microphone, the placement of the microphone, recording levels and setting. These are only a few variables that a good sound engineer has to take into consideration. It is important to research the techniques that someone else used for the recording that you want to do.
Using an unusual placement or setup can lead to unexpected and often exciting results. Like using a “trash mic” for example. Every recording requires a different approach. It is important to have an open mind but also a good knowledge of basic procedures.
Have your standard set up in place and then another one as an experiment. And if you are just starting that will often be the case.
Like in everything experimenting and learning from mistakes is a great thing. But there are a few standard rules that you should apply if you want your recording to sound awesome.
Be wise when choosing the microphone
– it can mean a great difference to a general sound of your recording.
Use intelligent microphone placement
– remember the last time when you had to raise the volume to the maximum to listen to that famous vlogger? Or maybe you had to turn it right down?
Know your set up
– microphone, cable, and recorder. Using USB microphones is fine but even with the most basic audio interface connected to your computer the results will be much better.
Know your volumes
– a quiet recording will result in a noisy recording. Turn the volume up, but record too loud and the distortion will ruin your work.
Always record more than you need
– you will have more options to choose and also a backup if something happens to the original recording.
Do a test and listen back to it
– going back to the placement and choice of the equipment. It is always better to get it right at the beginning rather than trying to correct it later on.
Know your basics
– audio recording can be a complicated subject. The basic knowledge of recording, compression and EQ will make a big difference to your final project.
– Experiment and have fun with the process. The more you learn hands on, the better your projects will sound in the future.
It doesn’t matter if you are working on your Internet video channel, making a family holiday video or recording an interview at work. Follow these simple rules and each one of your productions will be better in the end.
Next time when you watch something, focus on listening. Not only on music but also on dialogue and ambience.
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