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I was invited to present audio solutions for video to a group of high school and middle school educators this past week. The group, located in Los Angeles, CA, is a consortium comprised mostly of Los Angeles Unified School District media instructors. The group is called MELA (Media Educators of Los Angeles). My contact there is Antonio Manriquez. Antonio serves at the Executive Director, as well as Video Production teacher in the Hollywood High School New Media Academy.
Programs like the one at Hollywood High School are popping up in high schools all over the country, and I suspect the world. I have been meeting with more and more of the instructors of these classes, and some of the students. It is a dedicated and focused group of people working on supplying the world with the latest content, using the latest production techniques.
The thing that impresses me the most about these educators is their level of devotion to the art of content creation, and their commitment to their students. The particular group of educators I met with at the MELA meeting (about 30 of them) battled L.A. traffic, at the height of rush hour (which is world class jam packed) in the afternoon after teaching all day. They came from all over the L.A. basin, driving as much as 30 miles to attend. This is not a paid or required activity. They have taken it upon themselves to belong to this group to further their skills. They review the latest technologies, trends, and products. There is an open discussion about the challenges they are all facing in their classrooms.
In the new world of unlimited access to the public through IPTV, YouTube, and social media sharing, there is an unquenchable appetite for content. This translates directly into jobs and careers which the students can enter if they have the right skills. These young people will shape, and in some cases already are shaping, the new media
landscape. It’s really encouraging to see these teachers helping their students enter this field, giving them the tools they need to be successful.
We all know that information translates into knowledge. And knowledge turns into power. That means that these students have the power to shape their future through video production. At a very early age, they are stepping up to become the media leaders of our world.
I was proud to be invited to speak to this group. They were hungry for new information on products they can take back to their students, to help make the best videos they can. It was a great way to spend my evening. What I learned was that we as a society are in good hands. These students are our future. And to see such hard-working educators guiding their learning activities made me confident that we are going in the right direction.
Technology for the sake of itself is just noise. When you have a dedicated group of people using this technology to bring the world important messages, you have the recipe for a bright future.
Above, the first music video on MTV is now available on Youtube.
There are two media outlets that have changed the way we share and consume our music. First it was MTV. Launched on August 1, 1981 with the song Video Killed the Radio Star, MTV revolutionized the music industry by bringing music videos into our homes 24/7. This created a big demand for content. Bands everywhere went into production of their music videos.
But, the bands still had to have funding to produce their videos and professional representation to get their videos played. In that sense MTV was the same as radio, but with pictures. Not everyone could use it.
The next influential outlet is YouTube. Developed by former employees of PayPal, YouTube launched in February 2005. It allowed anyone with a video and computer to upload their video. Amazing! There was no barrier to sharing your music video with the world…almost.
There was still that pesky task of producing a video.
Enter The Digital Age
As computers became more powerful, video editing software started to come of age. Now, anyone could learn to edit a video on their home computer. Digital cameras and DSLRs became less expensive and easier to use. It was the perfect storm of cost reduction and technology advancement. Shoot a video, edit on your computer, and load it up to YouTube.
The addition of a high definition video camera to your iPhone put a professional camera in everyone’s pocket or purse. With advanced video apps, the transition from professional equipment to affordable consumer products was complete.
Apps, Apps, & More Apps
With the sophistication of iOS apps these days, a lot of your production can be done right on your device. You don’t even have to use your computer. Everything is on your phone.
1. RecoLive Multicam is a superb app that takes four iOS devices and tethers them on a wireless network. The audio track is recorded by the main device. That same device can do live, four-camera production in real time. Then save your video in HD and share it.
2. Want instant streaming? Switcher Studio also does four camera production and streams live to YouTube. This is great if you want to broadcast a live performance.
3. Another handy app is Videolicious. It takes photos and video from your camera roll and creates a slide show. Imagine shooting a series of photos and videos and adding voiceover audio afterwards. Then you upload that video to YouTube.
4. If you are using your iOS device, I recommend Filmic Pro as your production app. It has many professional camera features, such as variable frame rate, variable recording resolutions, and live audio monitoring. It is the live audio monitoring that I like the most about this app. With it, you can monitor the audio as it is being recorded to confirm an adequate audio program. It works great with our Mobile Media mics, which each have a headphone jack on the cable.
There are many more apps to choose from. These are just a few suggestions.
There are so many low cost options, where does an aspiring videomaker begin? First, determine how you want to present your music, and then look for the equipment or apps that will accomplish your vision.
Video didn’t kill the radio star, after all. Video makes the radio star!
