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Recording audio for videos and animations: A Few Quick tips and tricks

Picture of Recording audio for videos and animations: A Few Quick tips and tricks
If you're an aspiring artist, or just a kid that likes to occasionally make animations for youtube , you might have a couple of issues with recording the audio.

No matter how visually good a video or animation might be, if the people watching it can't understand what it says, your message might not get through to them. A good video requires a balance between audio and visuals.

A lot of things can get in the way of good audio for a video, wind, bad acoustics, low quality recording tools, and your own voice. But dont worry, I'm gonna show you a few tips and tricks on recording some good audio for little to no cost.

These tips just might help improve the overall quality of your videos and teach you a thing or two about producing.

This is by no means professional advice, just some advice from a kid who likes to make videos and reads from the internet a lot.
 
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Step 1: Choosing a room

Picture of Choosing a room
If you're gonna record audio for an animation, the first thing you'll need is a recording room. Although a specialized room would be ideal, with a few tweaks, any regular room can become a quick recording room.

First thing you wanna do is look for a quiet and tranquil room to work in. Family members can create a lot of noise so if you feel they are interfering with your work, try closing some doors and windows and ask them politely to keep it down. Its a good idea to have things set up, and record when there's no one around.

When choosing a room its best to look for:

  • Four walls
  • Medium sized. A bedroom or small garage is good. Something bigger than a simple bathroom.
  • A carpeted floor would be ideal, since it would absorb most of the sound. Concrete or tiles floors can also work, depending on the type.
  • Wood doors

Things to avoid:

  • Try to avoid hardwood floors, as they will reflect sounds too much.
  • Glass windows can also mess with acoustics. If you have glass windows with fabric curtains, closing them might help the acoustics. (Plastic curtains might also help, but they still reflect sound to an extent.
  • If you have a closet, the doors might also affect the acoustics if they occupy a large part of the room, but most of them don't have a significant effect. Some metal doors can reflect sound too much.

Step 2: Setting up your room

Picture of Setting up your room
Some of the following tips are from Albino Black Sheep member AvidLebon

Like I said before, if you're gonna record audio for an animation, the first thing you'll need is a recording room. Although a specialized room would be ideal, with a few tweaks, any regular room can become a quick recording room.

First of all, you can reduce the room's contribution to your recording by keeping away from the walls and by improvising screens using sleeping bags, pillows, blankets or duvets behind and to the sides of the recording artist.

The mic picks up both direct sound from the speaker and reflected sound from the room.
This will "deaden" the sound of the room when it comes to recording.

It's important to remember that hardwood floors and concrete walls make A LOT of noise! Sound waves hit those walls dead on and then rebound back into your microphone! And then they do it again! This is a common mistake among amateurs, as the room can seem quiet to you, while the mike picks up all sorts of noises you wouldn't suspect.

Some tips to prep a room for recording:

  • Hardwood floors reflect sounds too much. If you have hardwood floors, it would be a good idea to put a towel or rug in a place where the floor is exposed. You might just have to put one rug or towel in the middle of the room, since this is usually enough to prevent the sound being reflected too much.
  • Glass windows can also reflect sound. If you have fabric curtains, try closing them, since they might help reduce sound reflection. If you do not have curtains, putting a towel over the window or covering most of it will stop sound reflection.
  • If there is too much noise coming from the rest of the house, even though the door is closed, try putting a towel under or close to the door, since air can still pass below the door, sound might also pass.
  • If you have concrete walls and are willing to spend a bit more time, you can put two or three foam shapes on the walls, to try to distribute sound reflection, or at least reduce it.

Step 3: Equipment

Picture of Equipment
Some of the following tips are from Albino Black Sheep member AvidLebon

The most important equipment you'll need is software and a microphone.

Microphone:


The microphone is the essential piece of equipment and your main tool. I don't have much experience in buying microphones myself, since I usually use someone else's. :D

Some tips on choosing a microphone:

  • Price is NOT consistant with quality for sure! A $30 average brand microphone might actually be better than a $90 brand name microphone, since these can have many unwanted or unnecessary options and features that can simply confuse the user.
  • Avoid packages with little or no decoration. Chances are, if they didn't put that much effort into making it attractive, they didn't put much effort in the mic itself! (This is true for any piece of technology, I'm sure most of you agree with me!)
  • The standard computer mic doesn't cut it for quality recording, and has a lot of 'wahwah' noise. I guess they could do if you want to do something quick and dirty, but if you want to make a high quality recording, its best to invest a little on a microphone.
  • Be sure to check that a microphone is compatible with your computer. Some regular mikes have options for plugging it into multiple devices, but some can only be used with speakers. And you certainly don't wanna be surprised to find that your new $100 microphone is not compatible with your computer!

