Join Christopher Breen for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing microphones, part of Screencasting with the Mac.
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Time to take a look at audio and microphones. There are two kinds of microphones that we will examine. The first is the microphone you use when on camera and the other is the mic you use when recording narration. These are not the same microphones, and the reason they're not is because, as you can see, speaking into a tabletop microphone while on camera looks funny. It's great if you're hosting a talk show, but completely bizarre if you are hosting a screencast. When recording a camera, you use a lavalier microphone, much like the one I am wearing now. It clips to your shirt and it's largely unobtrusive.
If you're on a budget, you can get a wired lavalier microphone from RadioShack for under $30. The sound is perfectly fine for scenecasts, and you can simply run the cable under your shirt, so it's not seen. A wireless lavalier microphone is useful if you are going to be moving around a lot. A decent wireless lav cost between $300 and $500. These microphones are connected to a wireless transmitter that you clip into a pocket or attach to your belt, and they broadcast to a receiver that's connected to your camera.
You can also use these lavalier microphones with your computer, but you get better sound from a larger mike. Which larger mike you use depends a lot on your budget and how much trouble you want to take with your audio. Your first choice is whether to use a headset microphone or a desktop mic. The advantage of a headset microphone is that your mouth is always a same distance away from the mike so you will get consistent volume. Also, with a headset microphone, you have little chance to accidentally bump the microphone as you could with a tabletop microphone. The disadvantage of a headset mic is that they are hard to place in exactly the right position, particularly if you purchase an inexpensive model.
I can almost always tell when someone has recorded a podcast or screencast with a headset mic. The sound is a little windy and thin and it can add pops and sibilance. A desktop microphone can produce a richer sound. The difficulty with the desktop microphone is that you have to learn where its sweet spot is. If you get too close, you risk overpowering the microphone or popping p's and b's, which leads to unbalanced audio. Too far back from the microphone and the gain isn't strong enough and the microphone picks up the sound of your voice bouncing off the room's walls.
To eliminate those popped p's and b's, known as plosives, get a pop filter. This is a hoop with a mesh material inside that sits between your mouth and the microphone. It eliminates the plosive wind that comes with peas and bees. Pop filters cost less than $20, and to avoid table and cable noise, get your microphone off the table and suspend it from a microphone arm. This not only removes the table and cable from the equation, but it allows you to more easily position the microphone. These can be had for between $50 and $125.
Now comes the question of whether to get a USB microphone or a conventional microphone. A USB microphone can be mighty convenient because it plugs directly into your Mac and you don't need an additional audio interface to use the mic. At one time, audio pros look down on USB microphones because their quality wasn't very good. That's changed. This MXL 009 USB microphone, for example, sounds really good, as good as some professional microphones I have used. One problem with USB microphones is that your choices are fairly limited if you want a great sounding microphone.
If you instead use a conventional microphone, you can use any mic you like, from the tried-and-true Rock 'n' Roll SM58 to something like this Vintage AKG 414. In order to use a conventional microphone, you need some kind of audio interface. This can be a multi-input USB interface such as this, or something smaller, like Centrance's $150 MicPort Pro, a USB interface that attaches to the microphone's XLR connector and provides a USB port and headphone jack, as well as input and volume controls.
I am keen on the conventional microphone approach because of the flexibility it affords you. You can find exactly the microphone that suits your voice, but budget is important, and if you don't have a lot of money to spend, a USB mic may be the better option and that covers our audio needs.
- Scripting a screencast
- Capturing video and audio using a screen capture utility
- Shooting live video
- Importing assets and editing in iMovie
- Recording a separate narration track
- Exporting and distributing a screencast