Making a video of your playing

October 9, 2016 at 06:02 PM · I try to take videos of my performances, as well as some rehearsals, practice run-throughs, and the like. There are also some amateur competitions with video first rounds, including a local chamber-music competitions.

I've just been using an iPhone previously, but I just bought a Zoom Q4n videocamera, which has a decent integrated microphone. I'm trying to figure out what settings to use for both video resolution and lighting, and audio sampling and parameters like the gain, as well as how far back to place the camera (which might necessitate using digital zoom to get the image framed correctly).

Also, I'm trying to figure out how to make sure that the audio quality is high, or at least that the audio compression doesn't suck, when the video is uploaded to YouTube.

Any advice? I'm linking the first video I've taken with the thing, at HD720p/60fps, 44kHz/24bit, uploading the MOV file directly to YouTube without any pre-processing or changes to defaults. The sound seems really glassy to me on my laptop's built-in speakers, losing the bloom and overtones that are present when I view the original MOV. And the image seems blurry and overly bright.

Here's the video: LINK

Replies (29)

October 9, 2016 at 07:28 PM · ALL video cameras irrespective of price have lousy sound. The only way is to record the sound separately on a good recorder with very good mic's in a good acoustic and line it up with the frames on the video, and ditching the video sound. (You need of course to edit the video and input the good sound).

October 9, 2016 at 09:21 PM · High quality, small form factor microphones can get expensive really quick, and I'm assuming you probably aren't that interested in spending that much money. Though, that is the best option. I'm not sure how good the quality of your phone's microphone is, but what you could try is putting your phone nearer to you (On your stand, a table, etc.) and using it to record the audio whilst your camera records the video. YouTube's compression can be quite extensive, and there isn't much way around it. I would recommend reading through this article from google for some tips on what you can do to maximize your video quality.

October 9, 2016 at 09:27 PM · I own a decent mic (a Blue Spark Digital) that I've used with my iPhone / iPad in the past, but I wasn't thrilled about either the form factor or the sound. I got the Zoom Q4n in an attempt to combine a decent camera with a pretty good microphone.

October 9, 2016 at 09:44 PM · Have you tried using your Spark directly with a computer/laptop instead of directly to your iPad/iPhone? I think blue offers software that you could use to play around with the pickup settings of the mic. I wouldn't be shocked if there's compression on an your phone/tablets end. Depending on what the issue you had with sound quality was, you may try an acoustic shield of sorts. Though this wouldn't be ideal for a live performance.

October 9, 2016 at 10:24 PM · The Spark I have is intended for use with an Apple device. You can futz with the settings but I never figured those out either. ;-)

October 9, 2016 at 11:29 PM · I don't know your camera's capabilities settings wise, but here are a few thing you could try to improve video quality.

1.) Lower the camera angle so you are more so in the center of the shot, with less of the ceiling. Having the ceiling lights in the frame will skew the cameras sensors significantly. An example of this effect can be seen if you ever try taking a picture with your phone of a glossy surface that has a light shining on it. Autofocus will essentially have no idea what is going on in the frame, due to there being a reflection much brighter than the rest of the surface, and the picture will look awful. The stained glass window in that church may have caused a similar effect.

2.) Lower the iso count on your camera manually (if possible). The lower the iso, the clearer the image, but also the dimmer the image. You need to find a good balance between the two to get the optimal picture.

3.) Increase the video quality and decrease the frame refresh rate. Having a higher frame rate significantly decreases the cameras anti-aliasing capability, which could account for some/a lot of the visual artifacts present. All depends on the power of the camera. I don't see why 30fps would be an issue in this context.

4.) Process and render the video at 1080p60hz in 3rd party software, regardless of the quality you recorded it in. This has the potential to counteract YouTube compression. It seems like a paradoxical approach, but it removes the potential for a rendering compression bottleneck.

October 10, 2016 at 07:31 PM · I have the Q4, which has some similarities to the Q4n. Fair warning: I am absolutely no expert here. This is just what I do.

When I record a friend of mine, he hires a pro to record the audio separately, which I then swap into the video. The differences in the Q4 audio and the pro audio are significant -– noise reduction but also overall sound quality, more nuance, more rounded, less brash. That said, the Q4 audio is actually pretty good (when not compared side by side with pro recording).

For your purposes, a basic x/y microphone setting probably makes the most sense.

Audio setting: WAV 96kHz/24bit

In terms of gain, I’m fearful and lazy, so I usually just use the auto setting (I don’t use hi cut or lo cut); if you want to use manual gain, then you’ll have to mess around before recording to find the optimal level.

Video setting: 2304 × 1296 or 1920x1080

Other settings -– like Concert Lighting, Concert-low light, etc., you can fiddle with onsite to see what helps. Your lighting situation in that video did not look cooperative (I've found chapels/churches to be particularly difficult), and without your own lights to counteract, you don't have many options.

