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I'm trying to record one take per day of someone reading a story in from of a camera in a vlog-like format, but I don't have a ton of time for post-production.

Most advice articles on a vlog setup tend to make recommendations around either (a) quality or (b) budget. But what technical specifications and features (or brands) would you look for if you're creating a setup that seeks to reduce the time it takes to do various post-production activities. Namely:

  • is there a microphone that eliminates pops and ambient noise automatically

  • is there a way to sync up audio and video automatically? Is the best solution here a USB mic? I know in the past USB mics have produced whirring sound?

  • are there any more tips and tricks to time if you're doing a lot of recordings? Automated scripts, etc?

I still imagine some lightweight editing is needed, but otherwise I'm wondering how elegantly we can get from record to upload while still maintaining good video & audio quality.

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What I would do is concentrate on the setup in front of the camera, to make sure that what you're recording is the best quality it can be, in order to avoid the need for post.

Set up your lights so that you have good, soft-ish (no harsh shadows) lighting that is well colour balanced. A 3-point light setup is the standard way of lighting interview subjects, but you could also get away with a single keylight and reflector, or keylight, reflector and back light. A good simple portrait setup is detailed in this very good tutorial.

Pay attention to the background. A flat white wall is going to make the shot look flat and boring, but heaps of clutter could be distracting. Pay attention to the lighting levels—havign the background at the same exposure as the foreground may make your subject disappear, it can be good to slightly under-expose your BG. This is definitely not a rule; have a look at this reel, and pay attention to the backgrounds to get a good idea of how to do it right.

Check your white balance and exposure before shooting. Auto exposure may work, but it is usually better to use manual, to avoid it changing during the shot, or over-compensating for white or dark objects in the shot. Most cameras can do a custom balance off a white card held in the same position as your subject.

Try and get the location as quiet and dead as possible. No mic will automatically eliminate background sound. Directional mics will limit the pickup pattern to a narrow beam, but low frequency rumble (e.g. street noise or wind noise) will still cut through.

The absolute best way to minimise background noise is to get the mic as close to the sound source as possible. Sound intensity falls off with the square of the distance, so going twice as far away means one quarter the intensity. So to get the most signal versus noise you want the mic to be close to the signal, and away from the noise. A boom mic (a micstand will do for a seated subject) is a good way to do this, because the head of the subject is usually near the to of the frame, meaning you can have the mic close to the top of the subject's head, and if it's directional, pointed at their mouth. Having the mic above the subject and away from their breath will help eliminate p-pops.

Lapel mics are another way of getting the mic close to the subject, but can be affected by clothing noise.

By "dead", I mean less reverberation. Don't record in a bathroom; a room with carpet, soft furniture and as few hard surfaces as possible will work best. A bedroom is actually pretty good usually.

Good cameras (including some better consumer grade cameras) will have an external mic input. This removes the need to synch audio and pictures in post. Then you can just use a standard analog mic with a cable; on a budget this will give you the best bang for your buck.

If you have the subject well lit, with a good sound setup, and the camera correctly exposed and balanced you've eliminated a lot of post work. You could set up a standard grade if you want to tweak it more, eg. adding a LUT or a 'look' to make it really pop. If you keep your shoot settings the same, then you can just use the same grade each time, and still achieve great results.

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  • Crazy helpful thank you. Surprising how loud a quiet rooms sounds when you start assessing it for this purpose. – Kyle Jan 20 at 19:06
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First, have your subject(s) rehearse the heck out of their presentation if that is practical. If you have access to a Mac, place it near a wall, preferably white. Bounce a cheap lamp off the wall to give your subject soft diffused light, and record using Quicktime (it's free). You can do quick edits right inside Quicktime if you need to.

Dave Shaheen Methuen MA

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