I discovered a new music group that I enjoy very much. The name is Postmodern Jukebox, lead by a brilliant piano player and arranger, Scott Brandlee. He has hit YouTube pretty hard. I’m not sure how long it would have taken him to become known without it, but the visibility certainly helped.
I really like his unique treatments of current songs. But, it’s the simplicity of his recordings that really make an important point. Today, all a group or artist needs is a basic audio recording system and a camera to get discovered. When I think about studio recording, the picture that comes to mind is of John Lennon standing with his young son Sean, pontificating over an extremely complicated looking mixing board. It doesn’t have to be that way to get a good sound today.
This article is intended to be a broad stroke guideline to setting up a home audio and video studio and not a detailed How-To. There are a lot of articles that go into product related details. I want to give you some general characteristics to get you started.
If there is one takeaway I want you to get from this, it is that all music distribution will eventually end up on YouTube and that’s where your music should be if you want to get discovered.
From Forbes.com: Youtube “is the leading online platform for music discovery, as well as the preferred music service for those 18 and younger. In fact, 38.4% of all its video views come from music, and 10 of YouTube’s top 20 channels are dedicated to music, according to the YouTube analytics firm Tubular.”
YouTube and the like have changed the way we consume entertainment in a profound way. When producing music, a plan to add video is a must. There are a number of ways an audio track can be produced these days. There are two basic ways to get a record: you either record in a studio or in a live setting. This blog post is about setting up a studio.
In the past, the only way to get a good audio recording was to rent a music studio. In the extreme cases of A+ talent with plenty of financial backing, that is still the way things are done. They use top notch, state-of-the-art equipment. Now though, more and more start ups are going to scaled-down recording studios or even setting them up in their homes.
What does an aspiring artist need to set up a home recording studio?
The Brains of the Outfit
The centerpiece of a home recording studio is the computer, and the software program. Whether Mac or PC, there are excellent recording programs. Apple computers come with GarageBand built in. It’s free, already on the computer, and adequate for basic recording. PC users have to buy a recording program separately as each PC manufacturer has its own suite of software built in. Whatever you buy, I suggest you consult with an experienced home recording user to get advice on the kind of computer and software that will suit your needs, based on your level of proficiency. One thing is for sure: if you are just getting started, you will upgrade as you gain experience.
Interestingly enough, the microphone is where most musicians and recording engineers consider the most creative aspect of the recording process. It is where everything starts and will change the tone of the recording. The recording can be as simple as a single mic or an entire array of them wired into a mixer.
On the simple side, one USB mic plugged directly into a computer is adequate for a track-by-track recording. The next step up is to use a traditional studio condenser mic with a digital interface. The quality of sound is generally better than a USB mic. It also opens you up to various mics, each with its own sound characteristics.
This is the plug-in device that turns analog signals into digital signals. An artist plugs their microphones and instruments into the interface in order to record directly into a computer. Interfaces come in all price points and can have one input, or multiples. The multiples have mixing capabilities but differ from a full mixing board. An interface can have both mic and line level inputs. An interface is still considered a device for more informal home recording.
Once you get to a more proficient level, you may want a full mixing board, like the ones you see in a recording studio. This gives you the ability to adjust the sound characteristics of each input before it gets recorded. The mix is recorded onto some sort of recording media and later turned into a digital signal after the mix is completed. Some artists prefer to create a “live” studio recording, having all instruments and mics plugged in at one time and then they go back later to tweak the mix.
The weakest link in any system is the cable. Whenever there is a problem in a system, the first things I check are all of the cables and connections. Most of the time that’s where the problem lies. I also find that cable is where most novice users cut corners. I can see why someone would think that all cables are alike…they look alike. But to the experienced recording engineer, the cable makes all the difference in the world.
You don’t necessarily need the most expensive cable, but the difference in cost between a really good one and a not-so-good one is usually not that much. Of course, we recommend Mogami for a number of reasons. Try buying two or three different kinds and compare the sounds. Another thing to pay attention to is the way a cable rolls and unrolls. This is important if you are moving it a lot. The lower quality cables will tend to kink up when they are packed up often. It’s that kink that affects the performance.
A studio monitor is what will play the recording back. This will affect your perception of the recording. No speaker is perfect; each one adds its own sound. That is the physics behind speakers. There is no avoiding it. There are speakers that will scope out to be perfectly flat. That doesn’t mean that they all sound alike. Listen to a number of speakers before choosing one. Remember that everything in the chain will affect the sound. So try and use the same electronics and cables so you are truly comparing just speakers and not full systems. Find the one you like the most, as the sound you are mixing is your vision of the music. There is no such thing as a perfect mix. Perfect is the sound you like the most.
