20 Years 20 Videos - Chapter #2 Video Production | Episode #1 - Dedicated Audio
With these pro-tips and a cheap fast-and-light kit, your run & gun video audio doesn’t have to suck anymore!
In my exploration to bring better quality to the run-and-gun Sony mirrorless video package I created this demo video to show how you can use a dedicated audio kit and a few capturing pitfalls to avoid.
Hopefully this helps.
Dedicated Audio - Learning the long way
We always bring a dedicated sound system for our high-end video productions.
It was unimaginable to shoot a television spot without a dedicated sound system operated by a skilled and experienced audio technician.
Trying to clean up interference from poorly captured audio in the filed can be a nightmare for the editor in audio post production.
I have been working on my run-and-gun video kit over the past decade.
Most of my “practicing” was on trails in the Cascade Mountains in Washington.
I produced videos for a blog and Facebook group Best of the NW. Over the period of a few years we completed all the hikes in two guidebooks focusing on Seattle and Western Washington.
Fast and light video kit
By the end of the project I had filmed and edited 227 - 90 second trail videos.
There was quite a difference in quality level from the first videos to the ones after having a couple hundred under my belt (hey I’m a slow learner, but persistent).
These were quite literally run-and-gun as I developed a kit for my trail running pack that allowed me to pull my camera out and switch lenses without removing my pack.
I developed 10 essential shots and perspectives that I would use to edit each trail video. Having a plan and a kit that was designed for that plan made a huge difference in being nimble and being able to capture better footage.
These videos were narrated by Joe Michales (voice of King 5s Evening Magazine show for nearly 30 years). The audio I would capture on these shoots was purely atmospheric. Streams running, foot crunching rocks on ground. Me grunting up hills...
The onboard camera mounted microphone was entirely adequate for videos driven by voice over with a music under bed.
Not every commercial shoot we do has Broadcast TV quality budgets. The Sony Mirror less camera filming quality had improved dramatically over the years I used them in the field. I began to experiment with this run-and-gun setup for commercial shoots centered around social media distribution.
Borrowing the same principles of a dedicated lighting system, a dedicated director of photography or cameraman and a dedicated sound system I started capturing interesting stories with this lean and mean setup.
The biggest lesson learned on the initial tests was that the onboard microphone was far from adequate for capturing quality vocals. I traveled to my hometown Dillon, MT where Beaverhead Brewing Company was founded by a friend of mine. They asked me to do their branding. Click here to read the story on that, fun stuff. I wanted to capture the designs on the building, tap handles, swag etc. The story is interesting, I thought it might make a good video. So I spent a few days with the brewmaster filming with my Sony mirrorless camera and an onboard microphone. I was able to make a cohesive story from the clips captures behind the scenes, in the tap room, around the town and county. The audio was all over the place though. Distracting noises from the brewing vats competed with the dialog. The video ended up being released through Facebook and had over 10,000 views in a few days. There aren’t even that many people in Beaverhead County. What was a sub-par audio quality video to me was received surprisingly well on social media. The “authentic” feel of the man on the street, behind the scenes filming seemed to translate. The audio quality did bug me though.
The next experiment was an interview in a Bozeman Illustrator and Graphic Designer studio. I used my run-and-gun set up with a few upgrades, like a lighting kit and tripods for a two camera shoot. The office had many buzzing loud computer sounds and problematic environmental sounds. I used a dedicated Zoom microphone recorder on a boom. In post it became apparent that this was better than the onboard camera mic but was placed too far from the subject in the room to eliminate the problematic environmental sounds. We made numerous attempts to remove the artifacts in audio post but ended up a with a disappointingly flat sounding audio track. I ended up supplementing the final video with Closed Captioning. The animations are entertaining though. See video here.
I came across a Rode Lavaliere microphone that can be attached to an iPhone or a recording device like the Zoom H1n that I prefer to use for dialog, rough voice over and capturing foley sounds.
This is a less-expensive option to the sennheiser wireless lavs that are more the industry standard and are easier to operate. Attaching the lav to the recorder to noise cancelling headphones allows the monitoring for the sound capture in a similar way that a sound technician would record during a shoot.
This set up allows one person to run the camera and monitor audio. The example video we put together demonstrates this techniques.
While this setup is not a replacement to the high-end production equipment for higher end projects like TV spots or videos for live corporate events it is a step up from the guy with the camcorder setup.
The principals of creative development, production planning, dedicated picture, lighting and audio remain between the production levels. Stepping up to the next level simply replaces nearly every piece of equipment and level of detail to a higher (more expensive) level.