Whether you’re pre-recording or streaming live, once you’ve prepared your content, the next step is getting your technical setup in order. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to cost the earth to stream or record great quality audio and video.
In this step, we’ve included detailed tips on recording with a mobile device, recording or streaming using your computer, recording great sound, and more. In each case we’ve included practical tips on how you can get the most out of the equipment you’ve already got, as well as advice on additional tools you can use if you’re an intermediate or advanced creator looking to take things to the next level.
Recording with your mobile device
Checklist for recording with your device
- Script your presentation for a screen viewing audience.
- Stabilise your device with a mini tripod and test the record settings.
- Choose a location with good natural light and position yourself so that you’re facing the window in order to achieve lighting that is even and flattering.
- Choose a quiet location to maximise the quality of your audio.
- Rehearse out loud before recording.
What kind of device should I use?
There’s never been a better time to self-record video and audio, with a vast array of great options available at all sorts of budget levels. If you’re interested in filmmaking and film gear, then you’ll probably enjoy exploring what’s possible with current consumer/prosumer cameras, and be able to get some incredible results without breaking the bank.
However, in most cases, you need to look no further than the camera that’s already part of your smartphone — especially if you have a recent flagship model like the ones created by Apple, Samsung, and Google which are widely renowned for their high quality cameras.
While handheld camerawork can be appropriate in some cases, we’d recommend some type of camera stabilisation/support for the vast majority of situations so viewers aren’t distracted by unmotivated camera movement.
In a pinch, something like a bag of rice, a stack of books, or a paper cup with a notch cut into it can do the trick.
For more control, we’d recommend tripods and/or grips specifically designed for smartphone support. We’ve used and can recommend the following:
- Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod
- iPhone holder - Joby GripTight One Mount
The first step is choosing a quiet location to maximise the quality of your audio. Many phones like recent iPhones now come with high-quality microphones built in, so it’s possible to achieve great results simply by finding the right space to record in.
If you’d like to take things to the next level, we’ve used and can recommend the following:
- Rode Wireless Go: Great for wireless mic
- Rode smartLav+ lapel mic: When presenting close to camera
Before you start an important recording on your phone, make sure you’re familiar with the camera application. In particular, make sure you know how to set the recording resolution is 1920x1080 at 25 or 30 frames per second, familiarise yourself with the focus and exposure settings (find out how to ‘lock’ the focus and exposure to minimise distracting image shifts) and practice transferring recordings off the phone and onto your desktop.
Recording with your computer
While we recommend using your smartphone or digital camera for recording most videos, a computer and webcam can also be used if necessary. And when it comes to live streaming, we do recommend using a computer and webcam over using devices like smartphones and tablets.
Check your toolkit: computer
If you’re working from home, you almost certainly have everything you need to record a basic narrated slideshow video. But if you’re planning something more challenging like a presentation, an interview or a demonstration, you might need to assemble a few extras.
Firstly, you’ll need a desktop or laptop computer. These days, any university issued PC or Mac will be powerful enough to record and edit a short video in standard HD (1920x1080p). Because students are often bandwidth constrained, we don’t advise trying to record in 4k unless you have a strong justification - for example if you’re incorporating hi-res scientific or medical imaging footage into your edited video.
Check your toolkit: web camera
If you’re planning to record more than a narrated slide show or audio podcast, you’ll probably want to appear in the video at some stage. Most university issued laptops will include a built-in web camera, as do the iMac desktop. If you need to add a camera to your desktop, there are lots of options for clip-on USB web cameras available like the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920. If you have a modern Canon stills camera, you can check to see if it’s compatible with Canon’s USB webcam drivers.
Recording great sound
Whether you’re making a live presentation over Zoom, recording a presentation at home or narrating a podcast, capturing the best possible audio quality is critical to the success of your production.
No matter how good your performance is, you’re not going to get your message across if people can’t hear what you’re saying. Before you hit record, here’s a few simple things to think about to make sure you get the best results.
Choosing the right location
It’s important to find a location that not only looks good but sounds great too. Before you finalise your location, close your eyes and really listen. In normal life, most of us are very good at blocking out ambient sounds. However, these can become very noticeable and distracting when it comes to video content.
