Tag Archives: audio

Music First – Using Music to Set Tone and Pace in Business Videos

Music can make or break a production.  If used correctly it can set a tone for each scene and carry the viewer through a video.  If not given proper attention, music can dull the emotional effect of a production and become more of a distraction and detractor from the content.  This is as true for box office productions as it is for documentaries and training videos alike.

Many of my productions are documentary and training videos and music is always forefront in my mind, even in the early phases of scripting. It is these early stages where tone and pace are often determined and music can play a big role in driving and enhancing those elements.

First Impressions

Regardless of the type of video being done, I like to introduce a production with either an energetic, upbeat piece or at least something mellow but cheerful.  Even if some of the content is going to be difficult to digest later on (there are tunes for that) you want the introduction of the video on the whole to be inviting to your audience. Choose introductory music that will make a good first impression and invite people in to the viewing experience.  This will also likely be the closing score to your production as you summarize content seen and run closing credits.

If the video being produced is part of a series than choose an opening score that will remain the same for all videos to be produced in the series.  You may want to use different music for introducing videos that are not part of a series.  This sets them apart in some ways and creates a different identity.

Traveling Tunes

Some productions lend themselves nicely to having a permanent score run softly underneath the main dialogue of the video.  Such traveling tunes should never compete with the dialogue.  The base score can change from segment to segment in order to maintain an appropriate tone, but it will likely not be as dramatic as if it were the main audio.

Music as Main Audio

It is possible to tell a story or grab attention with great music and visuals.  If you get music with a solid, distinct beat you can sync up your images to change with the most definable beat of the music.  Different than the traveling tunes, this use of audio sets music as a truly defining element of a production.  It is a dynamic way to condition the viewer that with each beat of the drum, the image is going to change, bringing new information, and emotion.

Transitional Pieces

Any video that has multiple segments usually has one consistent transitional audio piece that signifies the end of one segment and the beginning of another.  Usually this audio is accompanied by a graphic that visually introduces the segment at hand.  Transitional audio can start out running very low at the end of one segment, fade to full volume at the graphic and fade out heading into the next segment, or, it can be more succinct and stay within the confines of the transition graphic.

Transitional audio can be a shortened version of the introductory score or a different composition altogether.  Depending on the type of video being produced, transitional audio may even be more of a sound effect.

Give music its proper place in production priorities.  Move it to the top of the list and be thinking about it during the scripting phase of a project.  Music can be a viewer’s first impression, it can tie together a whole production and set the mood for each segment.  Check out this blog post on using royalty free production elements and work from other artists in your next production. Video preview below.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

Leave a comment

Filed under Project Planning, Video Production

Preparing for a Voice Recording

Whether you are recording a short outgoing message for your company’s phone system or preparing to do a voice over for a video script, consider the following tips for a smoother reading.

  1. Write a full script.  Outlines won’t cut it here.  They leave too many blanks to fill in during the recording when efforts should be put into diction, tone and pace.  Take some pressure off yourself and write out what you want to say verbatim, even for short outgoing phone messages.  This important first step assures you will not leave out any important information.
  2. Proof your script for narration.  Your first instinct will be to write your script like you would write an email or article.  This will not always translate into something that is readable in a narration.  Sentences may be too long and word combinations may be too cumbersome to narrate effectively.  Reading your script out loud will allow you to identify areas that require some additional editing.
  3. Read through the script for tone and pace.  Before recording your script you want to be sure the content is read with the appropriate tone and pace for the content.  This may be consistent throughout the script or change in different places.  It may be helpful to read the script to a handful of trusted people who represent your target audience. There may be some tweaks in an actual recording session but you want to have these details ironed out for the most part before you are ready to record.
  4. Break your script into readable units.  Short phone messages will be pretty easy to get through in one read.  If a mistake is made, just re-read the script as a new recording.  Longer scripts should not be read in one take.  Instead, break the script into short readable units that you can get through in one take.  Then take a break before heading onto the next unit.  If a mistake is made, then re-read that unit until it sounds the way you want.  Your editor can easily blend the units together to read as if no breaks were taken.
  5. A few final thoughts for the day of the recording.  Avoid food and drink that will clog up your vocals.  Dairy, peanut butter, thick sauces and other items create a coating in your throat that can muddy your sound and make it uneven.  Drink hot fluids and water to clear your throat.  Suck on a hard candy to keep your mouth and throat moist before the recording.  Bring a lot of water with you to the recording and make sure to sip it in between takes.  Vocal lubrication is key to a clear, even sound.

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

Leave a comment

Filed under Project Planning, Video Production

How to Buy a Video Camera

This is a question I get frequently from new and seasoned camera owners.  Technology changes so quickly it is easy to assume the rules for buying a camera change too.  When buying any technology it is always a good idea to do a little research on the latest trends to see what is out there and their price ranges.  But before you invest too much time pouring over technical specifications of a potential purchase, spend a little time listing your specifications.  In other words, what do you want this new camera to do for you?

Your list should include everything and the kitchen sink.  It does not cost you anything to simply put it all on paper.  As you list your needs and price range you will begin to prioritize your specifications.  A good camera will last you at least 5 years or more so invest wisely and look at the features you may want tomorrow, not just what you know you need today.

Media Storage

The days of capturing video to tape is obsolete.  You will be hard pressed to find a tape based camera on the market and the only reason to buy one on the cheap is for the ability to backup archived footage to a hard drive. SD cards are the current future of video cameras.  So as you surf the offerings out there look at each camera’s storage type and capacity.

