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Recording Hints & Tips from Support Team Leader

So we’re about 48 hours into this glorious endeavor. Many of you have been busy earning your badges, experimenting with the video recorder and some singers have already submitted. Cool! But we’re guessing quite a few people will be making their recordings this weekend so we thought it would be helpful to share some tips on how to make the very best VC5 videos you can with the gear available to you.

The first bit of advice I can offer is just to slow down.

The music is simple this time so why not take your time and make your videos the best they can be? We don’t want you to join Team Procrastination and wait until the last minute, but there’s no extra badge for being one of the first 5,000 to submit, so take your time.

Next, find your recording space and make it your own.

Pick a spot in your house, your school or your office. It should be a quiet space but not so small that it will create echoes (like a bathroom would). Stay away from windows, air-conditioning units, fans and anything that can make a hum. Gather all the things you need to make an outstanding video, such as:

  1. A black or dark background – This can be a piece of fabric, a black sheet, a dark blanket, several pieces of black poster board taped together or even an inexpensive black tablecloth from a party store. Make it happen! Hang the background about 4 feet behind you and try to fill the frame with it.

    Image Credit: 59 Productions

  2. Lighting – A directional desk lamp or a clamp utility lamp works great. Use LED bulbs for less heat and cleaner light. The clamp light I use is polycarbonate so it doesn’t get hot. I use it with an LED light and a white plastic garbage bag stretched over the end which makes a mini photographer’s soft box for beautiful lighting. Place the light about 4 feet in front of you.
  3. A table and a chair – You need a place to sit while recording so you can be still, and you need a table for your light, your laptop, and a small tripod if you’re using a mobile device.
  4. Dark or black clothing – A black t-shirt is great, with no logos or words. If the only one you have has logos or words on it, turn it inside-out. No one will notice in the final video, trust me!
  5. Your camera and microphone – If using a laptop just sit it on the table and you’re good to go. You might want to sit it on a stack of books and raise the camera to eye level for a more flattering look. If using a mobile device you’ll need a tripod or something else (the top of a chairback, handle on a vacuum cleaner, a mic stand) to mount your device and hold it still (no hand-held selfie videos, please). You can find mounts at electronics stores and you can even get one of those vent mounts for cell phones at your local auto store, then use duct tape, large rubber bands or whatever works. Just be careful to not cover the lens or the microphone.
  6. Ear buds – You can use headphones too but earbuds are preferred because they are less obvious. Hide the cord behind your ears and down your back or inside your shirt for that stealthy look.
  7. Internet connection – Before you get everything set up make sure the room you picked has a strong Internet connection or cell signal.
  8. Determination – It’s your best friend!

Now that you have your recording space and your gear it’s time to chart a course for your success. Pick a recording time when there won’t be much activity or noise. Tell everyone in your space when you plan to record and ask if you can have 1/2-hours of quiet time. Have someone take the dog for a long walk. Turn off your phone (unless you need it to record). Find your recording Zen and go for it!

And if after all that preparation you’re still struggling, take a look at these troubleshooting tips:

  • We recommend the Google Chrome browser for this project. If you’re not using Chrome please download it and give it a try.
  • Video recording puts a strain on your computer. When you are ready to record you should clear your cache and cookies, reboot and launch only the browser. you plan to use. If you have background tasks running, turn them off.
  • If you’re using an external webcam, make sure the VC5 recording tool is set to use your camera and your microphone. With the recording tool launched, click on the small gear in the upper, right corner of the recorder window and select your camera and microphone.
  • Unplug all unnecessary USB peripherals (hard drives, printers, etc.) to lessen the chance of interference.
  • If you’re having audio distortion problems check the mic gain (sensitivity) settings on your Mac or Windows computer. Make sure you’re not running Skype, Google Hangout, FaceTime or any type of telephony software that may be auto-controlling the gain. Don’t sing so softly that the mic cuts out (some don’t have enough sensitivity to pick up quiet singing).
  • Many modern earbuds have microphones built-in that are designed for talking but not for singing. Override them in your Mac or Windows sound settings and use the internal computer microphone instead for better quality.
  • Launch a new Chrome Incognito Window, which will disable extensions and other add-ons that may interfere with the recorder. To do this click on the Customize and Control menu in the upper, right corner of any Chrome window then select “New Incognito Window.”
  • If you’re in a warm climate try not to record during the hottest part of the day or turn the air-conditioning down a bit. A cool computer is a happy computer.
  • Go outside, wish upon a star, then try again.

If after you have tried all these things you still can’t record, submit a request and we’ll get you going. Failure is not an option.

Jack Rowland
Volunteer Support Team Leader

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