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Microphone Recommendations for Quiet Watercolour Tutorials in Noisy Environment


Will

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Hello everyone,

I create watercolour painting tutorials and need some microphone advice.

 

My studio is next to a busy road and has a tin roof, which makes it challenging to record quality audio 

 

The quiet moments of my brush on canvas are crucial, but the road noise and the sound of rain on the tin roof often interfere.

 

Current Setup:

    •    Microphone: I currently use a lavalier microphone. It’s great for capturing my voice but unfortunately picks up a lot of low ambient noise from the road and rain.

 

Challenge:

    •    I need a microphone that can clearly capture the soft sounds of painting while minimizing the background noise of road rumble and rain.

 

Questions:

    1.    What type of microphone would be best for this situation? Should I consider shotgun, cardioid, or another type?


    2.    Are there specific models known for good noise rejection that you would recommend?

 

3. Could a dynamic mic work in this situation? - the mic would be about 18 inch’s from mouth. 


    4.    Any additional setup tips to isolate sound or reduce background noise?

 

I appreciate any suggestions or experiences you could share to help improve the audio quality of my tutorials.

Thank you!

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I think you're going to be disappointed by the advice here as this there is basically no microphone that will work.

 

Lav mic for your voice is probably the best bet as a compromise between isolation of noise and convenience of placement.  A dynamic mic like an SM58 or SM7B will be even more isolating, but you have to talk right into it for it to sound good.

 

As for recording the sounds of painting... without a properly isolated studio there's basically no way to record something that low level.  Shotgun mics will be your best bet, but they do pick up a lot of ambient noise. 

 

My advice is to not consider the sounds of painting at all and focus on clear voice recordings.  I don't know what your videos sound like, maybe a sample would be useful, but I highly doubt anyone is listening to your video loud enough to hear the stroke of a paintbrush on canvas.

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For the cleanest capture of the voice in this situation, I'd recommend an "ear-worn" mic like a Countryman E6 or similar. Initially, some people who wear one of these mics find them "strange" or mildly uncomfortable, but the gain in voice clarity is quite dramatic compared to lav mics mounted on a shirt or somewhere below the mouth. Generally, people can get to use to these if they them a chance. 

 

I agree with Jesse that capturing the sounds of the painting process is not likely to be successful, although I do think a shotgun mic mounted a foot or two away from and pointing at the center of the canvas is likely your best bet. It will hear some ambient sounds as mentioned above, but when quiet, you'll be able to hear the sound of the brush on the canvas. 

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1 - Firstly, if your tin roof gives a lot of noise when it’s raining, shoot/record your video only when it’s NOT raining, as there’s probably no mic which will fail to pick up the sound of rain on tin or plastic!

 

2 - If you’re ‘on camera’ (in shot), you’ll obviously need a mic to pick up your description or tutorial. But if it’s not necessary for you to be seen, you could shoot anything you want, and add a voice-over afterwards. You could record the voice-over anywhere - in a wardrobe at home, where the clothes will absorb echo and give a clear, ‘unsullied’ narration. (I think that’s what David Attenborough does nowadays for non-onscreen narration.)

 

3 - The sounds of brush on canvas - if that’s what you really  want to pick up - can be added afterwards, just like a voice-over. Watch your video playback somewhere silent and without echoes (like Attenborough’s broom cupboard) and drag a brush over canvas with a mic very close to the brush ..there’s the sound you want. (Many of the sounds in wildlife series - bears, fish, insects, etc - are not recorded while the video’s shot, but are added later - to *sound* genuine! - after editing. You can do the same.)

 

4 - If you DO want to appear in shot while talking, and want to avoid ‘road noise’ you’d need a VERY unwanted-sound-repellent mic (also very expensive, unless rented) namely the Schoeps SuperCMIT set to ‘Preset 2’ on the mic. But in removing everything else, the result may sound as though you’re talking inside a cardboard box. So the best option is to probably use a clip-on lapel mic as you're doing - what Americans call a ‘lav’ or ‘lavalier’ mic - VERY close to your mouth, so that the sound of your speech is much louder, and closer to the mic, than any outside traffic noise. (Or - Peter Sellers as Ludwig Koch - “traffics noise”.) Preferably a cardioid lapel mic to pick up only from your mouth, though many, or most, are omnidirectional and so may still pick up external noise. Alternatively, as KarlW says, an around-the-head-and-over-the-ear teeny mic (very popular in Germany, less often seen in the UK, except at on-stage presentations). Neither of those will avoid pickup of overhead rain on a tin roof, though

 

5 - Why not borrow a friend’s barn, or some other room well away from “traffics noise” and rain on the roof? That’d solve all your problems in one go.

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A key thing, I think, is to improve the distance ratio between sounds you want and sounds you don't want. So here are two ideas to get the mic closer to your brush and paper or other medium.

 

What about a small lav mic hidden on the brush or in your hand? So if you had one mic and audio track for your voice and/or room (if you want either), and another for the sound of painting. Perhaps something like a Countryman B6, or less expensive a Deity W.Lav Micro Both avail in a couple colors that might be able to hide behind at least some of your brushes. Might be tricky to rig and hid, but might be kinda fun to try.