Yokozuna says: Most good mics are not compatible with computers, they would have an XLR out. Computers can be set up to accept XLR, but it's quite expensive.

I run my mic into a digital camcorder, which I can then firewire into computer. It takes longer to record twice, but is good quality on the cheap

Software:


You'll want to test out and learn these programs before you do your actual recording session, especially if you have other people doing voice overs with you.

There are many free audio programs for you to choose from such as :

  • Audacity - I only use this program, since it has proven to be more than enough for ALL of my audio needs. I've used it for music, sound effects, and general audio effects and editing. It's got a pretty full arsenal, and some good voice filters. I highly recommend this program.
  • Goldwave -

You also have the option of purchasing audio software, though most of the time these just have more filters and special effects.

Some good Software:

*

I highly recommend staying away from windows sound recorder. It's pretty low quality, and does not allow much customization. It's got a very small amount of output formats (I don't really know if it even does have any other output other than wmv.)

Step 4: Tip: Pop Shield

When recording, you will probably notice that 'popping' sounds like P and B will sound horribly bad and can ruin the animation. Chances are these sounds can't be fixed in the recording. To solve this problem, use a Pop Shield

A Pop Shield is a tool you put between the mic and the person recording. A Pop shield can be compared to a water filter. Like the water filter holds anything in the water that's too big or solid, like iron bits from the faucet, the pop shield filters the sound.

Pop noises like P or B make you spit out saliva and lots of air. The pop shield holds these unnecessary noises and only lets the sound through.

You can buy a Professional Pop Shield.......Or make your own for free!!:

To make a Pop Shield you'll need:

  • Wire Coat Hanger
  • Stocking or one of those black or brown socks that are really thin.

Simply wrap the stocking around the coat hanger. You can give the coat hanger an oval shape if you find it more comfortable.

To use, just hold it between your mouth and the mic. You could use a wire coat hanger, and then wrap it around your microphone so you don't have to hold it.

Another quick method is to simply stretch and hold a stocking in between you and the mike.

Step 5: Outdoors

Picture of Outdoors
Recording sound outdoors can cause your voice to sound low and unclear because of all the noises like cars, kids or animals. The wind is also a huge problem, as it will mess with the waves of your voice.

Video cameras generally have low quality audio recording, although there are some exceptions. If you're gonna make a video outdoors, its a good idea to record audio with a separate device and then intertwine the audio with the video.

Professionals use special microphones that cancel out undesired noises, but unfortunately chances are you can't afford one of these, so you probably wont be able to totally prevent wind from appearing in the audio in very windy areas.

A pop shield might help reduce wind interference. Make a Pop Shield around the microphone, or if you have some extra cash, use some foam around it. Professional sound recordings use this technique, albeit they use special foam. Make sure that sound can pass through the foam you use. You don't want it to block all sound, just reduce wind interference.

Step 6: Actual Recording

Picture of Actual Recording
A few tips while recording:

  • If your are reading from a script, have it laid down somewhere, because when you move it, paper makes crinkles background noise, which is what we're trying to avoid. Or even better, tape it somewhere at eye level behind the mike, so its easy to read, and the person wont have to keep looking up and down! (Thanks Yokozuna!)
  • Keep the mike at 45 degrees from you.
  • Keep the mike away from fluorescent-light fixtures, computer air vents, and any other sources of noise you might have. (You might not notice it, but it will probably show up in recording as an annoying pitch sound)
  • If you have noise that you can't trace to a source, it may be that the mike is picking up vibration from the surface the stand is sitting on. Try setting the stand on a surface that isn't vibrating, or try putting a cushion of some sort - maybe a mouse pad - between the vibrating surface and the mike stand.
  • Try to keep the microphone away from your computer tower, as that itself makes noise.
  • Are your computer's speakers turned off? If they are on, you can get feedback (a painful screeching noise) during your recording with a microphone. If you're on a PC, your speakers can also be disabled in the Windows Volume Control, if you cannot easily turn them off.
  • From Yokozuna: While this may seem a bit cheesy, you normally want to smile as you read, it generally makes the audio sound "warmer"

Step 7: Portable Voice Recording Booth

Picture of Portable Voice Recording Booth
002_booth_folded.jpg
A little piece of portable awesomeness, the Portable Voice-over Booth is a must for every artist or videomaker who is truly dedicated to his work, and has some spare cash.

