Ustream 10-23-2010

Recording Equipment and Youtube Video Production

Time and time again it seems that I receive the same question(s) about my recording and video setup for my youtube videos.  So because I’ve written out that explanation tons of times, I figured maybe I would get it done once and for all and post it here as a blog entry.

To start off with I want to let you know that I am using an iMac and that some of the software I’m going to talk about is specific to the Mac.  If you don’t own a mac, there is probably a similar program on the windows side of things, but to be honest I won’t be able to tell you what that is since I’m a Mac only guy.

Below you will find a very quick explanation of my equipment and steps to produce a video.  More detailed explanation will follow but these are the basics.

Equipment I use:

  • Martin DX1 Acoustic Guitar
  • LR Baggs M1 Active Pickup for acoustic guitar
  • MXL V6 Large Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
  • Studio Projects VTB1 Preamp
  • Yamaha YPG-635 Digital Piano
  • Digidesign 003 recording interface
  • Pro Tools 8 LE
  • iMac
  • Canon SX1 Digital Camera (records SD or 1080p HD video)

Quick video explanation

  • Record audio and video separately
  • Mix audio in pro tools and save as wav file
  • Quick edit of video in and out points using Mpeg Streamclip
  • Use garageband to sync recorded audio file with video, mute camera audio, export
  • Compress video using Mpeg Streamclip

Ok, so here’s the full explanation.  Let’s begin with my early youtube videos.  I began my youtube experience with nothing more than the built in microphone and built in webcam on the iMac.  However, seeing that I have a degree in music production, sound quality is important to me and I quickly found out that I was going to have to upgrade.   The moral of that short story is; if you just have a webcam and built in microphone, you can still record videos.  Just make sure to adjust the microphone input volume accordingly so you don’t get that nasty distortion when it is set too high.

Upon my next upgrade, which you will see in some of the middle-aged videos, I am using a dynamic microphone and a magnetic pickup in the acoustic guitar.  Specific models aren’t really important here, but if you are going to go the dynamic microphone route, then a Shure SM58 is probably the standard here.  In live situations, the dymamic mic is your best bet, but if you want a studio quality sound, a large condenser is what you should aim for.  During these videos I was also using an original mbox as the interface to the computer.  Basically a recording interface will allow you to connect your microphones, as well as guitar pickups in this case, and will convert your analog sound into digital code that your computer software will be able to read.  You can then record with your software and edit and mix all of it later on.

After having the mbox setup for a while, I started to find limitations and wanted to work on recording my full length album.  I decided to upgrade to a digidesign 003 which also included Pro Tools 8 software.  In my later videos, and what I continue to use now is a MXL V6 large condenser microphone for vocals, and a LR Baggs M1 Active pickup in my acoustic guitar.  I also have a keyboard that is used in some of the videos and that model is a Yamaha YPG-635.  I plug the MXL mic into a small tube preamp called the Studio Projects VTB1 and the output of this is sent directly to the 003.  I plug the guitar directly into the 003.  My keyboard is plugged directly into the 003 as well but sometimes I connect it to the computer via USB so I can record MIDI in Pro Tools using this method.

When it comes to the video portion, I have only made one upgrade and that is I now use a Canon SX1 digital camera.  It’s a hybrid in that it looks just like any other digital camera and takes photos as it should, but it also does 1080p HD video.  You could do something like this, or if you already have a digital camera, you may want to look into getting an HD video camera.

So that’s it for the gear.  If you are looking for how I record audio and video together and sync that, continue reading on.

Now that you have the gear, it’s time to do the actual recording and editing for the video.  There are many different ways of accomplishing this so my way is just the one that works for me.  I learned a specific way when I first started recording audio separate from video and I’m sort of a creature of habit, so I won’t change until I have to.

First, set up all of your audio recording equipment.  Do some test runs to make sure all of the input levels are set appropriately.  There’s nothing worse than recording a great take and finding out your microphone was set too hot and you were actually clipping the audio during some portions of the recording.

Next, position the video camera on a tripod and make sure to have enough lighting.  When you think you have enough, add some more.  I have found that when our eyes think a room looks fine, the camera can always use more light.  The lower the light, the more grain you will get.  Some video cameras are better than others in low light situations so you will have to experiment with how much you need.

