Miked Up – Livestreaming
Miked Up - Livestreaming | Miking Techniques | Tips & Tricks | Mic Basics
<b>MIKED UP – LIVESTREAMING</b>
MIKING TECHNIQUES | TIPS & TRICKS | MIC BASICS
IT’S NEVER BEEN EASIER TO CAPTURE YOUR CREATIVITY AND SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD.
Whether you're producing a podcast, livestreaming a concert, or taking journalistic deep dives into important issues, you can now do it all with the smartphone in your pocket. This technological revolution is turning scrappy content creators into important cultural tastemakers.
Of course, not all content is created equal – if you want people to appreciate your work, you’ll first need to make certain it sounds good. Yes, smartphone cameras are incredible these days, but the mics ... not so much. To make stuff that people care about, you’re going to need high-quality audio. And that means a professional microphone.
But which mic is the right one for you? That, of course, depends entirely on what you’re doing. So, to help you out, we’ve packed this handbook with miking techniques, tips and tricks, and mic basics for content creators focused on livestreaming.
MIC TYPES & ACOUSTICS 101
CONTENT CREATORS MOSTLY USE EITHER
A DYNAMIC OR CONDENSER MICROPHONE.
BUT WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
CONTENT CREATORS MOSTLY USE EITHER A DYNAMIC OR CONDENSER MICROPHONE. BUT WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE?
DYNAMIC MICS are ideal for the field because they’re rugged, reliable and will work well in almost any situation and with every kind of voice. While they’re not the most sensitive type of mic, this can be a good thing if you’re recording in an untreated space with unwanted background noise.
CONDENSER MICS are highly sensitive and pick up a wonderful spectrum of sound, which makes them great for everything from podcasting to field recording. However, compared to dynamic microphones they are more likely to pick up sounds like mid-sentence breaths, your growling stomach, and the hum of your air conditioner. They also require phantom power* in order to work.
*Huh? Don’t know what phantom power is? Find out in the MIC BASICS section.
FOR PODCASTING AND LIVESTREAMING, KNOWING ROOM ACOUSTICS IS ALMOST AS IMPORTANT AS THE CHOICE OF YOUR MICROPHONE.
ABSORBERS, as the name suggests, are things that absorb sound – for example, the acoustic panels you see in professional recording studios. Absorbers remove unwanted audio from a space, allowing you to capture more of the original source. Curtains, cushions and soft furniture all absorb sound, so a room with plenty of these is ideal for podcasting and livestreaming.
DIFFUSERS break up sound rather than remove it. This scattering cuts down on echoes and reflections that will clutter up your audio recordings. Books, furniture, photos and plants all help to diffuse sounds.
ROOM CHOICE might seem obvious but picking a room that sounds good to start with will make your job a lot easier. Bedrooms are excellent for re- cording because they usually have more absorbers like cushions and curtains. Also make sure you close any windows and switch off appliances that make noise, including air conditioners, washing machines and fans.
LIVESTREAMING HAS RAPIDLY GONE FROM NICHE TO MAINSTREAM, AS GAMERS, DJS AND COUNTLESS OTHERS PROVIDE A STEADY FLOW OF INFORMATION AND ENTERTAINMENT THAT IS REPLACING TV FOR MANY PEOPLE.
READING THE ROOM
Put simply, if you’re making content, you should probably be livestreaming it too. But unless you’ve got a space specifically set up for streaming, your room is likely set up with style and comfort rather than acoustics and connectivity in mind.
Condolences to minimalist interior design fans out there, but having plenty of ‘stuff’ in your room is a great way to make it sound better. Plants, clothes, cushions – all of these are good for diffusing sound.
Stream over a hardwire internet connection if you can. It’s bound to be better than Wi-Fi. Certainly avoid using your phone’s wireless data – that is, unless you happen to have a telecom mast atop your house.
Choose the right spot for your streaming: a quiet space that doesn’t have noisy appliances nearby. So don’t broadcast next to your fridge – even if it is a convenient source of mid-livestream refreshments.
Minimum upload rates for streaming resolutions: 720p (30 fps) 3 Mbps | 720p (60 fps) 4.5 Mbps | 1080p (30 fps) 4.5 Mbps | 1080p (60 fps) 6 Mbps
YOU MIGHT HAVE MASTERED FORTNITE, COUNTERSTRIKE AND MINECRAFT, BUT WITHOUT THE RIGHT AUDIO SETUP NO ONE IS GOING TO WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT.
The biggest issue for livestreaming gaming is usually the room you’re in
and the noise around you. For that reason, a dynamic mic like the SM7B or MV7 is ideal, because it will only pick up your voice and not button bashing.