The fisheye effect can be removed (the bending around the edges of the shot with my Q4 bugs me, so I always straighten things out afterward) with software designed specifically for that purpose or with general video editing software that has that capability.

I recommend a massive SD card.

For me, bad things can happen when exporting and converting the file. Some editing and conversion programs are not as good at this as others; I’ve had annoying audio/video sync issues post conversion to certain file types. I always try to export (or whatever it’s called) to the highest-quality audio/video format I can, even if that means a long time uploading to Youtube.

October 10, 2016 at 08:14 PM · Unless you are doing a lot of recording, it is cheaper to just hire a pro or a semi pro to do the job. But if you must insist doing it yourself, first locate a room with good acoustic. Then get a pair of pencil condensors with switchable patterns and a good mic pre. For mics, you don't need to go Schoeps but be prepared to spend about $1000 or a decent pair of mics. A decent USB interface is Roland's quadcapture. But RME Babyface is better. Recording violin mono is very difficult. The Shure KSM141 is a good pair for the money though I have other mics that I reach for first.

October 11, 2016 at 03:51 AM · I've heard complaints from others about built-in laptop speakers. If you can play this back through detached high-quality L/R desktop speakers, about 4 feet apart, you should notice a definite improvement.

I played the track twice this evening on my desktop and was very pleased with the result. Not sure how it compares with the original MOV file, which I haven't experienced. But it sounds to me very much as it would sound if I were right there in the auditorium, based on violin/piano combos I've heard in similar venues.

I'm not into video, so I'll let the more knowledgeable among us answer those questions. I am just this week beginning trial sessions with Zoom H2N for digital audio. No video, although the uploads, when they're ready, will have still shots.

October 11, 2016 at 04:12 AM · Hi Lydia! I'd love to help you solve this from afar if I can, since you know I do a lot of video. The picture itself does not look anywhere near the settings that you describe. Even when YouTube says it is playing at 720p, the resolution looks to be much lower than that. So I really wonder whether you were able to upload the original unmodified file or not... how big was the file that you uploaded? And when you watch that MOV on your laptop, does it look much different from what you see on YouTube? In short, even with a low light situation like what you have in church, I feel like you deserve a better picture from the Zoom!

For audio, it's about what I would expect from that microphone placed at that distance in an echo-y space like that. The level is low, but the quality doesn't bother me. But you said the audio is better in the original MOV? If so, the same sort of shenanigans may be happening to the audio that happened to the video.

What I would do with your equipment is to run your Blue Spark right into the computer for the audio (you could use a free program like Audacity). When possible, get the mic closer to you, perhaps six feet or less. I know that's not always possible in a public performance like that, but it will help. You see that in my YouTube videos, I have a mic about 6 inches away and it still works! Then use the built-in mic from your Zoom. You will then be able to sync up the audio from your Blue Spark to the video from the Zoom. Once you do it a time or two, it's not that hard. Peter is right that you will never get great audio from a camera.

October 11, 2016 at 04:13 AM · Almost forgot, nice performance too!

October 11, 2016 at 04:24 AM · Oh no ... you're playing in a church. That's the hardest place to do any sort of recording!!

As for the video I think there is just too much light behind you. Your playing is great; I was not familiar with that piece but I like it. Maybe it's just the camera angle but it seemed your scroll was pointing somewhat backward toward the piano, and I wonder if your performance overall would be more convincing if presented more visually toward the audience.

Have you had a chance to compare your video with the video captured by the person in the left of the picture -- the one with the iPad?

October 11, 2016 at 02:11 PM · You can record amazing sound, and then YouTube's compression technology will damage the quality. I don't think there's any way around this, and I've spent a lot of time looking into it (I used to use YouTube for disseminating teaching videos).

You could look to an alternative video hosting service - Vimeo has a better reputation for audio quality, though I haven't tried it yet.

October 11, 2016 at 05:26 PM · One should definitely take the trouble to try out manual recording levels. My Zoom Q3 has only three such levels, but they seem to cope. The video is of smartphone quality, but the sound is decent, as in the H1 or H2. But Peter is right about having a second recorder, maybe in a better positon, and editing later.

October 11, 2016 at 05:44 PM · Lydia, I think it sounded pretty good for a youtube video, so the original must sound really good.

I really enjoyed the performance too! Can we have some Solo Bach next? =)

Also, can you say which edition of the piece you were using? It seems perfect to excerpt for playing during communion at Church.

October 11, 2016 at 08:16 PM · Thanks, all.

