Do you like to spend time tinkering with your audio/video equipment and your computer or workstation?
Both Dan and I are part of ModPod's Production team. And part of our fun is learning about microphones, headphones and video equipment - sometimes even lighting - and various tools and tricks to manipulate all of these elements in the digital realm. So we need a workstation, a place that we can come and digitally hone our craft. We call this a "studio" or a "setup."
In the simplest of terms, a creative work/production setup is a section of your living space that you put some thought into. You think about sound quality. You might think about video. It doesn't have to be professional, but you've put some thought into it.
As Creative Director, my setup is different from Dan's, our Production Manager. You may have a set up at home, and yours probably differs as well. But we have some things in common. We have aspects to take care of audio, video, and the lighting that the video requires.
We'll talk about our own setups in different blog articles, videos, and podcast episodes. In this article, you'll read some general thoughts about microphones, audio interfaces, headphones, cameras, and lighting for video.
Whether you have a dynamic microphone, a large-diaphragm condenser, or something else, you should love the way it sounds. Specifically, you should love how you sound on your mic.
Mic placement is key. You need to find your microphone's pickup location and speak close to it, adjusting the gain for optimal sound. Microphones have a sweet spot, and finding it can be fun!
If your room isn't treated as a recording booth, then your microphone's ability to reject noise from around the rest of the room is a key feature.
When we record, we like to monitor ourselves with headphones. When choosing what type to use in a recording environment, an important question to ask yourself is: Should I buy open-back or closed-back headphones?
With closed-back headphones, sounds from outside the room don't disturb your listening as much because you have a nice seal all the way around. Therefore, you hear what's coming through the headphones and not as much from the space (and distractions) around you.
Open-back headphones are susceptible to more sounds of the outside world making it to your ears. Even more problematic is during recording, sound may escape (or "bleed") from the headphone housing, reach your microphone, and even onto the recording itself.
USB audio interfaces convert analog signals from your microphone, headphones, and musical instruments into a digital signal that goes straight into the computer via a USB cable. It's a great way to work with a computer while recording and listening. It can eliminate ground loop hum and electrostatic noise.
By taking the digital audio conversion out of the computer and putting it into a box that plugs in by USB, you can eliminate extra noise that happens from within the computer. USB audio interfaces do the heavy lifting of converting the analog into digital, and on the way back the digital into analog as it feeds your headphones or your speakers. So rather than plugging your microphone and headphones into your computer, consider using a USB audio interface, instead.
Video Recording & Lighting
When we first learned about podcasting and became engaged with different podcasts, it was only something one listened to. But now it's also something you can watch, which is kind of fascinating. If you're a content creator, video changes the game in that suddenly, you need to have a camera and lighting.
With a studio setup, now you can record everything in a video environment. You can release that full conversation as a full-length YouTube video. You can also take snippets of it and release shorter clips with titles that home in on exactly what that segment is about. An audience for one particular segment might not necessarily sit through a long podcast, but they will watch a short YouTube video. So you can grow an audience by sharing your content on both YouTube and traditional audio podcast distributors.
Aside from buying a good quality camera for video content, there are two further, important considerations for video recording:
- If you use your laptop's built in camera, your viewers will likely see you from an unflattering angle - from below. They'll get a really close view of the underside of your face, including every hair inside your nose. We have yet to see anybody using a laptop webcam that looks decent for very long. Now if you're specifically looking for a horror movie monster/up-the-nose angle, then go with a webcam. But we recommend an external camera for your computer. That way the camera is connected to a cable, allowing you to mount the camera in a more flattering position, like at eye level or slightly above.
- Lighting plays a couple of important roles in a video recording setup. All cameras respond well to good lighting. You'll see an increase in your camera's recording quality if you add lighting to your setup. Good, soft lighting - light with a diffusion panel - can also make you look better. It can fill in shadows and wrap light around you, hiding wrinkles. The position of your lights is also important, but that topic deserves its own article.
In future articles, we'll showcase our own, work-from-home setups.
If you're just getting started with podcasting and video, perhaps we can help. Specifically, we help conceive, produce, and distribute branded podcasts. We welcome you to visit our website at www.gomodpod.com, or reach out to us via our Contact form or at email@example.com.