The mics and preamp on the Q3HD deliver a new level of audio quality to lower cost video cams, simply by being as good as today’s average pocket recorder. But I read posts by folks who have the Q but are still frustrated in their efforts to get the sound they hope for in their videos.
I’m afraid that in some cases, simple physics is the culprit, helped along by our experience listening to modern recordings. We’re used to bigger than life sounds and close mic positions because that’s how most pop music is recorded. When we put our Q3HD in a location that gives us a conventional picture of a seated guitarist the camera is usually about four feet from the guitar. That four feet make the sound of the guitar weaker, and allow more of the room sound to intrude. This is called the direct to reflected ratio, and while we need some reflections to make a natural sound, the quick reflections of a small room generally don’t make for a pleasing recording. There’s another important ratio that suffers from a distant placement – the signal to noise ratio. Less guitar signal means we notice the surrounding noise more.
Several people have complained about the low level of the recorded audio and suggested that the Q should provide more preamp gain. But when you consider things for a moment you realize that more gain means more room reflections and more noise along with more guitar, because these ratios are established before the recording begins. So more preamp gain gives the same result as simply turning up the volume on playback in terms of room reflections and background noise.
The real solution is to move the microphones closer to the source. But that’s going to mean our conventional picture loses its head, and its hands. Since the conventional picture won’t work, we just have to get a little more creative, and find a new way of looking at the guitarist. Let’s start by positioning the mics in a good location for the audio, then see if we can find an interesting picture.
I usually use mic stands to position the camera – I have several boom stands, and they give me more flexibility than a typical tripod. I use the Zoom MA2 Mic Stand Adaptor or the Edirol OP-MSA1 to attach the camera to the mic stand. Interestingly, the Edirol adapter costs more and looks much more sophisticated, but the simple stick from Zoom does a great job and is handier in many ways.
I put together a video showing some different locations for the Q3HD using this concept of positioning for audio first. The first is the classic “off the 12th fret” location nearly universally recommended as a starting point for recording acoustic guitar. Actually, I used two variations of this, one below the guitar pointing up, one above and pointing down. From there I moved to the “off the bridge” lower bout position, and finally I tried the “over the shoulder” position that places the mic near the player’s ear.
In the video you can see the locations and quick samples of the audio and video that result from each position. All of these could be improved for both sound and picture by some extensive tweaking, and of course it’s a lot easier with two people than one.
In the process of creating the tutorial I realized I had enough material to put together a music video, a somewhat quirky one but perhaps an interesting project. I decided to try to edit the clips in REAPER, and with a bit of patience I was able to pull it off. I used Cockos LICEcap and the GIMP image editor to create a title, and rendered the results as a 1280×720 29.970 fps .MOV using the FFmpeg libraries. Here’s Waialua Slack Key as seen through the Zoom Q3HD at various angles:
I wouldn’t call the video an artistic masterpiece, but it serves to demonstrate the different angles and differing timbres of the audio captured from different locations. Hopefully it will serve as a bit of inspiration for other folks trying to get great audio and video from their Zoom Q3HD.
This entry was posted on Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 2:38 pm and is filed under Audio, Guitar, Tutorials, Video. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.