Set up the mic on a desk boom stand if you can. Why? This will not only cut down on vibrations and noise, it will also ensure your beautiful mug isn’t blocked from the camera if you’re streaming with video.
ASSUME THE POSITION
Your mic should be in front of you and pointing directly at your mouth (maybe slightly off axis to stay out of your shot). If you’re using a dynamic mic, it should be about an inch (2.5cm) away from your mouth. For a condenser mic, the distance is more like six to seven inches (15cm-20cm).
SIT UP STRAIGHT
If you want your voice to sound full and not reedy, you need to do as Mom told you and sit up straight. That way your breathing apparatus is all lined up and your voice will have way more depth and range. Slouch over, and you’ll sound like ... well, like you’re slouched over.*
*But maybe that’s the vibe you’re going for?
WHETHER YOU’RE SHARING POLITICAL INSIGHTS OR UNBOXING PRODUCTS, MOST LIVESTREAMS ARE PRETTY STRAIGHTFORWARD TO SET UP. BUT THERE’S STILL A FEW THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE YOUR VIDEOS STAND OUT.
PHONING IT IN
The kind of mic you need will depend on what you’re using to film. If it’s a mobile phone, you’ll need a USB mic like an MV88+. Plug the mic into your phone and aim the microphone barrel at your mouth. Set the input level so that your voice falls in the -12db – 0db range (make sure it doesn’t hit 0db, or else your voice will sound distorted).
If you’re using a DSLR, you’ll want to use a shotgun mic that clips onto the top of your camera (usually on the bracket where a flash would go). Plug the mic directly into the DSLR and set the input level so that your voice falls in the -12db to 0db range.
For interviews, you can either go down the lavalier (lapel clip-on style) route or use handheld mics. Lav* mics are good because they free up your hands, while the sound quality from a good handheld is usually superior (plus, there’s no chance of the mic falling down someone’s shirtfront).
Probably the best bit of advice for content creators is to speak slowly. It will make you easier to understand and also give you an aura of being cool, calm and collected (and who doesn’t want that?)
*When someone talks about their go-to lav, it’s not their favorite bathroom.
LESS IS USUALLY MORE WHEN IT COMES TO STREAMING A CONCERT. AVOID OVERLY COMPLEX SETUPS AND PRODUCTION UNTIL YOU’VE DONE A FEW ONLINE SHOWS.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
For solo performances, a stereo mic like an MV88+ should be enough. For bands, set up a pair of room mics, either as a spaced pair or in the X/Y configuration, besides any vocal extra microphones you might need.
Always monitor your audio with a good set of headphones or in-ears.
If you are using multiple mics, check for phase issues. Learn more about phase cancellation in the MIC BASICS section.
If your video and audio don’t sync up, your set will look more like bizarre performance art than an actual concert. Check your upload rate before you start to make sure your connection can handle the video resolution you’re using.
If you’re really worried about your connection, consider pre-recording the concert. Yes, it’s technically not livestreaming, but it can save you a lot of stress, and you can do a live intro and outro before broadcasting your performance.
WHEN INQUIRY COLLECTIVE HAD ITS BIGGEST EVER DJ NIGHT CANCELLED BY COVID, THEY TURNED THE EVENT INTO A LIVESTREAMING SUCCESS.
THE ARTS AND MUSIC GROUP INQUIRY COLLECTIVE TURNED THE COVID LOCKDOWN INTO A NEW WAY TO REACH PEOPLE ONLINE.
Now, they make a living organizing livestreaming events for people like California outfit Moontribe, Berlin-based label Electro Swing Thing, and DJ Ben Annand. Even more impressive, they regularly pull in audiences of over 20,000, and sometimes far more.
Their first piece of advice? Treat a livestreaming event with the same attention to detail that you would any other. From the text on the Facebook event, to the graphics, to the stage design, to the gear you’re using: it all needs to work together. And if you’re working in a team, divide up the roles so that you don’t all end up working on the same tasks – that just leads to confusion.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, they suggest investing in an internet upgrade. Not only should you get the fastest service possible, but they also recommend investing in an ethernet cable. As for the video, a webcam with 1080 pixels should do, teamed up with a decent performance mic like an SM58.
And finally, keep cool, because with livestreaming something is bound to go wrong at some point. “Ninety-five percent of the time it’s an internet issue,” said the collective in an interview with DJ Tech Tools. “But if you’re calm, you’ll figure it out much faster.”
This legendary dynamic microphone delivers smooth, warm vocals every time. It captures and enhances the finer details of the human voice while blocking out all the distractions. An audio icon.
