LAMPG – Look at Me Play Guitar – is certainly not the most absurd video genre we find on YouTube, but then that’s not a very high barrier, is it? For those of us who are not stars already, most of our videos will get only a handful of hits, make no money, and bring us no recognition, fame, or even infamy. But with all this I still find it more fun to make a good video than a bad one, so I’m always trying to learn to make these little movies better.
Video Is Easy, Audio is Hard
Camera gear has made amazing strides since I started shooting a dozen years ago. And I must admit my budget for gear has gone up as well, so these days it’s pretty easy to get good clean, sharp pictures if I don’t make any dumb mistakes. But the laws of physics get in the way when we try to capture good clean audio to go along with that crisp clear video. Basically, we cannot get good sound if we use a microphone attached to the camera. We need a mic or two close to the source, in flattering positions, which means we need either a separate audio recording system or we need to be able to feed audio from a mic or two into the camera.
There are lots of iOS audio products out there but I had commitment issues for a long time. Honestly, I probably won’t use my iPhone for a lot of music video work so I didn’t want to invest a lot of money in this tool. There are several USB mics that have a certain appeal, but I have plenty of mics already, mostly very nice ones, so a USB mic wasn’t very compelling. I finally decided on the iRig Pro from IK Multimedia, and promptly found one on Ebay for a nice price.
Let’s See the Video
The iRig Pro has a nice mix of technical features at a nice price. It has enough clean gain to handle low output mics. A 9 volt battery can be used to supply true balanced 48v phantom power if the microphone requires it, otherwise the iRig Pro is powered by the phone, pad, or computer. The input jack is a combo item that handles both XLR and 1/4″ phone plug, so it’s easy to plug in a guitar or other musical instrument. There’s even a MIDI input with a special cable to make the connection. Speaking of cables, it comes with four. Besides the MIDI adapter there are cables to connect the iRig to an iMac, Lightning iOS device, or 30 pin iOS device.
Here’s a video that goes over the features a bit and demonstrates the iRig compared to the iPhone built-in mic, with a guitar pickup plugged into the 1/4″ input, and also compared to an RME UFX with a ribbon mic as the source.
Now Let’s Hear the Audio
I rendered audio only versions of the ribbon mic comparison so you can download these uncompressed WAV files and listen to them carefully. An ABX comparator is a great way to do this. As usual, since these are uncompressed 44.1/16 WAV files they will not stream well, you should download them to your system before trying to play them.
These clips are both recorded at the same time through the same mic with a test tone recorded for level matching. The iRig file needed almost 10 dB of gain added in post to match the level of the RME UFX. The UFX interface has 65 dB of gain available, so it appears that the iRig Pro provides about 55 dB of maximum gain.
A Team of One
Film making is traditionally a team effort, but for my “Look At Me Play Guitar” videos I’m nearly always working solo. I’m producer, director, talent, sound tech and camera op. And grip and catering too! I learned early that being able to see what the camera sees while I’m in playing position is a big time and stress saver, so I looked for cameras with an articulated viewscreen. More recently I’ve used cameras that work with a smartphone app to provide remote viewing, starting and stopping recording, and in some cases fairly comprehensive adjustment of camera settings. The lack of remote viewing is another reason my iPhone has rarely been used for guitar videos.
An iOS App to the Rescue
Happily, I’ve just discovered an app that lets one iOS device preview and control the camera of another iOS device. It’s called Camera Plus, available in the iTunes App Store of course. As a replacement camera app it adds things like macro and distance focusing, a brightness control, and a depth of field control for video, along with an editing tool. But the feature I couldn’t resist is AirSnap, which uses the Bluetooth link to deliver a remote view of an iOS camera along with control of photo vs video, focus point, brightness, and trigger for stills or start and stop for video. Now I can find a good camera position much more quickly and be confident that I’m shooting what I think I am.
Is the Proof in the Playing?
I was so pleased with these discoveries that I immediately set out to shoot a new LAMPG video with my iPhone. I connected a Shure KSM141 condenser mic through the iRig Pro, connected my iPad to my iPhone using AirSnap, and ran through an old Hawaiian song, Pua Tuberose twice so I could get different camera angles. Then I pulled both clips into Edius and used the best parts of each to create a performance clip. Here’s that video, part of the collection of slack key videos at my other YouTube channel.
If you enjoyed the guitar style in this clip and would like to know more about it please visit my Kaleponi.com slack key blog.
This entry was posted on Saturday, July 4th, 2015 at 1:29 pm and is filed under Recording, 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.