 

Maybe a small omni mic (even the lav you already have) placed right behind your paper/block/etc. Just winging it here, but placed an inch or two behind your medium, taped to your stand (if you use one), or at least taped to a table top if that's how you work (perhaps hidden by a brush).

 

I considered both of these on a small job a while back. A challenging space and job, but traffic wasn't an issue and the artist had a big brush. Ended up going with booming just outside the frame down by the paper (of both cameras) and a couple black lavs on the undermat just off the paper. It's short and fun. And her work is great.

 

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Hi Will,

 

Your question seems popular but unfortunately I don't believe there exists an answer to your 'challenge' that you might be hoping for. I am a sound engineer who paints with watercolours so know exactly what you're striving for and the sounds in question. I've also recorded the sounds of brushes - sable, hair, etc - over surfaces - paper, silk, cloth - but for intimate/macro effects rather than illustrating a painting procedure. Firstly, on that note, I'm going to counter my JWS colleague, DHB, above:

 

1 hour ago, DHB said:

3 - The sounds of brush on canvas - if that’s what you really  want to pick up - can be added afterwards, just like a voice-over. Watch your video playback somewhere silent and without echoes (like Attenborough’s broom cupboard) and drag a brush over canvas with a mic very close to the brush ..there’s the sound you want. (Many of the sounds in wildlife series - bears, fish, insects, etc - are not recorded while the video’s shot, but are added later - to *sound* genuine! - after editing. You can do the same.)

 

 

Whilst you COULD do this, I will have to say that convincingly editing 'foley' (or 'spot FX' as they used to be called down in the Bristol Natural History Unit) is as time-consuming and indeed skilled an art as you are used to as a watercolourist. Sure you could botch-job it, but don't underestimate it (as many underestimate painting with transparency in washes).

 

(I'm all for DHB's no 2 comment however, but, not knowing how you're approaching the filming, on/off screen etc, it sounds like you're fine with the voice already).

 

So, going through your questions some brief answers:

 

    1.    What type of microphone would be best for this situation? Should I consider shotgun, cardioid, or another type?

 

No. I would stick with the lavalier which you're getting good results with: especially if you're on camera some or all of the time (and don't swap mic types or placements for on/off camera - keep the sound quality regular) and especially if you're filming alone. A lavalier, at a fixed position from the head/mouth, will give better results (both in relative noise rejection and intelligibility) easier than others so long as you're happy with its inconspicuous look.

 

    2.    Are there specific models known for good noise rejection that you would recommend?

    3. Could a dynamic mic work in this situation? - the mic would be about 18 inch’s from mouth. 

 

Both, no. You're overthinking a problem that's already 'solved' given the circumstances.


    4.    Any additional setup tips to isolate sound or reduce background noise?

 

Absolutely. Firstly, DHB's FIRST point

 

1 hour ago, DHB said:

1 - ... shoot/record your video only when it’s NOT raining

 

And added to that, try to film at times of day or night (if possible) when the background noise is less, or at least not at its noisiest. Aside from that, the obvious: double glazing (perspex sheets pushed securely over/around windows when filming?) or any other doable fixes for spots where sound can carry. If reflections (reverb) are a problem, carpet, rug, curtains, but you don't mention such an issue. And wait for noises to stop (assuming you're not painting wet-in-wet and are not thus time-conscious)!

 

So, good luck with the answers and the recording. Bob Ross not only had a film crew and recordist to get his ambient vibe, but they were no doubt filming in a studio environment with isolation and power over the surroundings. I would probably carry on as you're doing and worry less about capturing brushstrokes (which I would ONLY care to record live, both for realism and character) until your situation changes to allow it. It is perhaps good, considering your existing circumstances, to rethink and base the filming/recording techniques on what is there rather than what you'd like, as there may be happy unexpected accidents to give the tutorials character. If you get the chance have a sound recordist (even amateur or musician, it doesn't have to be a professional TV person) to visit the location and look and listen: there may be nothing to improve your current setup but you might get lucky and have something pointed out we couldn't possibly come up with remotely. I will mention one technique that you may easily spot on telly once the snooker season restarts: the balls on the table are recorded with dedicated long suspended shotgun mics which (given the large size of venues) do a decent job of capturing the (relatively loud) clack of the balls against the ambience ... but not only is this an expensive option I wouldn't necessarily expect it to be successful in your case: I've mentioned it as an example of the kind of thing that COULD work given circumstances falling into place, which could be spotted by a (relative) specialist on a site visit.

 

Best, Jez

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Your microphone is not the problem here, so it will also not be the solution.  Instead you need to address the problem by finding or creating a quiet place to record.  No amount of rejection, noise reduction, or processing is going to work for quiet brush strokes.  Noise reduction is designed to remove that kind of sound, not highlight it!
 

So my suggestion is to create a quiet place to record your demos. Premade vocal booths are reasonably affordable, and highly effective. 
 

https://whisperroom.com/application/voice-over/

 

that’s just one of many options out there. You can also look into drum isolation booths, although i am guessing they have less isolation, they give you more space, and sometimes they keep natural light. 
 