When you are finally in position to begin, hit record on the computer (pro tools) and make sure to watch that it is actually recording, then hit record on the video camera.  Move into position for the video and play your song.  When finished with this, hit stop on the video camera as well stop the computer audio recording.

Now that you have a recording, we need to mix the audio.  I won’t get too in depth with recording techniques as that is an hour long post in itself, but generally things like compression, equalization, and reverb will be used to polish the audio.  When this is finished you will save a wav file of the completed audio.

Next we will move to the video editing.  This is the part where you could use many different programs to accomplish the sync of your recorded audio with the video.  For an all in one sort of a solution, you could go with Final Cut or Final Cut Express.  This will allow you to edit the video as well as match up the recorded audio.  The only downside is that these programs will set you back a little cash.

I personally do it differently because I had to come up with a way to utilize programs that were free or came with the iMac.  So far with my video I haven’t done any elaborate editing so mainly I chop off a little bit of the beginning, and a little bit of the end.  I cut the portions of me sitting down in front of the camera, and at the end, getting up to turn stop the recording.  I use a program called Mpeg Streamclip to do this.  It’s easy, fast, and a free program.  All you will do is move the edit point on the timeline to where you want the video to start, hold down shift, and click the portion ahead of it that you want to cut.  After you click on that portion it should be highlighted and you will go to Edit>Cut. Same process for cutting the end of the video.  After this quick edit, I save the video file.

The next portion I again probably use a different program than most.  I open up Garageband to a blank session and choose “movie score.”  I then drag my edited video file onto the video timeline.  The audio that was picked up from the built in speakers on my camera will also now show up.  From here I drag my completed and mixed wav file that was recorded in Pro tools to the slot right underneath the camera audio.  Now begins the part where we sync the external audio to the video.

Using the zoom slider I zoom in on the camera audio and click the exact point where the waveform begins.  This will be the exact point at which any sound shows up at all.  I leave the insertion point right at that spot and click the external audio file.  Again without moving that insertion point, I drag the file until the beginning of its waveform is directly on that insertion point.  These two audio files should now be synced.  If you hit play on the session you will be able to tell if this worked.

If the two audio files are playing together and you don’t notice any delay on either of them, then you are synced.  If there is a slight echo or it sounds like one is either ahead or behind the other, then you will need to go back and see if you lined them up correctly.  Most likely a small nudge left or right on that external audio file will solve that problem.  There is also a built in viewer in Garageband so you can watch the video as you listen to see if the mouth movement and the guitar playing look like they are in sync.  Once you feel it looks good, hit the mute button on the camera audio and you will now be hearing only the external audio that you recorded with the computer.

This has completed your sync and I now go up to Share>Export and export the video in full quality.  You might also want to save your Garageband session now just in case you want to make any changes later on.  After the export is complete, I once again open up Mpeg Streamclip and this time I am going to compress the video.  If you are in HD then you need to decide how fast your internet connection is and whether you want to wait 10 hours for a 2gb file to upload to youtube. If you compress the video, you can choose what final quality (5% to 100%) of the original video quality will remain.

Go to File>Export to Quicktime.  Then you will choose compression type and in the drop down choose h.264.  Next select the quality and move the slider accordingly.  Again, you could leave it at 100% if you want it to stay at pretty much full quality, or you could do something more like 60-75% if you want it to still look decent, but cut down the file size.  Deselect “Interlaced Scaling” and you should be good to go.

Hit the “make movie” button and it will compress and save your final video file. Once it is finished, open the file in quicktime and view the entire video.  Make sure your sync looks ok and that the video quality is what you expected after the compress.  If you need to make adjustments, you can just repeat some of your steps above until it meets final expectations.

That’s it!  I know it was a long explanation and might take a few times to read through before it sinks in, but hopefully that will help you get started if you were curious, and I wish you luck with your video making experience!

Down The Line cover

What About Me Guitar Tutorial

Des Moines Register Story

Waukee singer-songwriter competes in online contests

Musician Ryan Knorr posted his first videos to YouTube in 2007 as a means of sharing his songs with friends and family.

But once online, the Waukee man’s emotive vocals traveled far beyond their original target. Nearly 2 million indie music fans have visited his channel in the past three years.

