Last year on IRL#2, our biannual in-person get-together, we decided to start recording talks, so that those that could not attend in person would be able to watch them at some later point in time. Turns out, there is another great use case for these recordings: onboarding. Whenever a new person joins our team, these talks help to get them up to speed. The recordings have been a huge success and we’ve started doing them regularly when we give a talk, at local meetups, at conferences without dedicated video teams, etc.
Our setup is opinionated based on what we need and what devices we already have. It tries to be as simple & portable as possible while keeping good audio quality:
- An iPhone for video: video is not very important when recording talks and iPhone’s camera is good enough.
- A fantastic external shotgun microphone for audio: we often have more than one speaker (at once or alternating), we have questions from the audience, we have remote attendees pitching in, etc. We wanted our setup to be invisible, without attaching microphones to speakers’ shirts, without passing microphones around for questions and without complicated channels mixing in post-production. It turns out, the Rode VideoMic Pro “shutgun” microphone does the job perfectly. We set it up 7 to 10 meters from the speaker, among the audience, pointed at the speaker. Since the microphone is directional, it picks up the speaker’s voice very well while also allowing the comments from the audience to get recorded with sufficient quality. Set and forget! Do note that you need the SC4 adapter to be able to use the VideoMic with an iPhone.
- Use FiLMic Pro app on iPhone for best quality audio recording and audio monitoring via headphones.
- A basic tripod with a custom smartphone mount so that we can mount both the iPhone and the mic on the same tripod, point both at the speaker and hit record.
- Use Airdrop to send the video file to macOS and use iMovie for basic video editing. No cables involved there and iMovie’s intuitive UI makes the workflow as painless as possible.
Assuming you already have an iPhone and a tripod laying around, a rig like this will cost you around 200€, which is a bargain considering the quality and convenience you get:
- 150€ Rode VideoMic Pro
- 11€ Rode SC4 TRS-TRRS adapter
- 13€ Rode SC6 Dual TRRS adapter
- 17€ FiLMiC Pro app
- 10€ cheap smartphone tripod mount
- 10€ male and female 1/4 to 3/8 thread adapters
Custom smartphone mount
I was hunting around Amazon & eBay and could not find a similar thing that would ship fast enough before IRL#2, so I built one myself. I bought a “smartphone tripod mount” at a local gadget shop and glued in a female 3/8 to 1/4 tripod screw adapter so it has an additional tripod screw insert. Now I can screw the mount into a tripod, mount the iPhone and then screw in the VideoMic into the new insert I added to the top of the mount, using the male 3/8 to 1/4 tripod screw adapter. Works like a charm!
First, create images of all slides. If you have the presentation in Keynote, you can export as images. If you have it as PDF, you can use Automator to create images.
OK, fire up iMovie and let’s start:
- import talk recording
- start a new project
- drag clip into the project area
- click the “magic wand” icon to auto-tune audio and video settings
- right click -> Show Clip Trimmer -> remove the noise in the beginning and end of the talk
- insert slide image a few seconds after the slide is changed in the video, as “video overlay“
- select all “video overlay” images, select “cutaway” and set opacity to ~80%
- add first slide image to the beginning of the clip, add cross dissolve transition
- add cross dissolve to the end of the clip
- click File -> Share -> File to render the final video of the talk (Resolution: 720p, Quality: High, Compress: Better Quality)
- use Handbrake to compress the video
- Web optimized ticked
- Format: MP4 File
- Video Encoder: H.264
- Framerate: 24
- Peak Framerate (VFR) selected
- Constant Quality selected and RF:20
- Encoder Options: Preset: slow
- Picture: Storage Size: 1280 x 720
- Audio: Mixdown: Mono
- Upload to videos.niteo.co (AWS S3 static website using github.com/oscherler/pretty-s3-index-html)
After recording 10+ talks we realized that things sometimes go wrong and it’s usually a human error: forgot to turn on the microphone, forgot to press record, etc. We now do the following to decrease the chance of not having a recording.
Mount a GoPro to one of the tripod’s legs, using the standard GoPro pole mount. Stick a huge SD card in the camera, turn it on while setting things up and keep it running. If all else fails you at least get a backup recording.
With recording talks, it’s the audio quality that you should be most concerned with. Therefore it comes super handy to be able to monitor audio that is being recorded. This is how you do it:
- Plug the Rode SC6 into your iPhone. Then plug the VideoMic + SC4 adapter to one of the mic inputs on the SC6 adapter. Finally, plug your headphones into the headphones output on SC6 adapter.
- Use the FiLMic Pro app on iPhone to get audio passthrough, i.e. to hear in headphones what the microphone is recording.
Print out this recording checklist and run through it before every talk:
- Enable Airplane Mode on iPhone.
- Turn off all apps running on iPhone.
- Plug the charger cable into iPhone.
- Verify VideoMic is correctly plugged into iPhone.
- Turn VideoMic on, move switch all the way to the right (“curved line” icon) to enable the high pass filter that reduces background noise.
- Start FiLMic Pro app and verify its configuration (click the Overview icon):
- 1280×720 @ Apple Standard
- 24FPS / 24FPS
- PCM @ 48.8 Kbps Mic: External Microphone
- Lightly touch the surface of VideoMic. You should hear scratching in your headphones. If you don’t, then FiLMiC is using iPhone’s internal microphone and you should go a few steps back.
- Ask someone to act as the speaker for a few seconds and try which volume setting on VideoMic works best for given conditions. The farther away the VideoMic is from the speaker, the more boost it needs (+20).
- Start recording.
- Stop recording.
- Turn off the VideoMic.
Here’s a few seconds of a recent recording from IRL#4 in Istanbul.
Sample for Recording Talks blog post from Nejc Zupan on Vimeo.