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/VVS6PS78--sound-shields-vvs-6ps-78?mrkgadid=3032771300&mrkgcl=28&mrkgen=mpla&mrkgbflag=0&mrkgcat=&acctid=21700000001645388&dskeywordid=92700046997998973&lid=92700046997998973&ds_s_kwgid=58700005287226691&ds_s_inventory_feed_id=97700000007215323&ds_a_cid=405527921&ds_a_caid=9239807698&ds_a_agid=94118490859&ds_a_lid=pla-411631023549&dsproductgroupid=1100100857043&product_id=VVS6PS78&prodctry=US&prodlang=EN&channel=Online&storeid=&device=m&network=o&matchtype=e&adpos=largenumber&locationid=&creative=&targetid=pla-1100100857043&campaignid=31624084&awsearchcpc=1&msclkid=bc6fbcf9518d1e2a3105da83be0af417&utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=aaShopping Catch All&utm_term=1100100857043&utm_content=All Products&gclid=bc6fbcf9518d1e2a3105da83be0af417&gclsrc=3p.ds

 

A drum booth with a lot of isolation also has clear plexi walls so you could keep some feeling of still being in your studio if the aesthetic is important. 

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If this is a one-time thing, ask someone to help who has everything, because you can't do it alone! But otherwise I recommend shotgun. What depends on the wallet and whether you want to do it in the future. These things are not cheap, although you can also do with a small budget. The cheapest would probably be to do with the iPhone with a good enough microphone and camera. The next step would be to buy a separate microphone (shotgun). Considering the rest of the recommendations, make your choice.

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6 hours ago, Jesse Flaitz said:

I think you're going to be disappointed by the advice here as this there is basically no microphone that will work.

 

Lav mic for your voice is probably the best bet as a compromise between isolation of noise and convenience of placement.  A dynamic mic like an SM58 or SM7B will be even more isolating, but you have to talk right into it for it to sound good.

 

As for recording the sounds of painting... without a properly isolated studio there's basically no way to record something that low level.  Shotgun mics will be your best bet, but they do pick up a lot of ambient noise. 

 

My advice is to not consider the sounds of painting at all and focus on clear voice recordings.  I don't know what your videos sound like, maybe a sample would be useful, but I highly doubt anyone is listening to your video loud enough to hear the stroke of a paintbrush on canvas.

Hey Jesse, Thanks for the help, so for this situation it's more a case of prioritising the most important parts (the voice with the tuition) and looking at creating a more isolated recording space for reducing the background road noise, much appreciated.

6 hours ago, karlw said:

For the cleanest capture of the voice in this situation, I'd recommend an "ear-worn" mic like a Countryman E6 or similar. Initially, some people who wear one of these mics find them "strange" or mildly uncomfortable, but the gain in voice clarity is quite dramatic compared to lav mics mounted on a shirt or somewhere below the mouth. Generally, people can get to use to these if they them a chance. 

 

I agree with Jesse that capturing the sounds of the painting process is not likely to be successful, although I do think a shotgun mic mounted a foot or two away from and pointing at the center of the canvas is likely your best bet. It will hear some ambient sounds as mentioned above, but when quiet, you'll be able to hear the sound of the brush on the canvas. 

Thanks Karl, I'd never thought of an ear-worn mic, excellent tip!

 

I see what you mean, if you really wanted to capture the brushstrokes aswell have those on a separate shotgun just aimed at the canvas.

 

Thanks very much

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I understand this to be a Bob Ross style show.

Regarding the brush on canvas sound, you could experiment with contact mics or attach a lav on the back of the canvas. 

Anyhow, modifying the building/room or the location will have a lot more effect than modifying the microphony.

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You could try a contact mic on the back of the canvas or even on the frame. That will give you the brush sounds but they won't sound natural. You could use that track however as a guide track. 

But this is more a solution to a problem that requires a different solution, as stated above. You need to change the place. 

EDIT: DanielDH beat me to it, great minds (?!) think alike

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I've been prolific planter of RØDE Wireless GO II w/o lavs. Just need to get them close - but I can't rely on them for any critical audio that is given.

 

Same as with any omni mic. They record on-board as standalone units giving them ability to be close without any wires increasing the non-critical applications they can be used.

 

That is if you're willing to live with pain in post re-sync given 2.4 GHz isn't always optimal depending on how well your Line of Sight (Los) is and these cheap plant mics don't have any timecode.

 

My review:

 

Ofcourse if you have one long running take and you're just doing it for yourself on a personal project you'll just sync once and deal with drift if any.

 

Bonus is you can have the signal path directly into iPhone either USB-C or lightning (requires the RODE specific cable) with no A/D D/A in the between. Just use something like auphonic to normalise & clip gain loudness. KISS.

 

As to the interference tube - nothing really beats KMR 81i it's like vo-box or a Sennheiser MKH 50 but that gets to expensive point where you'll need recorder/mixer, cables, boom, shockmount and someone operate it.

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