It's a fairly useful little box, that provides enough space for comfortable voice recording and can be neatly folded down to take anywhere.

A decent laptop, an audio interface, and a microphone allow you to record and deliver voice tracks from almost anywhere. And with high-speed Internet readily available there's no reason to miss sessions and auditions because you are on location or vacation, unless you choose to.

This setup allows you to make high quality voice recoding on the go. In fact, it may be a great setup for anyone that needs to record voiceovers and doesn't have a lot of space. This would be great to use while documenting your next project!

Step 8: More Tips

Picture of More Tips
Well, that's all I got. How about you? Got any other tips that might be useful to those who read this? Leave a comment and I'll post it here!

Yokozuna says: Most good mics are not compatible with computers, they would have an XLR out. Computers can be set up to accept XLR, but it's quite expensive.

I run my mic into a digital camcorder, which I can then firewire into computer. It takes longer to record twice, but is good quality on the cheap
noingwhat3 years ago
Just wondering, is there any advantage to using XLR, or 1/4" over the more common 3.5mm? I know the better mics usually use XLR, but is that just because professional interfaces usually use it to, or is there a benefit of some sort?

There is a benefit:
the XLR on a REAL XLR mic means that it uses "phantom power", so, the mic itself is on another level of performance... Then, some people used the same XLR for DINAMIC microphones, and on those mics, there is not a big deal of difference between using it or 1/4 or 3.5mm... the main difference its on the quality of the construction, not the technology behind it.

noingwhat3 years ago
There are actually a lot of tutorials on here where people have made a windscreen which would be far superior to a pop filter for something like wind noise. Here is a great 'ible which I have yet to attempt, but seems that it would be very effective: http://www.instructables.com/id/Microphone-Blimp/
stevie15 years ago
for the mic part, my band just took apart a rockband mic and used the little box containing the circuit board and installed a 1/4" jack and we use a mixer and some behringer xm8500 mics for recording.
mics: http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/Behringer-XM8500-Microphone?sku=270490
mixer: http://pro-audio.musiciansfriend.com/product/Behringer-EURORACK-UB1202-Mixer?sku=631236
rockband mic thing: http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-POD-GX-studio/ with my i'ble just plug the headphone plug from the mixer into the POD instead of a guitar.
Hi, thanks great for showing me such an inspiring tip. Beside using the above way to record audio for animations and videos, we can also plugin a microphone onto computer USB and then pick up a streaming audio recorder to record audio. All you need to prepare is a mic, a computer. That's all.

If you choose to record audio in this way, it is not dear and it should be under your budget.  
wozlaser5 years ago
You just need the correct cable to use your industry-standard microphone, with it's XLR connector, with your computer. And it's not expensive, about as much as any other cable you'd have to use :)

The problem is noise. If you want it clean, use a cheap mixer, one with only a couple channels. It could cost as much or less than your microphone. If it has phantom power, get a cheap condenser mic. Any condenser mic, even under $100, will have more clarity, detail, and sensitivity, than whatever dynamic mic you are considering.

You can avoid all the computer noise using the mixer and hooking it to your AUX input on the computer instead of the mic input, or turning the mic input way down. Send it to the computer loud and the computer isn't amplifying all the electrical interference noise you can't hear in it's box. these two things are cheap so don't be afraid! This plus a little practice (especially if you play with software that has EQ and Compression) could make a recording ready for shelves I kid you not.

cables:
http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=nsf&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&q=xlr%20to%201%2F8%22&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wf

mixer:
http://www.google.com/products?q=4+channel+mixer&hl=en&aq=f

wozlaser5 years ago
A good generic guideline is to absorb in all the corners and edges and diffuse your walls. Thicker foam is necessary for lower frequencies, so if you cheap out and get the thinnest rather than thickest hospital mattresses for example (great source) your room will be boomy. You can use a room like that if for vocals if all the bass is eq'd out, but don't be that lazy. Just go thick in the corners, even if you have to cram them with pillowcases full of clothes or Styrofoam peanuts, and break up all your flat surfaces. A treated room sounds kinda like a clothing store anyhow, it should if you think about it.

