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Keeping It Real: How to Make Budget Filming Look and Sound Great

David ‎(Kekoa)‎ Rosehill

Updated Learning and Development

Posted on InsideNPS May 1, 2017, 1:29 PM by David ‎(Kekoa)‎ Rosehill

Hi, my name is Kekoa Rosehill. I’m the visual information specialist for Cape Cod National Seashore. We recently published a video about the 300th Anniversary of the Whydah  and received some great feedback, specifically on the audio quality. I wanted to share my experience and a few pointers on how to set up your next video for success!

Camera (this matters)

Digital SLR camera on the beach with the sun setting in the background. On the camera's screen is a picture of the sunset.

I used a Nikon 5100 DSLR, but any good quality digital camera will work. Make sure it shoots in 1080p at the minimum. A lot of Youtubers use DSLR Cameras to film, and there is a good reason for this. They make excellent film cameras too!

Pro tip: Check your focus, and put it into manual mode. A lot of cameras will start adjusting focus mid-shoot, and there’s nothing more annoying in video than a camera that keeps adjusting focus.

Microphone (also matters)

Picture of the box for a Sennheiser Evolution Wireless G3 Lapel Microphone set. Has a picture of a man holding a video camera and ENG printend on the box.

Want good audio? Then don’t use that built-in microphone on the camera.  You need a good microphone, and yes, you get what you pay for. Use the right microphone for the right job. I wanted Ranger Jenna’s voice to stand out, but I still wanted to hear raindrops and wind. I used a Sennheiser Evolution Wireless G3 Lapel Microphone set, but there are a lot of good options out there. You can adjust the gain on these, and it is important to read the manual to make sure you have the microphone and the receiver set properly. If you have someone talking, use that lapel mic.

Don’t forget placement. The lapel mic was under her jacket clipped as close to her throat as I could get. Tape that mic down so it doesn’t move, and put some tape over the top of it too, so clothing doesn’t rub on the microphone!

Always, always, always run an audio test, and play it back so you can hear what it sounds like. Use headphones to listen to the audio (that tiny speaker on your camera is not going to let you hear any distortion). You don’t want to find out you have bad audio when you sit down to edit.  A couple of re-shoots (especially in crummy weather) and you won’t make that mistake again!

Talent (sound like a pro, call your people Talent)

Carefully select your speaker. It matters who is in front of the camera speaking. If you have a well-spoken person with good pacing in front of the camera, super win! Sometimes your subject expert could benefit from a little practice and a few tips. Work with them and keep trying.

Everyone is different, but here are some tips that worked for us:

  1. Take their notes away! Yes, they may not be spot on, and there may be a few more ah’s and um’s, but they will sound way more natural. If they can’t handle that, let them have their notes.
  2. Have them talk to you and not the camera:

a. Ask them a question to get them started; that sort of tricks their mind into talking to you instead of the camera.

b. Do a “dry run,” but don’t tell them you are going to do a practice with the camera off, and continue to record. Some people are more natural if they don’t think they are being recorded. It sounds tricky, but you are doing it for their own good!

Open Captions

Caption everything. There are a million reasons to do this (for one, it’s a legal requirement for government), but I always try to do open captions on our videos. A lot of people use captions to view videos, not only those with hearing impairment, such as when they’re watching videos in crowded places. They will also use them in locations where having sound on isn’t appropriate (public transportation, long road trips as a passenger, bad dates, the list goes on and on).

Seek Help

Stuck? Just can’t get it to work out for you? In a bind? There’s two really good resources that I use:

  1. Youtube has everything! There’s a video for that. Wanna get fancy? The Rocket Jump Film School tutorials are pretty hot stuff, and cover everything from sound, to lighting, to basic supplies!
  2. Phone a friend! Is there a park that did something you want to do? Call em’!

I hope these tips offer you some help and look forward to seeing any additional tips you may have!

Contact: Kekoa Rosehill

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