There are certain moments at a live concert when it seems like everyone in the crowd is reaching for their smartphones. Maybe it happens during the first few bars of the artist’s biggest hit, or just before the beat drops. When phones go up, we’re anticipating a moment of high emotion, and many of us feel inspired to capture it. Sure, some curmudgeons still complain about all those phones, but to them we say: don’t go to concerts! A live show is a communal experience. Our impulse to record it and share it with others is an act of communion, too.
The real problem with all those smartphones, as we see it, is that they don’t capture sound very well. The iPhone still records in mono, and while there are plenty of Android phones that record in two-dimensional stereo, the quality of that audio pales in comparison to how the concert actually sounds in that unique moment, from your unique perspective, when you record live music in 3d audio.
When you record a live concert in 3D audio, it captures sound as you actually hear it: spatially, with sound entering your ears from all directions at once. It’s easy to record videos in binaural. All you need are wireless Bluetooth headphones equipped with binaural microphones in each earbud that you can pair to your smartphone. The Hooke Verse overrides your smartphone’s native mic, resulting in a video that sounds truly immersive.
Live concerts tend to be loud environments, so producing a binaural 3D audio recording of live music that sounds faithful to the moment may require you to make a few adjustments. We’ve recorded hundreds of concerts with the Verse, and we’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are some tips and tricks for recording binaural 3D audio.
Steer clear of the speaker stacks
Be sure to pick a spot where your ears can handle the sound pressure level (SPL). The microphones incorporated into the Verse are designed to work the way your ears do, so if you’re taking in the show from a position where the mics are clipping, that means your ears are clipping, too. Anyway it’s not like you want to be positioned directly in front of the speaker stacks. And neither does the Verse.
Keep the mic gain at its lowest level
It’s more or less a given: When recording a video with the Verse, the visual faders (or “lollipops”) are going to top out. Adjusting the gain to its lowest level will give the mics more room to breathe. If you’re worried that your audio will be too quiet, don’t be. You can always make a recording louder, but you can’t make it quieter.
Use the windscreens
Some live concerts produce such a loud a tidal wave of sound that you might want to make use of the windscreens that come with the Verse. With strong low frequency soundwaves, like what you get from the kickdrum at a hip-hop show, the windscreens can help disperse the acoustic pressure on the mics.
Pop the earbuds out
Another way to combat low frequencies is by popping the earbuds out. The buds are fully sealed in your ears, creating a vacuum, and really low frequency waves slam against that pocket, which can cause some distortion.
But wait a sec: won’t that affect the sound’s directionality? In our experience, barely at all. Here, compare these two videos — one with earbuds in, one with earbuds out. Can you tell the difference?
The other advantage of popping the earbuds out is that you’ll hear the show without feeling like you’re wearing earplugs. (In case you’re wondering: we had the earbuds out at Pitchfork, and in at Lollapalooza.)
But when your earbuds are in…
You can adjust the monitoring level to amplify what you’re recording so that you don’t feel like you’re wearing earplugs during the show.
Feel free to hold the camera high (unless it’s an intimate concert)
When Alessia Cara played Lollapalooza last year, there was this moment where the crowd went nuts and we impulsively lifted the phone way up high. You might think that would pull the audio away from the perspective of the video, but it didn’t. It happens at the 2:58 mark of this video.
But it is important to make sure that the camera stays at eye level in a more intimate setting, where the viewer is encapsulated in the recordist’s perspective.
We’re getting close to releasing the next update to the Hooke app and one of the new features that we’re very excited to share are sound filters, which you can apply to your recordings as easily as image filters on Instagram. All these tips and tricks will still be useful, but with the adjustable concert filter, your concert videos are going to come out sounding even brighter and louder.