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Your Home Recording Sucks – Here's 6 Reasons Why

Is your audio letting your videos down? Take it to the next level! This article will help you get a pro sound from home recordings

Struggling to get pro sound with your home recordings? Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. A lot can go wrong in any recording environment, especially if you’re not recording in a professional studio. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Here are 6 reasons why your home audio might suck…and what you can do about it.

Remember to always do a test recording before you record your actual video to make sure that everything sounds good!

1. Your Recording Area is Too Noisy

There are a lot of things in your home that could cause unwanted sound in your videos. If you want to sound professional, you need to do whatever you can to avoid these sounds. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Film your video when there aren’t a lot of people outside. Construction workers, vehicles driving by, and pets being taken on walks can all be picked up by your microphone, especially if you have windows in your home studio.

Inside of your home, make sure to turn off your air conditioning, heating devices, extractor fans and so on; and move your microphone away from noisy computer fans. This will prevent your microphone from picking up any extra unwanted noise. If for some reason you want or have to keep your AC on, you can always try to clean up the noise with our ERA 4 Noise Remover and a little bit of EQ work.

Overhead lighting can also cause unwanted noise in your videos. Pencil mics and shotgun mics are likely to pick up the hum from the light bulbs if the back of the microphone is pointed towards them. Investing in some studio lighting and turning off any overhead lights will avoid this.

2. You’re Not Using the Right Type of Microphone

Using the right tool for the right situation is a staple rule in any industry, and audio is no exception. If the audio in your video sounds bad, there’s a good chance that you’re not using the right type of microphone to record your dialogue. Let’s take a look at the three types of microphones you should consider for your next video.

For an audio comparison of several microphone types, check out this video…

Lavalier Microphone

By far your best chance of getting professional sounding audio in your videos is to use a lavalier (lav), or lapel microphone such as the Deity V-Lav or the Rode Lavalier. These microphones can be clipped directly to your clothing bringing them as close to the sound source as you can possibly get. This all but eliminates any room tone or reverb that you might get with other microphones.

However lavaliers do have their fair share of problems. These microphones can pick up the rubbing sounds from your clothing, may require a transmitter, and can be particularly expensive if you’re looking for one of a decent quality.

Want to know more? Check out our in-depth comparison of five types of microphone for recording at home.

Small Diaphragm Microphone

If you don’t want to deal with the problems caused by lavalier mics, then your next best bet is to use a small diaphragm microphone, also commonly referred to as a pencil mic, such as the Behringer B-5 or the Samson C02. These microphones are traditionally used as instrument microphones, but they are also amazing for indoor dialogue. They can be set up the same way a shotgun microphone is set up, on a boom arm, just out of frame.

There aren’t a lot of downsides to pencil mics, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, most pencil mics require XLR cables. If your camera doesn’t have an XLR input, you’ll either need to record externally, or get an XLR to 3.5mm cable. Second, if the microphone is not positioned correctly, you could end up with a lot of room tone and reverb. 

We’ll talk more about microphone positioning later.

Large Diaphragm Microphone

If you are making a video podcast or some other type of broadcast-like video, then you might want to take a look at a large diaphragm microphone, more commonly known as broadcast microphones, such as the Shure SM7B or the Audio Technica AT2020. These microphones tend to really bring out the low end of your voice, giving you a nice warm radio-like sound. They are designed to be close to the sound source, which will give you a great overall sound. However, along with that great sound comes a few minor issues.

Broadcast microphones are great if you want good audio, but because they need to be so close to the sound source, they will almost always be in frame. If that’s not what you’re looking for, then you’re going to want to pass on these. The close proximity to your mouth could also result in plosives, which could be cleaned up in post with the Plosive Remover in our ERA 4 bundle.

3. There are Problems with your Audio Source

Just because you’ve got a good mic it doesn’t mean you’re going to get a good recording. If your sound source has problems to begin with, then your recording will never be up to scratch.