A dynamic microphone with USB and XLR outputs for both computers and professional interfaces alike. Auto Level Mode and Voice Isolation Technology make it perfect for spaces with challenging acoustics.
Coming in two flavors as part of Video Kit for smartphone creators or one geared more for musicians, this extremely versatile stereo condenser with USB and Lightning cables might just be the only mic you need for your stream.
This affordable condenser microphone is great for beginning podcasters looking to upgrade their audio. Connect with either USB.
Perhaps the most widely used dynamic mic in the world, this durable workhorse always sounds amazing and is a great option if you have several guests on your podcast and an XLR interface.
A compact and portable USB digital audio interface with XLR and 1⁄4” inputs. Features include 5 DSP presets for EQ, compression and limiter, plus phantom power for condenser mics.
MICROPHONE JARGON CAN BE CONFUSING. LEARN WHAT THINGS LIKE POLAR PATTERNS AND PHANTOM POWER ARE.
When using multiple microphones, the distance between them should be at least three times the distance to the sound source. An example: Two mics placed one foot away from a drum should be spaced three feet apart from each other.
Not the cozy vibe in the studio, this refers to room acoustics or natural reverberation of a space.
BLEED, LEAKAGE, OR SPILL
Pickup of an instrument by a microphone intended to capture an- other sound source. Normally, your engineer will want to avoid it, but creative leakage can also add a live feeling to a recording.
The part of a microphone where all the magic happens. It’s inside here where a transducer, or element, converts acoustic energy (sound waves) into an electrical signal. Different mics (dynamic, condenser, ribbon) use different types of transducers.
You’re no doubt familiar with this squelching sound, but what causes a PA system howl? Feedback occurs when a microphone picks up amplified sound from a loudspeaker connected to the same mic. This creates a re-amplified loop that eventually will sonically pierce your skull. A guitarist might love it. Your livestream audience likely does not.
How a microphone responds to various sound frequencies plotted in decibels and hertz. A flat frequency response means a mic handles all frequencies the same. Using a mic with frequency response tailored to your source will give you the most natural sound. An example: The SM7B has a smooth, wide response that tappers off at the higher frequencies to give you that rich ‘podcast voice’ you’ve always craved.
INVERSE SQUARE LAW
You don’t need a degree in physics to understand this concept. It sim- ply means that direct sound levels increase (or decrease) by about 6 dB when you double (or halve) the distance between a source and microphone. It also underscores how important mic placement is!
Freedom from leakage or a mic’s ability to reject unwanted sounds. Splendid, splendid isolation ...
Man, their second album was epic! Oh, we’re not talking about the band? In that case, this refers to the extra DC juice (normally 48 volts) supplied by a preamp or mixer via regular XLR cables to power condenser mics with active transducers. It gets its ghostly name from the fact that it simply passes through passive dynamic mics plugged into the same board without affecting them. Warning! Phantom power can blow out passive ribbon mics. Active ribbon mics, however, require it.
This occurs when using more than one mic on a single source and the waveforms of similar audio signals don’t match up exactly when ombined. Being out of phase will make your audio sound wimpy and pathetic.
POTENTIAL ACOUSTIC GAIN (PAG)
This is the amount of gain that a sound system can achieve at or just below the point of feedback.
POLAR PATTERNS (MIC DIRECTIONALITY)
A graph showing how the sensitivity of a microphone varies with the angle of the sound source, at a particular frequency. Examples of polar patterns are unidirectional (including cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid), bidirectional (figure eight) and omnidirectional.
PRE OR PREAMP
A microphone preamplifier simply boosts a weaker mic signal be- fore it goes into a console for mixing and recording. For reference, a typical mic level signal is a meager 2 millivolts, whereas pro audio ‘line level’ signals operate at 1.28 volts.
The increase in bass occurring with most unidirectional micro- phones when they are placed close to an instrument or vocalist (within 1 ft). Does not occur with omnidirectional microphones.
A gradual decrease in response below or above some specified frequency. This can be quite handy if you want to reduce bleed from the bass drum (use a mic with low roll-off) or your cymbals (use a mic with high roll-off).
SOUND PRESSURE LEVEL (SPL)
The acoustic intensity of a sound wave. Or how loud something is measured in decibels. It’s important to keep this in mind when matching gear to the various parts of the drum kit you’re miking. Generally speaking, dynamic mics can handle higher SPLs than other mics.
The most common form of microphone cable connector for pro audio. An XLR plug has three pins, ensuring the signal is balanced, which helps reduce unwanted noise when using longer cables.