Nothing is as annoying as a video with bad audio. YouTube has proved we can put up with bad video quality, but if the audio is no good we will stop watching. How can you create decent audio on a medium budget?
This article is specifically written for OSX, but most things apply to Windows as well.
Many laptops have a build-in microphone. This microphone might be good enough for Skype, but for a youtube movie it is not. If at all possible use an external microphone, even if it is a cheap headphone/microphone combination.
Should you go for a usb-microphone or a microphone with a pre-amp? It depends on your budget. And the amount of hardware you are willing to live with. Having a separate pre-amp and a microphone on a microphone-stand will probably sound better, but it might be more expensive, and it is definitely a lot of stuff to have around the house.
I bought a blue yeti usb-microphone, and am quite pleased with it. By the time I finish typing there will have come out several new microphones so it is hard to recommend anything. When I shopped around I visited a lot of computer hardware stores and the I could not find what I needed. Then I went to a music shop where they sell guitars, drums and audio equipment and their help was excellent. I told my needs (to record my voice), and my budget (<$150), and they showed the possibilities and the costs of each. Shop around, and google everything!
Next, after you acquired your microphone it is time to create your recording setup.
Some microphones are sensitive to touch (like the yeti) and it might be wise to put something soft between the table and the microphone. Also a spit-guard might be a good thing to add. Test and try, it will cost you some time but your listeners will be grateful!
Record in a room that is as quiet as possible, and try doing your recordings really early, the world is asleep and thus is as quite as it gets in your neighborhood. To avoid echo, have something soft behind you, like a curtain.
It is quite possible to record audio and video from the youtube website, but it is best to do everything separately. The easiest way to record audio on the Mac is using piezo, a really simple and nice little program. The only downside it has is that it records in a compressed format. An alternative is using Audacity, which is cross-platform.
To record a Skype conversation you can either use Piezo, or ecamm from Ecam. The podcast mentioned in ‘also see’ has some good info on how to make a high quality audio recording from Skype.
Listen to some test-recordings with (good) headphones. In the beginning your own voice will sound strange, but you’ll get used to it. Pay attention to buzzes (is everything grounded? Are power-cables and audio cables close to each other?) Is there an echo? (add a curtain/ hangup a coat behind you / around you). Again, test and try.
When recording, have frequent break. Drink water. If you made a small mistake, pause, breath, and say the sentence again. All mistakes can be cut away during mixing.
Mixing the audio
This is where thing get tricky. There are two ways to go about this: mix your audio, and place the video so it matches the audio, or, mix your video and use audio markers to make the audio fit. What works best for you is a matter of trying. Easiest is creating one audio-file and then adding video to fit.
On OSX, Garageband is a good and not expensive program to mix your audio. It also has a lot of sound-effects with a reasonable license. A good alternative is Audacity, which is a bit more cumbersome, but it might be even more powerful, and free (cross-platform, works on Windows as well).
When mixing your audio, make sure your voice has room to breath, have breaks between segments. If you add sound-effects, don’t over-do it. Listen to a documentary and a radio-show and you’ll hear the difference how they were mixed-down. Listen to both and then decide what style fits your video. If you put all the effects on a separate audio track you might even make two versions. Ask what your friends think sounds better.
Great sounding videos are fun to watch. We might think that it is all about the video, but your professional voice-over will make all the difference!