First, consider your actual performance: make sure you’ve planned what you’re going to say and rehearse it a couple of times. Which words need emphasis? What emotional tone should you have in your voice? Where should you pause for dramatic effect? It’s hard to keep these things in mind if you’re reading off a script, so knowing all of this beforehand will lead to a more compelling performance and a much better recording.

Dynamic issues are common when recording voices. Maybe you're a passionate performer, or maybe you just keep checking your script… either way, if you move your head around too much, you’ll really struggle to get a consistent voice recording. Some bits will be too loud and some bits too quiet, so you’ll likely need to do remedy the audio file using ERA Voice Leveler.

Unwanted noise and vibrations can also be a problem. Sounds such as putting cups of coffee down, footsteps or doors opening and closing – even if you can’t hear them directly on the recording – will create vibrations that are picked up by your microphone as bassy rumbles. To avoid this it’s best to keep as still as possible when recording, and don’t sip your coffee until afterwards!

Speaking of sipping coffee, remember that milk and chocolate will impede your vocal technique – or will they…

4. Your Recording Area is Too Empty

Reverb is the enemy of all home recordings, and preventing it can be a lot of work. We’ve already talked about positioning your microphones correctly to minimize the reverb that your microphone picks up. Now let’s look at some other things you can do.

Big empty rooms will always produce a lot of reverb. Placing furniture in your home studio will help absorb some of the sound. If your home studio has hardwood floors, make sure that you throw some rugs down as well.

If you really want your video to sound professional, a little sound treatment goes a long way. Acoustic panels and foam panels will absorb a lot of the sound in the room, allowing you a little more leeway when positioning your microphones, especially if you’re using pencil or shotgun mics. You can also have a go at some DIY sound treatment using mattresses or blankets.

If your studio is out in the open and you need to be able to break it down quickly, hanging up a couple of acoustic blankets around your recording area will do the same work as acoustic or foam panels. They might even do a better job, since the blankets will most likely be closer to the sound source than the panels would be.

5. You Don’t Have the Microphone Positioned Correctly

Every microphone has their own set of “rules” when it comes to where they should be placed and how they should be positioned. Place them in the correct spot with the right positioning and you get a professional sound in your videos; place them incorrectly and you’ll find yourself up at midnight fixing audio mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

For example, the biggest problems you’re likely to face with a lavalier microphone are rubbing sounds from clothing and muffled audio from the mic being covered up by too much clothing material. To avoid this, you’ll want to place the microphone in a place where it’s less likely to get covered up by thick clothing, such as the collar of your shirt. If you’re trying to hide the lavalier mic under your clothing, make sure you use a little bit of tape to protect the microphone from rubbing sounds, and don’t wear too much clothing on top of it. Thick sweaters should definitely be avoided.

6. Your Input Levels are too Quiet or Loud

If you’re using an external microphone with a manual preamp or gain setting of its own, if not set to the optimal level, your audio may be damaged, or too quiet.

If you have the input too high, the loudest parts of your recording will be clipped, resulting in a nasty distorted sound where audio information is lost. On the other hand, if the microphone input is too low, you’ll need to turn it up later, bringing any background noise or hiss up along with it. 

The input gain control will usually be a knob on your camera/recorder/interface, and there should generally be a visual display of the input signal. Test the level while you practice the recording, making sure the loudest sounds you’ll be recording aren’t maxing out the input level meters.

If for some reason you have no choice but to work with damaged recordings, you can fix basic clipping with our ERA De-Clipper, but your sound quality will be best if recorded properly in the first place.

Remember, audio is the most important part of any video. Invest in a good microphone, learn how to place it correctly, and set up your recording space to minimize noise, and you’ll be on your way to creating professional quality videos.

March 11, 2020
Jay Lippman

Jay Lippman is a freelance video and audio editor. He has a YouTube channel where he teaches filming techniques, editing in Davinci Resolve, and reviews film making gear. Find out more at jaylippman.com

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