You know it's working if you clap in a bathroom or kitchen and then walk into your treated room. Your claps will sound smaller, closer to you, and more singular.

Poster board can make great diffusers if it's bent into arches, the shape makes it strong, like a speaker cone. see: http://www.instructables.com/id/Sound-defusingdampening-wall-with-posterboard/
rix_1015 years ago
acctually, the output of windows sound recorder is .wma, .wmv is a movie clip. Just sayin ^-^
terrypeck5 years ago
One thing I use with my commentaries is using a white board to write down my script. That way if you are worried about paper making a sound and also it saves on paper, better on the environment. Also you can erase the old script and write a new one. Always remember ,though, not to use a permanent marker as I accidently did one day. OOOPS!
Keith-Kid (author)  terrypeck5 years ago
Haha, nice! (except for the permanent marker!)
The Jamalam6 years ago
Great instructable, I am sure to find this really useful in my upcoming animations! Faved, Fived, Subscribed!
Keith-Kid (author)  The Jamalam6 years ago
Thanks! Glad you like it!
caitlinsdad6 years ago
XLR is really only the designation for the type of connector or jack for the microphone. You can try to explain the difference between an ordinary mic for computers and a microphone that is to be plugged into an amplifier or PA system. You should explain microphone pickup patterns, Hi-Z, Low-Z, impedance, shock-mounting, direct-input box/transformer and line level inputs for recording. Nothing really too technical but to understand that those are factors in choosing the mic. Other than that, it would be nice to hear some of your samples and maybe the tricks you used to clean up the noise or how you turned a lousy recording into a good one. And maybe pics of your setup instead of stock photos. Good job.
cdad is right about XLR only being a connection type, I just mean higher quality mics will use this type of connection. Also, as he says, explaining pickup patterns and going through different audio filters to clean up different types of noise is a great suggestion. One last thing I can think of re-reading this is talking about the application specific designs, which along with pickup patterns is explained quite well on wikipedia.
lemonie6 years ago
I thought you had a camera? Go on, take some photos of your stuff...

L
Keith-Kid (author)  lemonie6 years ago
It;s just that I don't have any pictures of anything here. I don't have a microphone myself, I just borrowed one. I dont have hardwood flooring or glass windows! And no outdoors either. And I'm sure as heck not putting a picture of myself here. The only thing I DO have pictures of is the Pop Shield, which I am going to post soon.
Sorry, I read that you liked making videos and got the wrong idea. What did they do with the outdoors, has it been put into storage, repair, sold or something?! L
Keith-Kid (author)  lemonie6 years ago
Making vids is a hobby, but it's just that, it's not something I invest in. I read a lot about video editing and such, but its not my calling.....

As for the outdoors, I wanted a pic showing a bit open space, that would look windy, but I dont have anything like that in my area....
Looks like the UK to me, Lakes possibly?
Yes the robot will tell you it's great, except for lacking pictures...
(should really post something you actually did)

L
Keith-Kid (author)  lemonie6 years ago
......I guess you're right, but they're still good tips!
Keith-Kid (author)  Keith-Kid6 years ago
*big, not bit.
Keith-Kid (author)  lemonie6 years ago
Also, admin told me to add pictures, I can't post it without pics.....
rimar20006 years ago
Very good work. I can add the following: packing cartons for eggs are very efficient to reduce the reverb, but it is necessary to put them plaster, concrete or other heavy material behind before acceding them to the wall. They can be filled only halfway, so that they are not so heavy and to spend less material. In doing so, you should eliminate the remaining unfilled carton surface.
NachoMahma6 years ago
. Great job! . I really like c'dad's suggestions. You really don't need to go into a lot of detail, just make ppl aware that those things can be important when choosing a mic. . Nacho's Rule #28403: In any audio system, the transducers (eg, mics, speakers, tape heads, phono cartridges) will make the most difference in sound quality.
DJ Radio6 years ago
I like it.
yokozuna6 years ago
fantastic job sir! good pictures, well-written.
Keith-Kid (author)  yokozuna6 years ago

:D!

by the way, I can't take credit for the smiling during reading bit, a guy I work with told me that once, and he's completely right. It's almost like you can hear whether the person is smiling or not, and it's more appropriate for most audio to sound happy.
bumpus yokozuna6 years ago
Indeed, I completely agree.