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XP10 Dyna-Sonic Member

Registered: 06-2007
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 6272
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Notes On Audio/Video Recording


Following is a discourse on video and audio recording on a tight budget. The intent is to share your files with the world on YouTube, or create DVDs of reasonable quality for demos and distribution. So, if you are listening with the tinny speakers that are built into your laptop or home PC, you won't get much out of this, as you won't have a decent point of reference. Best to get a good set of powered speakers and a subwoofer, or, failing that, plug in a pair of your favorite headphones. Then, read on...

YouTube Is Here To Stay
 
I recently caught the YouTube bug (hasn't everyone?) and wanted to see what it would take to shoot, produce and upload video at the highest quality for the least amount of money. Since it's music we're uploading, the quality of the audio is also paramount. In keeping with the tight budget, my plan was to use no additional manpower, i.e., "set and forget" the equipment, as the use of multiple cameras and laborers would put us over budget before the first song.

First Try

I bought one of those newfangled Zoom Q3 video recorders, which reputedly is the first with digital audio, and YouTube ready video capability. It cost just under $300. After a ton of testing, it became evident that this unit is unnacceptable in every conceivable way: it eats batteries, does poorly in low light (worse than an early VHS B&W unit from the 70s), has poor digital sound, poor pan capability (so the camera sits far back in the audience, thus further distorting the sound of its inferior mics among the beer, broads and brawls), low video storage capacity, no AC adaptor, and on and on.

Here's Hendrix played on a custom solid body mandolin, captured on the Zoom Q3 under average stage lights:

Voodoo Chile 11/8/09

Back to the drawing board. Anybody want to buy a barely-used Zoom Q3?

Going For Seconds

One of my band mates owns a fairly current model Sony HD video cam, so we gave it a whirl. Due to its storage limitations, we had to set the resolution to "low" to be able to record 4 hours of video on a combination hard drive and flash card. You get the picture: the higher the quality, the more storage space required. We jury-rigged the AC adapter and extension cord from the wall jack to the audience with duct tape. (What a pain!)

The video cam had poor audio recording capabilities (as do all of them, I learned later). As a solution, I have a Tascam DR-1 digital 2 track, which records audio very nicely--albeit from two built in mics. The intent was to mix the two later. I set the DR-1 on a tripod to front right of the stage. Its battery lasts for over 5 hours, so we were good there. We just had to worry about the camera, stuck in the audience all night long.

Post-performance, I was able to mix the Tascam audio with the substandard video (more on the software later). Following is the result. It was shot on the same stage and lights as the prior video:

Mustang Sally 11/15/09

As you can see, not so good video-wise. The lens is not wide enough to capture everything, and we had to compromise between a safe location for the camera with what would fit in the scene. The sound is way better than average, though, for a YouTube presentation. (Hey! Be sure you are listening to this with decent speakers or headphones!)

Third Time's the Charm

So, for the final configuration, I realized that I needed to spend some money. This can't be done on the cheap after all. You need a decent HD camcorder--a so called "prosumer" model with "pro" features for a "consumer" price--($700); 4.5 hour extended life battery ($130); wide angle lens ($173) and a tripod (or two, including one for the audio recorder).

The extended life battery means recording in HD quality for over 4-1/2 hours, full length, uninterrupted, unattended, and with no AC cords to mess with. The wide angle lens prevents the camera from having to be placed too far back into the danger zone--the audience!

At Christmas, my kids acquiesced to my desire for the items on my Santa wish list and donated to the cause. We bought a Canon Vixia HD21 with 120 GB HD drive, and the above extras.

The second-to-last piece in your investment is the video editing software. I chose CyberLink Powerdirector for a good blend of features and price ($70 - $85). It is powerful, though it sure seems to crash often. Powerdirector allows you to do zooms and pans, which is important, as at the gig, the video and audio recorders need to be treated as "set and forget;" you don't touch them all night. Being able to zoom in on the lead vocalist and instrumental solos during software mixdown of the final product is kind of a cool concept. The only thing better would be to have multiple cameras at the gig and an equal number of adept cameramen--and thousands of additional dollars, of course.

Following is a screen shot of the zoom/pan capability of the software. Note that the wide angle camera lens allows for a bunch of people to be on stage and on camera, but you can zoom in on a smaller group, or even a single person during the mixdown phase:

Image


The Final Piece

Here's the final piece, and it'll make or break your budget. To even get started in this mess, you need an EXCELLENT, current model computer (not over three years old, IMHO) with a top notch video card and a minimum of 2GB of Ram, plus PLENTY of storage space. Four hours of music captured in HD format is about 30GB in size--yes, that's GIGABYTES. Whew. Manipulating this amount of data, from camera-to computer-to output file takes a lot of resources and sure is time consuming.

Waidaminit...did I just say "Time Consuming?" Yes, in addition to extra cash and extra hard drive space, there's one more thing you need in abundance: FREE TIME! Seriously, this is the one thing I really hadn't bargained for.