I think the light level might be an artifact of having used the digital zoom in combination with getting too much of the window in the background, but I'm not sure how I could have avoided it (no doubt there's a contrast thing somewhere). But the resolution turned out to be much poorer than I expected, and I have to muck with the thing to try to figure out why. (The fisheye effect is annoying though.)

Vimeo free has a 500 MB file size limit. The raw MOV is 1.9 GB. Otherwise I'd test it out to see if the audio quality is better. But competitions and auditions that take video often specify YouTube required.

Jason, there is only one edition -- Sikorski (LINK).

My last solo Bach performance video also features constant real-time commentary by my then-4-month-old son. ;-)

October 11, 2016 at 09:45 PM · Interestingly, the owner of the iPad (whom I didn't realize was on saw my post and just sent me a YouTube of it. It's sonically somewhat different, and I think better, at least on my computer speakers -- the high overtone artifacts are absent.

However, with good headphones (IEMs of near-reference quality), the audio from the Zoom sounds better -- the compression artifacts are lessened, and the sound is more realistic, especially the piano, compared with the iPad. But it doesn't have the same warmth and richness as the MOV file.

The Zoom is also picking up a lot of background ambient noise (the hiss at the beginning, the faint remnant of it when the music is going on, and all the audience movement). I should probably change the audio settings to try to eliminate that in the future, but am not sure what I would use.

October 11, 2016 at 11:04 PM · I can only talk from experience no professional technician here:

I would recommend everybody for recording with film to get a decent dslr or camcorder and use external microphones (together used for not more than around 600$ I think). nothing has to be expensive though. Half of the deal is to get the right stuff (no all in one solutions) and the settings right. Watch out for lighting and microphone positioning. A good I-phone is also pretty handy, but not good in low lights...yet and sound wise limited. Still everything comes back to how you use it. A little knowledge about lighting and acoustic can help.

In your example your microphone is too far away for my taste, therefore we can hear 80% of room sound and very little direct sound. I would prefer 20% room and 80% direct sound. maybe the mic around 1,5 - 2 meters away in a good position for both instruments, preferable above the violin. Also you should not use the automatic level, but manually check that the audio level is not clipping and then maybe compress/normalize the audio afterwards.

October 11, 2016 at 11:08 PM · It all depends on the type of microphone for the direction of audio that it picks up. If you're trying to remove breathing/other small noises you could try a pop filter, or maybe even a shield if you're willing.

October 12, 2016 at 03:30 AM · I see, digital zoom explains what I was seeing in the video. You'll always be better off letting software do that later, rather than trying to have the device do it while it records. So just to be sure, did you upload the 1.9 GB file to YouTube? That's what I do.

October 12, 2016 at 05:15 AM · Yup. I uploaded the entire MOV file generated by the camera.

October 13, 2016 at 01:43 PM · Hi Lydia,

I don't often post here, but do follow the posts here quite often. Violin-wise, i'm an adult beginner, but I work professionally in tv so I do know a little about video and sound. I've done some quick googling on your new camera and know that it's capable up to 2.3K recording. Now for Youtube purposes, that's an overkill but instead of 720p (which is really just slightly better than SD and not true HD) you should set the video settings at 1080p/30fps. Otherwise, even the latest iphones will outperform your camera. Avoid using digital zoom as well, because that will eat into quality, unless you're fine with that.

Audio-wise is a little more tricky. I googled Youtube compression codecs and when uploading a 1080p video, they compress the audio to .aac with only 192 kbps bit-rate. That's as hgh as they go for audio. For comparison purposes, CD quality sound is usually rendered at 256kbps. Here you have two options: 1. To record the sound in .wav/48khz or 2. In .aac - i'm not sure if the camera allows you to specify the bit-rate, but i doubt it. Opting for no. 1 will give you the best sound, but upon uploading to Youtube, there will be an obvious loss in quality due to conversion. Usually i find the clarity suffers. Opting for no. 2 will probably not yield a hgh quality file, but upon uploading to Youtube, there is probably much less loss due to conversion. However, you are working with a lower quality audio in the first place, so i'm not certain if the end product will be similar, or just different. You might want to do some experiments on that.

As for eliminating ambient noise, it's a microphone problem, and some sounds like wind noises or ambient hissing might be reduced with a shield, but you will probably still get audience movement noises and the like. It is the reason why sound, when professionally recorded has an audio guy working a mixer at location to filter out extra noises before it is recorded.

I apologise for the jargon, but hope i helped in some way.

October 13, 2016 at 08:34 PM ·

October 18, 2016 at 03:08 AM ·

What I would buy now if I started again:

-RME Babyface - used

-AKG c414

-another mic ?

-Corel videodraw $90 Can. or other

You would be looking at spending 1000- 1500 dollars on this. The best thing to do is buy these things used, if you can. Audio-addicts are always trying new gear or upgrading, so used recording equipment is often for sale.

