Archive for the ‘ Audio Tips for Video ’ Category

A Happy Audio ( video ) Guy!


Shooting in Cambodia at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap - Photographer: Dustin Holliday. This pic links to my other blog with a few of my Cambodia videos.

A couple years ago I jumped on the Canon  5D band wagon. Prior to that I was shooting with a Sony A1U.

Most of the video production I do takes me to countries like India, Cambodia, China, Jordan and Egypt. I work with and through organizations like: Life Mission International, Entermission, Mission India, The Rhema Project, The Bible League and AWANA who are engaged in church planting and holistic community development among other humanitarian activities in these countries.

One of the most important things I need to be concerned about is getting good audio in the field. Re-takes are hard to do when they are 9 thousand miles away. My background in media for the last 30 years has been mostly focused on music for production ( custom and library ), commercial production, recording services, live concert mixing and audio post. Expanding my tool set into video production was a somewhat natural progression for me having been on many shoots as ” the audio guy” and audio production mixer for live and taped broadcast television.

Immediately as I began shooting video myself I realized just how deficient the on-camera audio was. I really was shocked. Main stream camera companies who have pro audio devisions seemed to ignore what I thought were the basic audio tools needed to get predicable good audio. Enough ( rant ) about that..

Even before I  purchased the 5D I was aware of the audio related deficiencies. A little research led me to a great company with a specialized product line. Beachtek.  I like the way they think. They look for very current problems and create innovative solutions !

The product that made the 5D a workable videocamera option for me was the  DXA 5D which would let me connect my high end mics via xlr.  They included a nifty AGC ( automatic gain control )  disabling feature to eliminate the “pumping” associated  with the on camera audio limiter system. Super helpful. It was obvious to me by the omission of any kind of headphone jack on the camera for monitoring the audio that Canon did not have any idea how popular this camera would be for video production. The only way for me to have any confidence in the audio I was recording was to pop out the SD card, stick it in a reader, connect it to my lap top, drag a test file into final cut and play it ! That’s insane ! But the rest of the time.. you work half blind. You can only monitor the input signal via headphones on the DXA 5D. Not any playback !

Well I am happy to report that Beachtek created a new product addressing that issue among others.

The DXA SLR. This device has the ability to switch between input sources. You can choose between two sets of input signal paths. RCA and XLR.  XLR’s for the mic path and RCA which can be connect to the camera’s AV outputs and routed back into the DXA SLR and Viola’ you can monitor the audio off camera ! I’m a happy audio guy..

So in a few words.. I am thrilled with the DXA SLR. There were two other changes that meant a lot to me. One, the metering.  There are now two little LED lights indicating the input levels.. they obey the international color code:   green is good..  red is bad. Not being the trusting sort of guy when it comes to levels, I needed to see for myself. Canon added this view in a firmware update which lets you choose input levels and actually see them..  how novel..  The DXA SLR also has very nice mic pre’s that lets me use a broader selection mics in my arsenal. They sound great and the lights don’t lie.

By the way, this device is not limited in it’s use to just Canon 5D’s.

You can get one through B&H.

Photographer: Gene Ort with his trusty iPhone

Don’t underestimate the importance of a good music bed. Keeping a nice, energetic ( but not hyper ) underscore going under your corporate biz or industrial video is crucial. Without it, everybody takes a nap. But just a quick tempo percussion or techno loop is not enough.  If the music keeps yammering along without any definable changes, you can still end up snoozing. There is a reason why pop music radio mixes are always around the 3:30 mark. We loose focus and the next thing you know your day dreaming or changing the channel. Add to the problem the voice over is detailing the fine points of a highly technical and complicated device or procedure.

Every now and then, someone will ask me for a 10 minute track they can drop into their industrial video. I know immediately what they are wanting to do. They are going to drop in this one piece of music and fade it out when they get to the end of the video. Without a doubt, that sounds efficient, but boring beyond words. Their clients might not know the difference either. They have key understanding of their own product and a vested interest in the video and inspiration or information they hope it conveys but usually very little knowledge about what will keep people interested long enough to absorb it.

So what is a good rule of thumb about music for industrials?

I think 2:30, give or take.. is enough of one particular track, but within the track the music needs to change. I am using the first track from GM 430 Energy Realized as a good example. It has a 2.5 second intro beat, gets quickly into the first section ( in song vocabulary, it might be referred to as verse 1 ) has a quick break around 19 seconds, goes back into verse 2, has a quick break after 19 more seconds and then goes into a bridge ( that has a decidedly different feel than the verse ) that lasts 19 seconds. After that it repeats and ends on purpose. Every one of those changes are great edit points and keeps you from going into a musical comma.

Many of our GMP MUSIC industrial oriented CDs are themed based. That means it will be easy to put several of these tracks back to back in the video and retain a consistent energy and continuity.

Coming Soon… Editing music in Final Cut Pro and Digital Performer.