Recording Ukulele Videos for YouTube

Over the past few months I’ve been making a few video tutorials of simple songs for beginners to have a go at. I’ve talked in the past about struggling to get decent sound quality without spending a lot of money on cameras and mics. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

Daylight Is King

Let’s talk about video quality first. Whatever camera you’re planning on using. Daylight is the best light to record in. There are no exceptions to this. If you’re recording at home, make sure you’re recording whilst it’s still light outside. Get in front of a big window and pull the curtains open as far as you can. It makes a huge difference. Secondly, get your camera on a tripod or anything that will hold it firmly in place. I use a little flexible iPhone tripod that’s easily attached and the legs can be bent into pretty much any position.

Mic Proximity Is Massive

When it comes to getting good audio quality, getting the mic close to you is a big deal. I should probably have worked this out quickly but I didn’t. Of all the cameras I’ve tried (around 4 to date) the iPhone is the one that I like the best overall – the video quality is pretty good and it’s so portable. When recording tutorials I like to show both the ukulele and my face so that I can explain what’s going on. If you’re using the onboard mic from your camera, this means you’re moving the mic quite far away from your ukulele and subsequently losing sound quality.

Don’t Use The Camera Mic

If I could give you one tip, it’s not to use the mic on your camera. I took a couple of steps to solve this. Firstly, I bought an Audio Technica ATR-3350 ATR Series Omnidirectional Condenser Lavalier microphone, this cost me around £20. I also bought a Startech Headset splitter adapter for around £5 – this is because you cannot just plug a microphone into an iPhone, you need an adapter to make it work.

No sooner than I ordered this, than my friend Griff lent me a spare portable digital recorder that he had kicking around his house. Griff has been involved with a number of bands over the years and currently plays guitar for Interrobang so he knows a few things about getting audio down.

The Winning Method

So far my method of choice has been recording the video with the iPhone and using the portable digital recorder for the audio. The downside to this is that the 2 files are completely separate and it takes a bit of editing work to get them back together. I use iMovie for the editing process. It’s fairly easy to add an external audio file to your movie, but not without it’s problems. I’m finding that even on a 5 minute video the audio will go out of sync with the video as time progresses. I have no idea why this happens but it’s a pain, it ends up looking like a badly dubbed movie. To combat this I make various splits in the audio track where I can see the sound waves don’t match up and manually move the audio back into place. It’s a pain, but it works.

To date I’ve not done much with the lavalier mic, but I’m hoping the syncing wouldn’t be a problem as it would be plugged into the iPhone and everything recorded at the same time. I’ll post any updates to this as and when I give it a proper test.

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