Three Nice Microphones

A couple of people have recently mentioned they like the quality of the sound in my videos, and have asked what microphones I use for videos and screencasts. Here’s what I’m using right now:

Audio-Technica ATR3350 lavalier

I usually plug this lavalier mic into my Sanyo Xacti videocamera. It’s cheap, it sounds fine, and it allows me to improve the sound of my videos. Did I mention it’s cheap (like $20 or so)? And for my Xacti anyway, it’s very easy to use – I just plug it into the viceocamera’s external mic input and forget about it – nothing else to mess with.

Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser and the Blue Snowball

When I’m making a screencast, I usually plug one of these two mics into my laptop via a USB cable. I like the Samson better – it sounds better to my ears. Also, the Blue Snowball had an issue with Windows Vista (as in it didn’t work for me), so it hasn’t gotten as much use at work (my work laptop has Windows Vista loaded). I have used it without a hitch on my Mac laptop – it sounds great, and has a couple of different mic signal patterns that you’d use for different micing situations.

RØDE VideoMic

We have a semi-pro videocamera at work (the Canon GL 2). It has an ok mic built into it, but the RØDE mic is a fine shotgun mic. Plug it in, aim it at someone, and they’ll sound like they’re talking into the mic, even if you’re 10 feet away from them.

Tips on using these mics:

  • If you plan to plug the mic into your computer, buy a USB powered mic. Otherwise, you will also need to buy some type of soundboard or analog/digital signal converter to boost the audio signal up loud enough to play with. You might like doing that – if so, great! You’re sorta like me. But even though I happen to have some of that type of recording equipment, for a quick Jing screencast, nothing beats plugging the Samson USB mic into my laptop. One step and I’m done.
  • Batteries (the lavalier mic I use needs them) – buy two at a time. Because you WILL sit down, all ready to record, and find out that the battery’s dead … because you didn’t turn the mic off last time you used it. Been there, done that.
  • While we’re talking about on/off switches – if the mic has one (the lavalier and the RØDE Videomic do, doublecheck that you flipped it “on” before recording. I had to do some fancy editing on a video because part way through recording, I realized the mic was off (one of my more watched videos, too).
  • The really long cable (20′) on the lavalier mic will get frustrating. It gets tangled easily. But then, it only costs $20, so I can put up with that. I guess.

5 Mic Tips for Presenters

I see lots of people give presentations … and hear lots of presenters with microphone problems.

I know a little bit about microphones and how to get the most out of them, so here are 5 Mic Tips for Presenters!

Have some microphone tips not listed? Add them in the comments!

5 Mic Tips for Presenters:

1. Get close to the mic! Most mic and volume problems are solved if the presenter simply moves his/her head closer to the mic.

  • Optimally, you should be about 4-6 inches from the mic, and an easy way to measure that is by using the clenched fist rule. Simply put your fist up to your mouth, and put the mic on the other side of your fist. That puts you about 4 inches or so from the mic.
  • Using a lavalier? They don’t have to be as close as a handheld-type mic, but you still need to position the lavalier to it’s pretty close to your head. Right under your neck is a great place for the lavalier mic, so for guys wearing ties, clipping the mic right underneath the knot of your tie works great. Women, same thing – wear “lavalier-friendly” clothes (so you have a place to pin the mic).

2. Speak directly into the mic (or slightly angled if your P’s and S’s are popping a lot). I see lots of speakers hold a mic down by their chest. Bad! Be bold, be brave … and talk into the mic.

3. Do a sound check before the event. Make sure to talk into the mic like you normally would during a presentation – so no embarrassed whispering. Also, use that time to get familiar with the mic. See if it has an on/off switch, a mute button, a battery light, etc.

4. Avoid feedback. That high-pitched, squeaky feedback is icky, and it’s really pretty easy to avoid, if you follow these three steps:

  • if you start hearing feedback, move closer to the mic – not farther away from it. If the mic isn’t picking up a strong signal from you, it will start picking up other noises, including your voice from the monitors… and that causes a feedback loop (ie., those terrible screechy noises that everyone hates).
  • don’t cover the mic with your hand. That’s sorta the same as cupping your ears (ie., more ambient noise = more likely to feedback).
  • Stay away from the monitors! If you like to walk while talking, and there are monitors on stands in the room … stay away from them.

5. Use the on/off or mute button. If you need to cough or say something privately, either step away from the mic or use the on/off/mute buttons. That’s what they’re for.

Hopefully, these simple tips will help you be a better presenter. Got any mic tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

cool mic pic by hiddedevries

Playing with Mics

I was playing with different microphones this morning – testing out four microphones for podcast & videocast quality, and decided to do a video test, too.

So here are 4 mics, plugged into my MacBook Pro laptop. Video is the cheesy-but-easy PhotoBooth. Microphones I tested were:

  • Samson C01U
  • Blue Snowball
  • Bescor TCM-88 lavalier mic
  • … and the Mac’s internal mic

So… which one do you think sounds the best? The worst? Were any/all/none adequate? Why? Thanks!