We’d like to take a break from our usual tips, stats, trends and case studies to talk about something that a few of us here get really excited about: recording good video AND audio. Hopefully, you’re well aware that Benchmark Email gives you a great solution for incorporating video email and that it costs nothing extra. If you want to look AND sound great in your email videos, hiring a professional crew to produce it is going to yield you the best results. But what if your business is on the smaller side and you haven’t got a $1K budget for each of the twenty in-store product demos you’d like to include in your emails this month? This series is for you.

Your Voice Is Important

Let’s start with something that is often overlooked in videos: audio. It really is 50% of the audio/visual experience but it rarely gets that amount of attention in production, especially with DIYers. If your audio is solely your voice, it had better sound great.

Is Your Camera’s Mic Good Enough?

Well, what’s “good enough” mean anyway? Good enough so that people can hear your voice? Yes. Good enough to stand toe-to-toe with your competitors? Maybe. Good enough to represent your business as professional? Probably not at all.

The truth is that your consumer-level camera most likely has a tiny microphone attached to or built into the camera itself. And though it being ten feet away from you as you do your demonstration might work visually, it’s not the best situation for the microphone. There is no zoom for the mic. There might be a few cases where it’s acceptable, but that does not mean it will always be great. The bulk of the cost of your camera went to the visual side of things. That mic was designed as an “all-arounder,” and that probably doesn’t mean “all around the Hollywood movie set.”

Your best bet is to simply test it out first. Record a whole-hearted test pass in the room or environment in the exact manner that you plan to make your video. Now play it back, close your eyes and listen like your customer would. Does it sound professional? Be honest with yourself. If you don’t know what to listen for, here are some clues:

Is the Volume Too Low?

You could talk louder, but that might be unnatural. In your video editing program there is probably a way to amplify or normalize your voice. But when you do that all the low level noise in the environment gets louder proportionately, leaving you with a noisy, harsh audio track. You could speak up, but this could lead to…

Is There a Lot of Reverberation on Your Voice?

You know, that slightly echoing, washed out distant sound. In a small room, it sounds like a slightly metallic “zingy” tail on the voice. In a large room, it sounds like speaking in a church. If your room was as huge as a football field, you might actually hear the individual echoes. You are probably in a very reflective room and/or your mic is too sensitive to ambient noise. The sound waves that make up your voice are bouncing off the walls, and all those reflections fuse into that undesirable sound. There’s no easy way to edit this problem unless you’re a master of using gates and expanders (if you don’t know what those are, this isn’t the time to learn about them unless you’ve got some real time on your hands.)

If you understand the difference between singing in your shower and singing in a closet full of clothing, you’ll see the value of being in the right non-reflective room. If you can’t change your room, you could spend some money on acoustic treatment, but this may cost more than your camera. True, some have hung blankets on walls and filled the room with plushy items to diffract the sound, but that only works “kind of.” It is truly DIY, though.

A better solution might be to hook up a lavalier mic – the kind newscasters wear – to your camera. You could hide the wire or choose a wireless option. These mics are designed to be close to the voice and not pick up much sound that is further away.

Does Your Voice Volume Vary?

This can happen because your voice is not arriving at the mic at a consistent level or angle throughout the demonstration. It could also just be a bad mic. In this case, you can fix a lot by facing the mic always and being painfully aware of how loudly you are speaking. This doesn’t work if your demo requires you to be mobile. A better solution is to buy a decent shotgun mic for mounting on the camera, getting a lavalier mic or setting up a microphone somewhere hidden from the camera but close to you.

Can You Hear Unwanted Sounds in Your Video?

The sound of the neighboring store, traffic or other people generally isn’t what you want bleeding into your video. You need to be in a quieter room if possible. If you want to completely soundproof your room, better call someone who can build a room within your room, with air between the two properly treated walls and a floated floor. Honestly, if you can hear trains, airplanes and trash trucks, even getting a great aftermarket mic won’t help here. If it’s mildly noisy, the right mic with good placement & technique can do wonders.

Okay, I Think I Just Might Invest in a Microphone

Great. Now we’re ready to talk about pick-up patterns, condensers, dynamics… hey, you don’t know these terms yet? Stay tuned to this how-to video email series for a future blog entry dedicated to choosing, buying and using microphones.