How much footage do you plan to capture before transferring it to an external drive?  The Sony Bloggie is a nice pocket size camera that takes good quality video and photos.  But with only 8GB of space you will need to offload it to a hard drive frequently in order to make room for your next production. If you are going on an extended trip or do not plan to transfer footage to external drives frequently, consider upgrading to a camera with a larger storage capacity.  For less than $300 you can get a small palm sized camera that can support a whopping 60GB or more of storage. With that kind of storage you can shoot everything in sight and edit the best later!

Battery Life

This actually goes hand in hand with video storage.  Some of the smaller blogging cameras have small batteries that need frequent recharging. If you are the occasional videographer or shoot more close to home where you can recharge regularly this may not be a major concern.  If you travel a lot or your occasional shoots last several hours then you want to look at a camera that is supplied with batteries that last more than 2 hours or invest in a few spare batteries.

SD, HD or Both?

Standard definition (4:3 aspect ratio) is still alive and kicking and a more efficient standard in terms of hard drive space and processing power when editing.  HiDef video(16:9 aspect ratio) produces stunning video and has the file size to match.  It also requires an extremely powerful computer to edit this footage efficiently. As technology evolves HD video will become as efficient to work with as SD and, eventually, replace SD video.

All that being said it would be worth your while to look at cameras that allow you switch between SD and HD recording if you are purchasing for your business or for a serious hobby. A camera that can straddle both standards will give you the most options to start.

Video and Audio Quality

Video has come a long way in a short period of time.  For very little money you can acquire a camera that takes phenomenal video footage for work or personal use.  There are some great cameras out there for under $300 that will take crisp, vibrant video images which, if you follow some of the basic principles for shooting video, you can edit later into a quality production.  While the inexpensive cameras offer some stunning video quality under most circumstances, you may find yourself wanting more control over different lighting situations, shot composition and sound.

Let There be Light, or Less of It

Exposure is how much light is allowed to enter the lens of the camera and it affects the brightness and darkness of a shot.  Too much light washes out a shot and makes the subjects too “hot”.  While you can darken a shot in editing you can never get back the detail lost from an over exposed shot.  On the flip side, too little light can darken a shot and make the video quality appear grainy.  You may be able to lighten such a video in editing, but with mixed results depending on how dark it started out.

All cameras come with automatic features that adjust for different lighting situations to some degree.  As you work your way up the price chain you will find cameras that offer more manual controls for adjusting exposure.  In additional to manual controls present on the camera there are lens filters at reasonable prices as well as external lamps that can attach directly to your camera.  These are great in situations when you are in close proximity to your subject and require just a bit more lighting than your surroundings provide.

I Can’t Hear You!

Most of the low end cameras on the market take phenomenal video footage in their own right but severely lack in their ability to capture adequate audio.  Almost all cameras come with their own built-in microphone.  These mics are fine for capturing ambient noise or for spontaneous narration by the camera operator but they will not produce the kind of rich, robust sound quality you will want for a professional video piece.  If you are going to be filming a lot of interviews and narration then you will want a camera that can accept external microphone attachments.  There are several varieties of external microphones built to handle different types of audio situations. (Another story for another blog). Owning a camera with a mic input gives you the option of attaching any one of these microphones to your camera.

Look for a camera that offers at least an eighth inch mic input.(Price range $900 +)  Even an inexpensive, external handheld mic will yield better audio results in an interview than the built in microphone.  For about $200 you can get and XLR audio adapter that will plug into the eighth inch mic input and give you 2 grounded XLR audio inputs.  This gives you the option of attaching 2 professional level microphones to your camera or a mixing board for even more microphone inputs. There are other camera models out there that allow external mic hookups without the need for adapters, but their price range typically starts at $2500.   Depending on your needs you may decide to allocate that $2500 to putting together a full compliment of field gear rather than just the camera piece of it.

Zoom. Zoom.  Zoom.

There are 2 different types of zoom advertised for cameras; optical and digital.  In the age of digital technology consumers mistakenly focus in on the digital zoom feature, which can often boast a 100 -200x zoom in of the subject.  Digital zoom simply magnifies the pixels that create the image of a subject.  The further in you zoom the more distorted the subject becomes.  Like in graphic design and video editing, digital magnification has its place when use sparingly (and as a last resort) but it should not carry any weight in the decision process of buying a camera.

Optical zoom is the number you want to pay attention to.  The technology of optical zoom allows you to zoom in closer to the subject while maintaining the crispness and overall fidelity of the image.  Some brand cameras have always offered impressive optical zoom technology.  A higher optical zoom helps you get high fidelity close up shots from further away without needing to purchase additional telephoto lenses.  It’s a nice feature to have. However, if you know you will mostly be filming subjects within close proximity it is not a necessity.  Other considerations to be weighed, maybe more heavily, are the chip size (bigger chips and more of them lead to richer images), the camera’s performance in low light situations and its manual options for controlling exposure and shutter speed.

If you are the casual videographer and have a few hundred dollars to support the hobby you really can’t go wrong with some of the great sub-$300 out there.  If you are a serious hobbyist or needing a camera for business purposes and plan to invest equally serious money in the equipment do your homework first, starting with understanding what you expect from your investment today and in the future. Your camera will be the main hub of your production gear so plan with expansion in mind.

 

Copyright © 2012 Digital Design Digest

http://www.visual-clarity.com

Leave a comment

Filed under Getting the Right Gear