Standardization and Consistency
One of the most difficult tasks in audio production is creating consistent repeatable results. In a podcast or web series, for example, it’s ideal to have consistent audio quality for each show. Using a dedicated studio space makes things easier by using equipment and process each time. It’s when you’re recording in various locations and with different equipment where achieving consistent results can be challenging.
There are an enormous number of variables that shape the outcome of a recording, as simply moving a microphone a few feet in a room can make a world of difference. Fortunately, creating consistent, polished recordings can be achieved using these five basic tips.
1. Organize & Plan
This is the most basic, and often the most overlooked step. Consider your end goal, and be realistic about your access to equipment and your time constraints. Is pristine, quality audio a priority over consistency? Can you afford to have great recordings nine times out of ten, but have an occasional instance with inferior quality? Knowing what you would like to achieve is the first step in examining how to create consistent audio content.
For vocal recordings, we recommend the Audix CX112B or similar large-diaphragm condenser microphone and recording directly into a computer. These create fantastic results in quiet environments but can take time to set up and record. It can be a challenge if recording in an apartment with roommates, in a house with children, or other noisy environments.
If you travel frequently or are short on time, you might be better off by sacrificing some audio quality and instead using a handheld microphone like an Audix VX5. The recordings will lack the pristine clarity of the larger microphone but will remain remarkably consistent when using good microphone technique.
I worked on a television show where our host recorded a voiceover in pieces at a time over the course of a day. The handheld microphone worked far better for her schedule, and recorded voiceover that could be recorded separately, but edited together seamlessly. Work within your limitations and keep the process consistent.
2. Get Close & Project
I mentioned this in an earlier blog post about vocal recording technique, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating. Keeping the microphone within five inches of your mouth and speaking loudly creates excellent isolation from your environment. You can record in different rooms with different acoustics, and the changes will hardly be noticeable.
For those of you recording music, keep your microphones close to your guitar, amp, violin, or any other instrument. Keep your sound dry and isolated, and add reverb in the mix if needed. This way, you can record in virtually any indoor, relatively quiet environment with consistent, studio-quality results.
3. Monitor Critically
The biggest mistake beginners make is not wearing headphones while recording. Worse yet, some people wear headphones but don’t pay attention to the headphone feed. Monitoring is the only way to tell if your recording sounds good while you’re recording. Before pressing record, do a basic mic check and turn the headphones up loud enough to hear extraneous noises, room acoustics, and every detail of your microphone technique. You can make quick adjustments in real time by changing the microphone location or changing the position of your body in relation to the mic. The preparation that happens before you press record is far more important than anything you can do in post-production. Wear headphones, listen actively, and stop to make adjustments where necessary. Read more about monitoring here.
4. Keep Levels Consistent
By keeping your levels recording consistent, you can create a mixing preset and apply it to every recording without ever touching a fader or dial. Create clean recordings with excellent microphone technique, record to a predetermined target level, and the results will be strikingly consistent, even if you change recording locations. I like vocal recordings to average somewhere around -20dBFS, then create a preset based upon that input level. This can save hours of time post-production and allow for stunning results in no time.
5. Use Consistent Mic Technique
This is an extension of tips #2 and #3, but it’s worth elaborating upon. It will take some practice to use consistent mic technique, but apply the basic principles and listen closely in your headphones. Actively listening while addressing the mic is your best bet for creating consistent recordings. Without this part, it’s nearly impossible to record at separate times and locations, while creating identical results. Make adjustments on the front-end, and avoid workarounds in post-production wherever possible.
We hope this gets you started on the path to making great recordings, day-in, and day-out with stunning consistency. Thanks for reading, and for any questions, leave a comment or email us at info (at) Finewav.io.
Photo by Thomas Le