The trick to getting good sound is- fix things before it enters the mic(garbage in = garbage out).

The main problem is most violins are not set up for recordings. A serious violinist that wants to have good - great sound needs to learn how to set a sound-post and tune a bridge. An Artist doesn't go to someone to mix paint colors, it's a thing all artist need to learn themselves. You make minor adjustments to the bridge or sound-post placement, then record a two or three octave scale, then repeat until you're satisfied. The key is to know when to stop tuning; if you are OCD you will find this difficult.

The general rule of thumb is: Anything that is designed for projection is going to be trouble in the studio; therefore, soft is generally better.

Soft rosin and low tension strings will give you a better sound than hard rosins and High tension strings, because you hear less bow noise, so you are able to place the mic closer.

The recording link below was done with Pirastro Gold strings and their Green rosin. One mic is place 3-6 inches behind the violin and another(AKG C414) is placed less than one foot in front of the violin. Another note, the bow hairs were cleaned in an alcohol bath a few nights before. The strings and fingerboard were cleaned with alcohol before recording. There isn't any EQ in this recording, only reverb and compression.

Link 1

This recording below was done with a bridge and sound-post placed by a Luther. It also required EQ to sound okay:

Link 2

October 18, 2016 at 07:23 AM · Charles - I have to say that I listened to both recordings and I do not like either! That is not the sound I would accept in a professional studio setup or indeed in my home setup.

Of the two recordings I thought the second one was preferable - but only just. The top end of the violin is totally missing and it sounds like a blanket has been thrown over the violin. Sorry, but I used to make recordings like that when I was a kid on an Elpico Geloso 3 inch spool tape recorder circa 1956.

I've spent many years involved in recording studios, and also using venues for professional CD's of my wife playing piano with various string players - violin, viola, and cello.

I am able to get results as good as any commercial CD - even here at home, which is not an ideal acoustic.

I use either two DPA 2006C omni mic's (condenser mic's) or two Royer R101's (these are figure of 8 ribbon mic's) and for solo violin I record at 2-7 feet distance depending on the acoustic. Usually there is no processing as such, it's the pure sound, but at home I do add a tiny bit of reverb, and also this applies to voice recordings of poetry as well. In a studio or other more ideal acoustic there would be no post production processing except for minor tweaks in balance, and even this is not usually necessary.

Closer miking works in a less than ideal acoustic, (say 1-2 feet) but then some reverb is needed. The ideal distance depending on the player and the violin is usually about 4-5 feet, (1-1.3 metres) in a good acoustic.

Good mic's are always helpful, but one need not go over the top. Mic's in the £500-£650 range are very good. (Translated into US Dollars that's about the same or a tiny bit more, as the £ is low at present).

I should add that playing for a recording needs a slightly different technique playing wise as too much bow pressure will add a lot of bow noises and crunches. That is why more distant miking helps as it reduces the unwanted noises including breathing as well. Spot mic's can work, but are often not needed if the balance is right from the start.

October 18, 2016 at 11:15 PM · Yes, I agree with you a bit. I would give it a 6 on a scale from 1 to 10. But it is not the recording, it is the violin. The violin isn't suited for recording classical music:it doesn't have that sound, and better mics or pres are not going to fix anything. This violin is good on folk, and old classic rock songs and even jazz. You probably have a better violin for the mic than me, so you are getting a better sound.

October 19, 2016 at 08:44 AM · Yes, I understand and I wondered if it was the violin. I did work with Stéphane Grappelli once a long time ago, and he had a violin which had a classical sound, and he played using the best classical techniques, in his own unique jazz style. He was recorded using the normal miking techniques for those days (AKG 414's) as was the orchestra. The violin sound was basically that of a concerto soloist, although of course the style was jazz.

So I think that the instrument *can* be suited, and with the same setup, for most styles of playing. (I of course, do not include HIP in this assessment!)

February 23, 2017 at 05:25 AM · Anyone have a suggestion for how best to record a quartet with an integrated device rather than a separate microphone? This is for the preliminary YouTube round of a local chamber-music competition.

The room is about 20'x30', 9' ceiling, carpeted, with a grand piano at one end and minimal furniture. In our first trial run, I placed the camera a handful of feet away, basically where the first row of an "audience" would be seated, which gets decent direct sound. But this means that the balance favors the 1st violin and cello, which are closest to the camera. Also, the recorded audio compresses the dynamic range, which raises questions of whether or not interpretation should be adapted to better favor what's possible to hear.

(Link to the YouTube sample available if anyone needs it to give better advice.)

February 23, 2017 at 10:32 AM · Go high, near ceiling, as in a balcony shot. Or better, rent a good external with stand.

Does dynamic range compression = lossy/lossless compression? I thought not.

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