This fall the burgeoning singer-songwriter extended his online presence even further as a finalist in two Web-based music contests. The 25-year-old is vying for top honors in Subway’s Fresh Artists national competition, which ended Sunday, and Tyler Ward’s USA Live Lounge showdown.

“It’s good exposure, and that’s really all you can ask for right now in terms of the music industry,” said Knorr, who majored in music production at Buena Vista University in Newton. “It’s moving away from labels and more toward individual artists. The Internet – these contests – have allowed me to market myself.”

So far, Knorr’s audience likes what it’s hearing.

The Minnesota native was ranked 65th out of 500 entries in the Fresh Artists competition on Friday. The winner will get a chance to open for the Goo Goo Dolls. Plus, an additional 500 fans subscribed to Knorr’s YouTube channel in the days after he was named a finalist in the Live Lounge contest.

The extra attention can only benefit Knorr as he works to spread his sound, said Tony Bohnenkamp, a local pianist and co-owner of The Sonic Factory in Des Moines.

“Yes, there are cons, but one of the huge pros of being independent is that you get to control your music, and your image and your shows, which is great for a musician,” said Bohnenkamp, who helped record “The Path of Greatest Resistance,” a 14-track album released by Knorr this summer. “Ryan is one of the good ones. He just loves playing his music and wants to get it out to as many people as possible.”

In addition to promoting his new record, Knorr is planning a house show tour this spring and recruiting a back-up band. He continues to post new videos on YouTube and spends an hour each day responding to fan e-mails and online comments.

The artist has performed at metro coffee shops and clubs. Earlier this month, he shared his songs with Kent Peterson’s creative writing class at Waukee High School, where Knorr works as a custodian.

“What I see in Ryan is someone who really tells a story with his music,” said Peterson, who plays Knorr’s tunes for his students while they write in their journals. “It’s not just the same refrain over and over again. When you get done listening, you feel like you know him better, or that you’ve experienced a piece of his life.”

That connection to fans keeps Knorr inspired, the artist said. He has written songs about love and life’s struggles, as well as a tune based on the experiences of an Iraq war veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

“For a long time, I tried not to do the music thing, because I knew there had to be easier careers,” Knorr said. “But eventually, I came to a place where I decided that easy or hard, this was what I was meant to do.”

ustream live performance and chat

A little while back I was on twitter and saw a post by Matt Scannell about a virtual concert and chat he was doing.  Matt is the lead singer of the popular group Vertical Horizon.  The idea of a virtual show or chat isn’t something completely new, but I still don’t believe a ton of musicians are doing it.  Sites out there like are allowing anyone to set up an account and broadcast live to the world with nothing more than a webcam and a microphone.  Viewers can sit in front of their computers in the comfort of their own home and watch and chat with the broadcaster.  This has been something I have wanted to try, but again, with so many things going on I have put it off.  That is until now.

On Saturday, October 23rd, 2010 I am going to try out one of these shows at 3pm central time.  You can join me on my ustream channel at and you will be able to chat with me there.  I will play a couple of songs as well so be sure to join in if you can.  Remember, 3pm CENTRAL TIME.  I will see you then!

The Long Overdue Entry

Time seems to fly when you’re having fun, or at least when there’s a billion things going on at once. That’s what it feels like to me most days, and my to do list continues to grow instead of shrink. One of the things on my to do list for some time was to write a new blog entry. And since I’m just getting to it now, it must have slipped down the list time after time. That’s the excuse I am going with at least! Either way, I’m here and making a promise to myself to do better at keeping everyone informed of what is happening, and hopefully also sharing some interesting information along the way.

