December 5th, 2012 | by Greg Barker

How Michael Made His Vid

Here is the audio visual nitty-gritty of the singing vid “One Grain More”

What camera did you use for “One Grain More”?
We used a Canon T3i. It’s a small digital photography camera that somehow (by magic, I think) has the capacity to shoot widescreen HD footage. But the real heroes were the folks working the camera – Dena Blumenthal and Bernie Langer. Using only the T3i and two small portable lights, they were able to make each shot look professional.

Tell us more about the tech stuff you used for recording – mics, mixer etc.
I recorded the audio into Pro Tools 8 using an Mbox 2 Mini. The microphone I use is an Audio Technica AT-4040, which is a cardioid condenser that is excellent for both vocals and instrumentals. I didn’t use a mixer – all compression and EQ were added later using various plugins.

The sound quality is great. Tech-wise would you do anything differently if you were going to do it again?
One of these days I would love to invest in compression hardware – currently I do all of my compression in post-production, which requires a lot of extra work that could be more or less automated with the right hardware. I’m very happy with the way the audio turned out – but with projects that take hundreds of hours, it’s always helpful to be on the lookout for anything that will reduce hours while maintaining quality.

How did you organize your filming?
My co-director Lily Bayrock then went through the shot-list with me, and together we incorporated new ideas that I would not have thought of alone. Here’s an example from the shot list:
•Front – Epipen at a table with various milk substitutes out in front of her, oat milk in hand, apparently drunk off of it.
(One more dairy substitute)
•Pours from flask into oat milk
(Drinking oat milk from a carton)
•Leans back into her chair
(Now I spend my days confused)
•True look of confusion and wonder
(Wond’ring how you milk an oat)

Did the other singers volunteer? How did you “reward” them?
All eight of us (four cast and four crew) volunteered to work on this video. For Lily (Co-Director/Cosette), who also has a lot of food allergies, this project had a lot of personal meaning and humor for her. As for Michael DeFlorio (Marius) and Megan Ermilio (Eponine), they are actually my voice/acting students, and this was an opportunity for them to showcase their incredible talent and gain some very positive exposure. For all of us, this was a wonderful learning opportunity and a chance for us to make people laugh and show them what we do.

Was dubbing difficult for the acting that followed?
One of the interesting things about recording ahead of time is that the singers have to make all of their acting choices before they ever get onto the set. This is another reason why it was helpful to have a detailed shot-list ahead of time: I would tell the cast their blocking in the recording studio, and they were able to factor that into the recording.

Any tech tips for people trying to record great vocals at home?
1)Back up your work. If you don’t, you’ll regret it. And then, years later, somebody will ask you if you have any recording tips, and it will be the first thing you think of.

2)Do multiple takes. One of the benefits of non-live performances is that you really can make your recording perfect – so take the time to do it! Audiences are a lot less forgiving of recorded imperfections than they are during live performances.

3)Use compression. It took me a few years of recording to really take compression seriously, but it really saves a lot of time and adds professional quality.

4)Use EQ and reverb – but sparingly. Too much EQ loses the natural quality of the voice, and too much reverb sounds like you’re trying to hide a bad performance (or like you took your microphone into the shower. Which, by the way, is a bad idea).

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