Consider:

>> It takes roughly 45 minutes to transfer 4+ hours (30 GB) of HD video from the camera to your ultra-fast, less-than-two-year-old computer via USB.

>> In the editing phase, give yourself 30 minutes to build the full length production and sync the digital audio from your recorder (the Tascam DR1 in my case) to the video file in the software production timeline. Remember that there are no prosumer video recorders (and maybe no professional ones either) that record decent audio. You have to have two separate feeds.

>> It takes another 15 to 45 minutes to produce a decent video of ONE song, depending on how elaborate you want it to be with titling and zooms/pans. Yes, that's correct. ONE song.

>> Once you've designed the output, it takes another 30 - 40 minutes for the software to render the finished SINGLE song in HD format (high resolution WMV or AVCHD). As this is happening your computer resources are tapped out. Go for a nap...or a beer...or two.

>> Finally, it takes an additional 30 - 40 minutes to upload the SINGLE SONG to YouTube in HD format.

So that's...three hours and twenty minutes to get the FIRST song onto your YouTube channel. Sigh.

Note that there is a bit of a shortcut in this last phase: you can upload up to ten videos to YouTube at a time. This means that you can work all day producing your favorite hits, and then que them for upload while you sleep peacefully through the night, exhausted from the effort.

So, reworking the math, it translates to about 1 to 1-1/2 hours per song, plus the YouTube upload. When you get good with the software, and if you're not too finicky with production values, you can slice it to under an hour, give or take, and do the bulk upload to YouTube. (Oh, did I mention that the software takes an additional investment of time to master?)

The End Result

Here, then, are examples of the final product, warts and all. Little is hidden by first-rate sight or sound, or limited by the moderately satisfactory level of YouTube's HD rendering capability. Note that the venue still has subpar lighting for video production, but the camera picks up the players decently enough, and the sound captures the performance. I set the shutter speed manually to 1/30th of a second for the low light condition:

LaGrange - 3/11/11

And this one goes from dusk to nght in the course of a single song. Same manual 1/30th shutter speed:

Sweet Emotion - 7/9/11


Facing The Music

The reality is, a $300 - $1,000 video camera is not a broad enough investment to generate high quality, high definition, YouTube-ready videos of your band. You need a budget of roughly $1,250 for equipment (not including the computer or software), and--most important of all--a huge time commitment (as well as hard drive space!) With the equipment and effort, the results can be excellent for home-grown productions and professional demos. In conclusion, I'm pleased with the result, and know it could be even better on a stage with adequate lighting.




Last edited by tommykat1, 12/28/2011, 9:27 pm
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Nut box Profile
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English Rogers Guru

Registered: 07-2007
Location: England.
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Re: Notes On Audio/Video Recording


Great breakdown TK. emoticon I was going to ask how you had done that.
1/29/2010, 2:40 am Link to this post Send Email to Nut box   Send PM to Nut box
 
JohnsRogers Profile
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Registered: 01-2008
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Re: Notes On Audio/Video Recording


has me thinking...I need to upgrade my crummy PC speakers....need to do some investigating on what to pick-up
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tommykat1 Profile
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XP10 Dyna-Sonic Member

Registered: 06-2007
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 6272
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Re: Notes On Audio/Video Recording


quote:

JohnsRogers wrote:

has me thinking...I need to upgrade my crummy PC speakers....need to do some investigating on what to pick-up



Do It! You won't look back!

Interesting, as I assumed everybody was streaming great tunes off the web and watching music videos with good speakers. Then I unplugged 'em and gagged when I was reminded of how lousy my little laptop speakers are. I asked around and most of my friends are not yet hooked up to the sound of the Internet.

My speakers are Logitech with a powered subwoofer, volume and bass controls. They were under $200 and they sound fabulous.

2/1/2010, 11:18 am Link to this post Send Email to tommykat1   Send PM to tommykat1
 
musicbybj Profile
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Registered: 04-2007
Location: Hamilton, MT
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Re: Notes On Audio/Video Recording


I'm using studio reference monitors. Event Project Studio 6 bi-amped powered system. Just like you'll find in the recording studios and WOW on the sound. If you're using your computer speakers you're missing out on a LOT! I also have a set of powered Altec Lansing computer monitors and they aren't bad but not as good as my Event studio monitors.

Jack
emoticon

---
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream" Les Brown
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tommykat1 Profile
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XP10 Dyna-Sonic Member

Registered: 06-2007
Location: Portland, Oregon
Posts: 6272
Reply | Quote
Re: Notes On Audio/Video Recording


quote:

musicbybj wrote:

I'm using studio reference monitors. Event Project Studio 6 bi-amped powered system. Just like you'll find in the recording studios and WOW on the sound. If you're using your computer speakers you're missing out on a LOT! I also have a set of powered Altec Lansing computer monitors and they aren't bad but not as good as my Event studio monitors.

Jack
emoticon



Drool, drool...wish I had that setup!
2/1/2010, 2:02 pm Link to this post Send Email to tommykat1   Send PM to tommykat1
 


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