The recording space has a HUGE effect on results, so how do you know if a space is good for recording? First, consider the psychological feel, or as some might call it, the vibe of the space. Are people comfortable in it? Can they relax and effectively convey their message?
Then, listen carefully. Clap your hands or speak out loud. Pay close attention to reverberation (the delayed sound bouncing off surfaces). If you try this in a few different spaces — a living room, a parking garage, an office — you'll quickly attune your ears to the echo-like effect.
Large spaces like gynasiums, or those with hard reflective surfaces like bathrooms are highly reverberant and not desirable. Small spaces with at least some absorbent surfaces are only slightly reverberent, and desirable for our purposes. The idea is to capture the voice with minimum reverb and maximum clarity.
Then, listen carefully to the ambient noise — do you hear any barking dogs, air conditioners, vehicle traffic, computer fans, wind, rain, aircraft, or your 90-year-old neighbor playing Lawrence Welk reruns at maximum volume? Any of these will distract from the message. If you're planning to use your recording for business marketing purposes or broadcast, minimize extraneous noise.
Look for a space that's quiet, with limited reverb, that also feels good. Living rooms, professional offices, and hotel rooms come to mind, as do any small interior spaces with plenty of sound-absorbing surfaces (carpeting, furniture, draperies, bookshelves, etc.).
Next the space, the microphone and preamp choseThere are hundreds of microphones on the market. We're looking for one that is reasonably-priced, sounds great, and matches the recording situation. So, the first thing. Only certain types are ideally suited for our project, and your choice depends on simply choosing a mic that is readily available and closely tailored to our needs. avoid the hundreds of microphone species that inhabit the Microphone Jungle by
speak, or simply enjoy the feel of a mic in your hand, get the Electro-voice RE50N/D instead.
You'll see these on major television news broadcasts for a good reasons: they sound clear, have almost no handling noise, and can take a beating in the field. Excellent for interviews.
You'll also need a Centrance Micport Pro USB adapter.
The Micport is about the size of a roll of nickels and converts the output of any professional mic to a digital signal compatible with your computer.
Geek note: The microphone on this page are omni-directional, meaning they pick up sounds from all directions (like your ears), which gives them a natural-sounding quality. Omni mics do not have proximity effect (a build-up of low frequencies at close range), which is generally desirable for normal voices.
Whichever mic you choose, pay attention to the your distance from the mic — stay within a few inches unless you're using a "shotgun" video mic or other special device.
Have you ever seen a You Tube interview in which the presenter sounds thin or remote, even though they are obviously just a few feet away? That's usually because the sound was recorded with the camera's built-in microphone. Generally speaking, that method, while convenient, produces poor results. Read about solutions to that problem here. For our non-video purposes, it's enough to stay on-mic and be mindful of the recording level.
What's monitoring? It simply means listening to your voice as it's being recorded, allowing you to adjust your delivery as you go. If someone is assisting you, they can listen, but someone should monitor to make sure the recording is being captured well. An exception to this might be impromtu testimonials or other quick, on-the-spot situations where spontaneity and minimum setup time is paramount.
AKG K 271 MK II Headphones are great sounding studio standards. They surround the ears rather than pressing on them for more comfort and less background distractions.
If headphones seem too bulky, get the extra-portable Future Sonics Atrio Earphones — awesome for travel or for use with your mobile phone.
The MicPort (and most dedicated digital recorders) has jacks for direct monitoring with either headphones or earphones — without any delay or echo. This is called zero-latency monitoring; there's no distracting delay between speaking into the mic and hearing what you've said in the earphones.
Of course, the headphones or earphones are also used for playing back your masterpiece once it's done. Between the mic, the monitors, and your laptop, you have a complete portable recording, monitoring, and playback system. Not bad!
Use Free Audio Editor. It's simple, works great, and includes plenty of help screens to get you started.
Your main responsibility is to capture the audio at a level (volume) that is neither too high, nor too low, at an appropriate distance from the microphone.
Watch the visual level meter in Free Audio Editor to see if you're in the correct zone. The highest levels (peak audio signal) should fall around -6 dB on the meter.
If you make a mistake, relax, pause a moment, breathe, then start again.
When you're done, save the audio file in .wav format.
Listen to your recording and re-record if necessary (the Micport is also your playback device, which means you can listen with your headphones or earphones).
Free Audio Editor provides simple tools to manipulate your captured audio, which is fine for casual use.
But if you are recording a commercial product or broadcasting, you're far better off spending some money on an outsourced engineer who will clarify and sweeten the audio with professional tools.
Geek note: Assuming you're using one microphone, create a New File in Free Audio Editor at a sample rate 44,100 Mono. Don't save as an .mp3! That should only be done AFTER all editing and post-production is completed. Why? Because .mp3 is a compressed format that does not retain the quality of the original audio. Production and archive files should always be saved in a lossless format like .bwf, .wav, or .flac.
Wait a second . . . can't I just use a portable digital recorder?
Sure, but remember the computer you already own provides the storage medium and the operating system for the recording process. We're adding just enough equipment to extend its audio functionality. To get the same quality sound as our recommended setup, you'd have to spend considerably more on a dedicated digital recorder.
Conversely, if you choose a cheap consumer-grade monitor or mic, instead of professional models like those listed here, you will not sound your best or be even be able to accurately judge what you have recorded, so what's the point?
Invest a few more dollars on the right gear, especially if you're creating commercial information products or creating marketing materials.
Post production means processing the audio after the recording is made: mixing, equalizing, compressing, adding music tracks or voiceovers, adjusting levels, etc. (Don't worry, there's no need to learn this stuff!).
Is post production necessary? For informal blog posts, quick product reviews, spontaneous testimonials and the like, probably not. Immediacy is more important than refinement.
For everything else, yes, post production is necessary; it makes a substantial difference in the effectiveness and value of your content. That's why all commercial music, radio, film, and TV goes through some form of broadcast processing or post production prior to public release.
Why go to the extra trouble?
Because audio clarity and impact are so important in conveying your message. And the message is what this is all about, right?
How do you get post production work done? Find a freelancer on one of the major outsourcing sites like Elance, or Guru Tell them what you want to acheive; they'll use professional tools to sculpt and tweak your audio into the best it can be. But it all starts with a clean original recording.
A few items that will improve your results in certain situations . . .
That's it! These tools and tips will help you capture your audio masterpieces anytime, anywhere, at a professional level.
Do a search by brand and model name to find the equipment. B & H is one of the best sources for equipment and advice. If you live in a large city, you may also be able to buy locally. And check eBay too. Occasionally, gently-used gear turns up at a discount.