Thursday, October 13, 2011

How To Record Music and Video In Your Living Room (For Free)

An artist wrote me this morning to say he liked the music videos, how did I record the music and then sync it up?  I wrote back this long email, and so I figured while I was in the mood to type, I would offer the explanation here also.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a musician! I am sure that my amateur mixes make sound engineers everywhere shudder with horror. But, I've learned a lot and each one gets better than the last. Plus, I spent NO MONEY on this. It was free, though that was partly because I already had some stuff lying around.

So here's the email I wrote to my buddy, expanded and clarified a little, which has to do most pertinently with this video:

I'm glad you like the videos. It's actually not very hard to do the schlocky living room setup I'm doing and then mix like an amateur. And I've gotten a couple folks who've asked to produce more professional sound for me from it so it seems worth it.
I had bought a toneport ux-1 about 5 years ago and a crappy mic, a Shure bg-31. So I just had that lying around. It's no longer made, but the equivalent is called a Line6 Pod. You can plug a mic or instrument cable into the toneport, and it connects to my mac via usb. I use the mic for voice, the drums etc, and plug the ukulele and bass in directly via cable. That goes into Gearbox on the mac (it's a program that works like an amp) and then into Garageband which came installed on the mac. Garageband lets me add track after track in layers, moosh them around, re-record pieces instead of having to play perfect straight through.... etc. 
While I'm recording I also use the webcam on my Mac and record video into iMovie, which also came preinstalled on the mac. I made a video about how to cut together all the videos here:  The whole process takes me about 10-15 hours: laying down each track, mixing, editing together the video.  Used to take about 6 hours when I was only recording 1 track, and that's mostly because I am a terrible musican and had to have like 30 takes.
My friend Kevin Trudo does a similar thing using a camcorder firewired into a PC. MovieMaker 2.6 on the PC (NOT Moviemaker Works, which is a crap program, but you can always find the 2.6 free download online and load it concurrently.) He uses a pro recorder, just this digital thing (Samsung Zoom) with 2 mics on top that gets really nice sound: Read a review on CNET here.
To get video that isn't in the 15 feet my mac's camcorder can see, I use either the camcorder setting on my digital camera and then import that video, or the Flip video camera we have lying around.  That's how I got the video of Lulu climbing the doorway for the Don't Worry Be Happy video.
On my pc, MovieMaker will export into HD. On the Mac, I don't have that option (iMovie '08) which is sort of a bummer.  That's a future upgrade.
I could go higher quality on the videos or the sound, but this is convenient and I actually spent no money on it at all. None. I figured since I didn't know anything about it that I wouldn't even know what to invest in. It does all right. Though I think I will be looking into a condensor mic - I don't like the sound my mic gets.
I hope that helps! I know you already have superior equipment around - you should get some stellar results.

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