2013/05/26

Audio quality for ASMR recording

If you are reading this blog, chances are you already looked for ASMR videos on YouTube, and you probably noticed that their average quality (in terms of audio and video) is, how can I say?... not excellent. After talking about ASMR and audio quality (for listening), now it's time to give some tips to help ASMR video producers (namely, whisperers) to improve the quality of their results.

Regarding video quality, usually I should give an incredibly long and boring explanation of the topic; lucky me - and you - I can say that this is a minor problem (not in general terms, but only for AMSR). You just have to keep two things in mind:

  1. Shoot and upload videos in HD: as I wrote in an older post (Close to ASMR: Tarja Turunen), YouTube HD videos are encoded with way better audio quality than SD videos; and we already know that audio quality is crucial for ASMR.
  2. Be sure to shoot with a decent camera; no tips about this, you can judge by yourself simply watching the video: if it's in HD and it looks awful, go for a better recording device (if you can).

Standard audio recording

To explain this topic I'll give you a concrete example, which makes it all easier to understand - or at least I hope. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can get a good microphone which works seamlessly with your device: purchase the Apogee MiC, a studio-quality microphone for professional recording you can use with iPhone, iPad and Mac. Connect it to your Apple device, and there you go: the audio in your video will be recorded by the Apogee device, instead of the device's built-in mic. Unfortunately, like any other professional tool, this microphone is quite expensive: about 200$.

If you can, I suggest to buy a more complete device, the Apogee One for iPad and Mac: it contains the MiC microphone, plus a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter, check my post ASMR and audio quality) and a pre-amplifier for your earphones, providing you with hi-quality listening of the audio you've recorded, so you can judge the results of your work by yourself - in real time. The One costs about 350$.

Binaural recording

A very interesting technique is called binaural recording: while standard recording provides you with normal stereophonic audio (hopefully of good quality), binaural recording aims to take you right into the stage, giving you the impression to be right in the middle of the action. How can this be done? To do this, you need the following:

  1. Two microphones instead of one, placed at the same distance as the ears in your head - this will give you the illusion of sounds actually coming from different directions.
  2. Two ears (made of silicone) in which the microphones are placed - this will give the sound the correct "resounding" typically produced by your auricles (see Note).
  3. A head (also made of silicone) to attach the ears to: this is important, because our head interpheres with our perception of sounds, and if you want the latter to be properly reproduced, you need to have a fake head between the mics.
  4. When you watch a video with binaural audio, it's mandatory to listen with earphones; otherwise, the binaural effect will vanish.

Note: you can experience the acoustic effet of our auricles by yourself with this simple experiment: when listening to some music (from loudspeakers, not from earphones) surround your ears with your hands: you will immediately notice a clear difference in the way sound is rendered, with particular regard to higher frequencies, which are very important in ASMR.

A professional binaural recording device is the 3Dio Free Space Pro, which costs about 500$: it's particularly sensitive to higher frequencies, therefore well-suited for ASMR recording. As you can see on the producer's website, this microphone lacks the silicone head; if you have a lot of money (about 8,000$), you can purchase a more complete product: the state-of-the-art in binaural recording, the Neumann KU100 shown right here.

Editing

Video editing for ASMR is quite trivial: it's all about cut-and-paste, transitions and titles (features you can find in any video editing software). The only "advanced" feature you might need is color correction, in case the recording quality is not that good: professional software lets you do it by yourself with great precision, while consumer software privides you with wizards to automate the process (which is better if you're not an expert).

Mac users have good apps for multimedia editing: iMovie and GarageBand for consumers, Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro for professional users; Windows software, however, is sometimes better-suited for prosumers, that is those users who find themselves in between consumers and professionals.

Maybe the best place to start for PC users is Sony's consumer Movie Studio Platinum Suite, a complete multimedia production bundle which comes for about 90$. If you want something more, I suggest you to go for Cybelink's prosumer-level PowerDirector Ultimate Suite: it's more powerful, but still has wizards that allow you to do things without having to deal with technical details, for a bit more than 180$. The professional way (but still affordable to single users) is represented by Sony's Vegas Pro: it costs 480$, but if you don't need to burn DVDs or Blu-Ray Discs you can purchase Vegas Edit for 320$.

All these software suites allow you to improve the audio quality in post-production (that is, when you've already recorded the video): ASMR video producers may want to filter the background noise (as much as possible) and the highest frequencies, to "soften" some peaks, and maybe normalize the volume, in order to allow watchers to raise it. More powerful software allows you to do things better, but only if you're an expert; if you're not, you'll achieve better results by using simple (and affordable) software, and letting it do the job with automated wizards.

One last thing: Movie Studio allows you to edit audio with CD-like quality, while Vegas Pro supports better-quality HD audio. Just keep in mind that quality is a complex thing, influenced by many factors: in this case, a professional microphone is way, way more important than HD audio.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the info! I'm new to the ASMR community and looking into possibly buying a mic to use with my iPad. Your info has been very helpful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome. I'm happy to help whisperers improve the quality of their work. I think the whole ASMR community will benefit from that.

      Delete