Where to start, where to start? It often feels to me like I can’t remember who I have told what and when, or if I have even told them at all. So if anything I am about to say in the coming paragraphs is overkill to you, then I apologize in advance. However, I feel like most of it might need to be reiterated anyway. I often feel bombarded with so much information that I probably don’t see the links, articles, and posts that I really want to see, just because of how much information is out there and being posted at the same time. I would have to think the same goes for those of you who are “following” me. Many times I’ve noticed that after posting a video to youtube I may only have 1000 views on that video, even after months of it being there. However, I may have 7000 subscribers who were supposed to get that video in their feed and know that I posted a new video. Did they not see it in the feed? Did they not want to watch? I really have no way of knowing, but the same goes when I post links or new announcements to my twitter and facebook feeds. According to a few different studies I read recently, it would take me posting the same link more than a handful of times before the majority of my followers would actually notice it was there. And just because they notice it doesn’t mean they will actually click on it. Such is the uphill battle I face when using the internet to promote myself and my music. You can now see how it’s possible that even four months after my album was released, I still have people who don’t know that fact, or who will tell me they didn’t know about it. So if you find me repeating myself or posting things multiple times, I’m not trying to bore you to death, I’m really just trying to make sure everyone knows. Now that all of that is out of the way (whew!) let’s move on.

Probably the most exciting news for me recently has been my involvement in a couple of different competitions. In the late summer months I entered the Subway Fresh Artists competition through This competition had a grand prize of an opening slot with the Goo Goo Dolls. The first rounds were regional in which I competed against artists from the upper midwest states. When the regional rounds were finished, I was honored to have placed 8th. From there I moved on to the national competition where I would now be up against 500 artists. There are still a couple days left on that portion of the competition and I have been hovering around the 25-35th place range. Out of all of those entries I again find that to be an honor and something that shows I am on the right track with what I am doing with the music.

One other competition I entered was the Tyler Ward USA Live Lounge Competition. Tyler is a youtube artist like myself, however he has gathered an outrageous following in the last year. Last time I checked he had over 250,000 subscribers and about 56 million video views. Huge numbers! With this competition I had to upload a cover song that was currently in the top 100 on the iTunes charts and wait to see if the judges picked me as a finalist. I recorded a cover of a Sara Bareilles song called “King of Anything.” I like it because the lyrics are very sarcastic and I felt I could sing it well and identify with the song. Out of more than 500 entries there I, along with 9 others, were chosen for the final round. This has done wonders for me in terms of exposure to new fans and listeners. If you happen to be on facebook you can head over to and click the “like” button under my video. The most “likes” at the end of this month will be the winner and will get to record a couple of songs with Tyler at his studio in Denver.

As for the business portion of my update, I’m think that is all for now. I’m sure there are more items, but those were the highlights. I wanted to shift to something that is a lot more personal. I don’t think I share a ton about my personal life with all of you, but there was something that I did want to share. You may or may not have noticed that I was slightly absent from my usual routine lately. In late September my brother-in-law, who was only 36 years old, passed away after a battle with brain cancer. He left behind my sister-in-law, and 3 children who are all under 13. Now, knowing him he wouldn’t have want me to tell you that for any amount of sympathy, and it’s not the reason I am sharing that news either. The reason is that I feel it’s important for everyone to remember that life is short. It’s sort of a cliche phrase, and it’s overuse has lead me to believe that many people might not take it very seriously. But throughout my life I have already witnessed too many instances where that phrase couldn’t be more true. As for me, I spend almost every waking hour of the day thinking of my future and how I can continue the pursuit of my music career. And although that thinking is taking for granted that I will have more time here to fulfill those goals, I feel like if that weren’t the case, then at least I have lived knowing that every day I pursed the one thing that I believe I was put on this earth to do, and that is to share my music. So many times it would be easier to quit and give up on that dream, and just become a “normal” person again. But even the times when I have literally wanted to quit, I just couldn’t do it. Somehow and someway I pick up my guitar again and want to sing my songs. So for any of you out there who are just floating along, thinking just maybe one day you’ll get around to the thing(s) you’ve wanted to do the most in life, I’m telling you that now is the time. Why is that when we learn we are dying, we only then begin to live? If you really think about it, we’re all dying right now, so what are you waiting for? I know it’s a heavy topic and most people would rather put it to the back of their mind than face it head on, but heavy topics are what seem to inspire me the most. Some of my new material will definitely focus on some of these themes and I hope to share that with you when the time comes.

Now that I’ve probably made the mood quite somber, if you are still with me up to this point, thank you. As I mentioned, it’s hard to face the realities of life, but that is the way it is. I hope to have given you at least something to ponder for a few moments. Thank you for sticking with me on my journey and I hope to have much more to come. Take care all.


Ryan Knorr – Cold Tonight (original song)