Sound advice

Cover Photo by Andy Makely on Unsplash

Audio is a critical component of good video production. Good audio can sometimes be elusive. You can get away with a so-so image and good audio, but bad audio will destroy your video production. If you’re trying to get a point across, being heard by your audience is essential.

I’ve made many videos over the years and it has been, and continues to be, an iterative process. Trial and error, and learning where I can. I’ve read the articles; taken the courses; and watched the instructional videos. It all adds up and compounds. Learning from other people who are more experienced and skillful than you are is great but there is nothing like putting your knowledge into practice to really understand. That has been my experience.

I’ve tried different techniques and different equipment, however my latest acquisition in the audio realm has so far been the most satisfying. I am talking about the H6 by Zoom. It has four available XLR/line inputs, each with their own level adjustments and LCD sound level gauges. A cool little surprise is that the sound level displays can be set to virtual VU type meters instead of bar graph type meters. It can be used as a recorder or as an audio interface – I think it can do both at the same time but haven’t tried it yet. The video that accompanies this article is my first attempt at using it to create a video, using the H6 strictly as an audio interface to my camera. I was very pleased with the results. The audio quality is excellent for a device, that in the grand scheme of things, really isn’t all that expensive to purchase.

The audio that resulted was crisp and clear. It also had a compressed, almost broadcast grade quality to it. OK, maybe I’m not ready to broadcast on 60 Minutes but I think it was definitely an improvement over my past work. I won’t get into to too many of the features and benefits as there already a plethora of those types of review videos for the H6 on YouTube – partly why ended up buying it.

I really like that it’s tripod mountable, with the threaded connection underneath that allows you to attach it to a tripod. I also love the line level indicators. As mentioned, I was really impressed with the sound quality. I really like having 4 XLR/TRS jacks (for those of you who don’t know, XLR is a standard mic cable adapter and TRS is the typical tip of a guitar patch chord), expandable to 6 with the right attachment. I am not crazy about the menu and how to access the menu, but with such a small body, the manufacturer had to sacrifice somewhere. I also wish the XLR connectors were lockable. An XLR out instead of 3.5 mm output jack, in my mind, would have been better, but that’s just quibbling. Overall, I would recommend this device to anyone into video or live recording.

The body sort of reminds me of a praying mantis with the XY mic in place. An odd shape but a real marvel of tech innovation.

As with any gear, using is it will be your best teacher. Nothing replaces actually practicing and using your gear to get the most out of it. One of the best quotes I’ve heard lately in that regard came from a video from Jay P. Morgan’s The Slanted Lens. I bought one of his courses last year called, Video Basics for Photographers. In it, Mr. Morgan, refers to an old saying from the film photographer days:

“You can tell how good a photographer is by the size of his trash can (paraphrasing)”

In other words, you will only get truly good through practice, repetition, and iteration.

The buddy system also helps. Let me tell you what I mean. I’ve read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, three times – judging by the size of my bank account, I should read it a few more times I guess, but I digress. In any case, in that book Hill wrote about a concept called the Mastermind Group.

I wasn’t always clear about what he was getting at, but my experiences with trying desperately to learn video and photography has made me realize that I have created a Mastermind Group of sorts. My group includes the aforementioned Jay P. Morgan and many other video and photography experts whom I follow on YouTube. It also includes those experts whose books I read and videos I buy and watch, including Joel Grimes and Joel Sartore, a renowned National Geographic photographer, author, and online teacher.

Having a good friend who is willing to critically watch your work and give honest feedback, without being too harsh or critical, is also really helpful. It’s all about sharing experiences and sharing knowledge, meanwhile realizing that we’re in this together and that not everything has to be a contest. Kelly Coughlin, who has appeared in many of my videos, is just such a friend. I appreciate his honest (and sometimes stinging for a creative type such as me) commentary and critiques because they really do help me learn and grow. Sometimes I just have to put on my big boy pants on and not take things too personally, realizing that I am still an amateur at this. An amateur who is trying to enjoy the ride while getting better every day (borrowed that from Darren Hardy, another member of my Mastermind Group).

I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did producing it. Have fun while you learn, practice, and do.

2 responses to “Sound advice”

  1. It’s a pleasure to be your critic and I also welcome the same type of feedback. Far better that than having smoke blown up your arse. Well written article, made me laugh a few times. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

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