A real studio recording is one in which the room is as “dead” as possible. Sound absorbing tiles will do just that, absorb the sounds, which means that the only sound the mic will pick up is the primary sound. As a test clap your hands. A hand clap will have no echo in a dead room.
A dead room has almost always been the goal of a studio recording. The opposite of that is a “live” recording, where room echo is a part of the sound. It seems that today, the trend is away from a dead room. There are numerous TV shows that are recorded in a live environment. Again, the sound is your interpretation. If you like the sound of a live room, that’s what you should have.
On the other hand, you definitely want to keep unwanted sounds out of the recording. A song with dogs barking and lawnmowers running in the background is not acceptable. Find the quite environment, and decide how much of the room acoustics you want. Items such as sound tiles and reflection filters are items you may want to use.
These are a few suggestions for your audio recording. In the next installment, I will discuss adding video to your creation. It’s the video that will help get the song discovered on Youtube.
Many thanks to Sable Cantus for his contributions to this article. Sable is a higher education instructor of Digital Arts at Goldenwest College in Huntington Beach, where he teaches digital music recording. He is also an accomplished musician, performer, music teacher, and arranger.
This is the first in a series of posts about creating and sharing music yourself.
It’s been 5 years since I joined MXL. I came from the consumer electronics industry, where I spent most of my career in video. I have been an amateur performer all of my life, participating in school plays, standup comedy, and as a musician. I am no stranger to the microphone. But working with MXL has really opened my eyes to all the different ways microphones are used.
I looked at all of the web sites that sell our mics and read the user reviews. It didn’t take long to find out that people were using these microphones in their home studios. I had thought that studio condenser mics were used in, well, recording studios. But the majority of them aren’t. They are being used in people’s homes. I found out that the growth of home recording was exploding. It was because of the growth of personal computers and programs like Garage Band and Mixcraft, and digital interfaces like Steinberg. I knew people recorded music at home, I just didn’t know it was that many people. That discovery raised another question in my mind.
How Are They Sharing Their Music?
The answer to that question is what changed my outlook on our products, and on my approach to everything I do creatively. The answer is YouTube. That technology…those two words, put together, has changed the face of entertainment and communications in a profound manner.
“YouTube is the primary music platform for the 18-34-year-old crowd, the demo YouTube-parent Google calls “Generation C” who discover content online, via computer, smartphone and tablet.” – Forbes
With the advent of YouTube, anyone can share their music. It was one thing to be able to record music yourself, in your home. Before the PC, a musician had to record in a studio. It was expensive and reserved for the serious musician with financial backing. And before Social media, in order to share it, artists needed to have a label to distribute their CDs. Now, with the PC and a mic, anyone can record at home and distribute it to millions!
If a song is played in the woods, and there is no one there to hear it, is it still a song?
With YouTube and other social media, the artist can put their work out for the world to discover. The other side of recording is listening. What was once a complicated process – recording a song, finding a label, and then getting playtime – is now as easy as using a computer.
The Keyboard and The Keyboard
It’s ironic that the same word describes both an instrument used to make music and the object we use to control our computer when we create and share that music. There’s less and less distinction between the two. And MXL is in the forefront of this movement.
Our mission is to design and build quality mics at affordable prices, so that everyone who wants to record their art is able to do so. From the most popular selling 990/991 vocal and instrument recording kit, to the stunning red and gold tube mic, the Genesis, MXL offers a wide range of value priced mics. Each mic has its own unique sound and look.
From the novice to the most experienced recording artist, more and more recording is happening outside of the traditional recording studio. For some, the creative process is enhanced by their surroundings. I like to watch “Live From Daryl’s House,” a show on Palladia, which takes place at Daryl Hall’s (well known from his days with Hall and Oats) home. He invites guest artists into his home to record music. I also saw a documentary on Jeff Lynne (formerly of Electric Light Orchestra). He has a recording studio set up in every room in his house. Each room delivers its own unique sound.
That is what so many artists are doing these days. Music creation comes from the soul. The environment we record in can have a profound effect on the creative process. Add to that the opportunity to share that work via You Tube, and you can now see why home recording is so popular.
We at MXL and Marshall are proud to be a part of that system which allows anyone with a song in their head the ability to transfer it to a recording. In addition to our mics, we have cables (both Sound Runner and Mogami), and now video products to assist in the production and distribution of their art. MXL offers an end-to-end solution for musicians everywhere.
I have come a long way in my understanding of the music recording process in the five years since I joined MXL. It has helped me to lead the product design team and manufacture products that musicians need for today’s recording process. MXL has also come a long way. As we add new products, both audio and video, to our suite of products, we have become a unique brand in the industry. Musicians can look to MXL and Marshall to give them a one brand, end-to-end solution.
Let us help you share your art with the world.