Thursday, June 14, 2012

Audio Tips for Smartphone and Personal Media Players

The best time to check your audio recording capabilities is before you need to press record. This gets back to knowing your equipment. As in reading the specs before you buy to save yourself some grief.

I know, life is to be lived, not decoding the spec sheet.

Media players like the iTouch and Samsung Player can record video.
Since there is a wide variety of devices this is going to be an overview of what to be aware if you are recording with a smartphone or a personal media player.

Audio Tips for Video Recording

On the low end of the smartphones market the audio in video recordings is probably going to be monaural, as in one channel going into a built-in microphone. So a smartphone like the LG Optimus Slider VM701 isn't going to pick up sounds from a distance unless it is really loud.

Which probably means that it will be distorted as well. Not good.

Up on the price chain, the iPhone 4S records in stereo, has a dedicated microphone jack and has a variety of video and audio formats that can be recorded.

I'm not saying stereo is better. Good monaural sound trumps a bad stereo recording. I'm saying you have to be attentive to what your device can and can't do with sound. There are limitations but you can work around them if you prepare.

If you are going to use a smartphone or personal media player to record audio and video you can:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Is there an air conditioner near by? An electrical hum? A lot of people talking? Take a moment to really listen to the environment before you hit record. If this is an interview you want to move to a quiet location.
  • Get an external microphone if you device has a microphone jack . That is going to up the sound quality quite a bit. 
  • Watch your fingers. The microphones on these devices are tiny. Sometimes they are next to the lens of the camera, sometimes they are on the bottom.  Know where the microphone is on your device and  make sure that you don't cover them over with your pinky finger.
  • Use your feet. The microphones on these devices were not designed to record 50 feet away. If you can move closer you are going to get better audio. Note that in some situations you shouldn't try to get closer, like if there is tear gas flowing. Safety first, good audio second.
  • Before you leave your location record about of minute of room sound. You can use the audio clip to patch a sharp noise. Think of it like audio spackle. 

Another option is to carry an independent audio recording device that you can use to record the primary audio. I'm thinking something like the Zoom H-1 in a shirt pocket or riding side saddle in a cup.  Clip it to something and let it record..

Ok, gotta go. Go forth and record.

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