Finding a location that’s quiet and without echo, will go a long way to improving the sound quality in your final video.
Try to minimise any sounds within your control by closing doors and windows and switching off fans or air conditioners. However, interruptions that are intermittent like a dog barking, someone doing construction work next door, even a plane flying overhead, can be the most distracting — so it’s important to consider these factors when selecting a recording location and time, and to consider doing another take if a plane flies overhead in the middle of your recording.
If you really need to film somewhere noisy like a workshop or science lab, consider using voice over so you don’t actually have to record sound in the noisy environment. You can record your visuals out in the world, your audio somewhere nice and quiet, and then combine them later.
Positioning your microphone or device
Test your equipment and try to find a sweet spot — close enough so that the subject’s voice is clear, but not so close that you get distortion.
Listen out for things like pops, mouth clicks, and sibilants. Repositioning your mic can potentially help with these issues, and if in doubt a simple glass of water might help as well.
Record a sound check
Before you start your recording, take a couple of short test recordings and play them back with headphones to verify that you’re capturing good audio.
This is especially important when recording on a computer with an external microphone like a USB desktop mic or a set of earbuds, as depending on your operating system, the sound source settings can change from application to application.
This is also a good chance to familiarise yourself with the recording software or device that you’ve chosen. Practice starting, pausing and stopping a recording, and find out where the files are saved and how large they are to avoid trouble down the track.
Deciding what equipment to use
Using the right equipment can not only improve your final audio quality, it can also help troubleshoot a few common issues. Cameras, computers, and smartphones don’t generally include great microphones, so adding an external mic can really elevate the quality of your audio.
Finding the ideal microphone will depend on your use case, but we’ve assessed some of the most common options below. No matter what mic you end up choosing, make sure you listen with good quality headphones — ideally ones that are closed ear. You need to know how things are sounding as you record, in case there are any issues.
Earbuds with microphone
Earbuds with an inbuilt microphone can be a solid choice for basic streaming and teleconferencing. Just be careful to ensure that the mic doesn’t brush against your clothes or jewelry in order to prevent rustling sounds.
USB headsets may suit the needs of intermediate users focused more on sound than visuals. These require a bit more know-how than simple earbuds, but they can be great for recording narrated videos. They can also be used for livestreaming or recording on screen video, just keep in mind that they can be visually imposing. Popular models include the Logitech H540 USB Headset.
Desktop USB microphones
Desktop USB microphones are a great choice for advanced users, particularly for recording podcasts and voice overs. These mics are generally much more sensitive than the other options discussed, and so may not be appropriate your recording on the levels of noise and echo in your recording location. Also make sure not to bump the desk when recording.
If you’d like to take things to the next level, we’ve used and can recommend the following Desktop USB microphones:
- Rode NT USB and its smaller equivalent the Rode NT USB mini
- Blue YetiUSB microphone and its smaller equivalent the Blue Snowball USB
The Rode NT-USB, the Rode NT-USB mini and the Blue Snowball are all microphones with a cardioid (heart-shaped) pickup pattern, so they will do a good job of picking out a single voice from the surrounding environment.
The Blue YetiUSB microphone has a selectable pickup pattern, so at a pinch, you can record a two person interview (bidirectional pattern) or a group discussion (omnidirectional) using the same mic.
Clip-on lapel microphones are a great choice for advanced users, particularly in noisy environments or where mobility is required. Lapel mics come in two varieties, wired and wireless. Our team have tested and can recommend the Rode SmartLav+ and the Rode Wireless GO. Depending on the model of phone you have, you might need an adaptor, so check the compatibility with your specific phone before ordering.
Unfortunately, Learning Environments does not have spare equipment to lend, but ask around your team or faculty to see what might be available to borrow locally.
Once your equipment has been organised, the next step is to consider the overall production of your presentation.
As you can see, creating quality content doesn’t have to cost the earth, and a little effort can go a long way. Of course, the guidance on this page is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you’re interested in a particular area of media production, we encourage you to continue researching and experimenting. And if you’re planning a production that requires a professional crew, our creative team would be happy to talk with you about your project.
For now, with your technical setup in order, it’s time for Step 3: Presenting on video or via streaming.