Tips, Techniques, Examples about my favorite musical instrument, the Twelve-String Guitar.

If you play guitar check out Playing Technique, or Strings / Setup. There are also some interesting posts about guitars at, you guessed it, Guitars.

If you want to spread your musical talents around, you will find some good info at Recording.

Marketing - meh - I'm probably the world's best bad example. Although you could find funny stuff there.

I've made some music videos through the years, and you can find them and other interesting music at Music I Like, Music I Play.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Making Movies

Since all you folks are into video now, here's a tip on how to get those 12-strings sounding good on YouTube. This article will explain how to record your sound separately and join it with your video using MPlayer and Mencoder .

The Hardware

The microphone in your camera is probably not music quality. It's made to pick up speech - so it has a peaky, treble emphasized response curve. Get a decent mic and preamplifier and sound card . In terms of bang for the buck the mic trumps the preamp and sound card . For 12-string jangle you'll like an instrument mic, sometimes called a "Pencil" mic because of the shape. They have quicker transient response than large capsule mics. Your treble courses will like this.

The cheapest good mic for a 12-string is probably a MXL-603, although I'm basing that on research, not listening. I use Oktava MK-12's from the SoundRoom . They are hand tested and the advice from "the tubes" is that the quality is better there than elsewhere. There are also some Chinese Oktavas . They are cheaper. But your mics are going to last a long time, some spend some bucks on guaranteed good ones. The SoundRoom will give you some mechanically sound mics with good solder joints and response curves. You can get matched capsules. I sometimes use omni caps, sometimes cardioid . I haven't decided. These charts might help you decide. If you're rich, buy a Neumann instrument mic. I love the sound of a guitar recorded with a Neumann . Crystal clear, no boom. Someday when I'm rich, I'll buy a couple of KM-184's.

Doing the Video

Start the audio recording using your favorite recording software. I use ecasound software, but you probably already know how to do this with your particular recording software. Next, start the camera rolling. Before you begin playing you need a visual cue to use later to sync the sound. Clap, or tap something in a way that you will be able to later find the exact moment that the sound was generated. Then, play your piece; then stop the camera, stop the audio, and go to the next step.


Transfer your video to the computer and play it with mplayer (mplayer FILENAME) . Find the exact time in the video where your visual cue is. You can do this with mplayer by stopping just before the cue using the space bar and then step frame by frame using the 'period' key. The mplayer console shows the times of each frame. If you instead used a gui, trigger the on screen time display by hitting the letter 'O'. Once you figure out the timestamp for the visual / audio cue, quit Mplayer , then create a new video file by editing out all the video up to the video cue. Do this using mencoder with the copy option. For example, if your video cue was at 1 minute 3 seconds, and your video file is called FILE.avi, run this command:

mencoder -ovc copy -oac copy -ss 00:01:03 FILE.avi -o EDITED.avi
# where -ss is seconds or hh:mm:ss

There is also an "-endpos" parameter that uses the same format. Use this to trim off that awkward section where you get up to turn the camera off.

Now you have a new video called EDITED.avi that starts with your audio / visual cue.

Use your music editing software to find the audio cue of the audio file. Delete the audio up to this point. You don't have to trim off the end stuff. Audio that extends beyond the video will be dropped in the next steps.

Combine the Audio and Video

To combine your superbly recorded audio file named "MYAUDIO.wav" with the edited video file named "EDITED.avi", do this:

mencoder -ovc copy -oac copy EDITED.avi -audiofile MYAUDIO.wav -o COMBINED.avi

Check the new file with mplayer. It should have the original audio and the high quality video and be almost ready to upload to YouTube.

mplayer COMBINED.avi

Finishing Touch

You want to recopy the video to trim off the cue and make your video start at the beginning of the piece. Use the -ss option as you did above to trim off the pre-cue video. If the part that you want starts 12 seconds in the COMBINED.avi, run this command:

mencoder -ovc copy -oac copy -ss 12 COMBINED.avi -o FINISHED.avi

Good luck. Hope to see, and hear, some professional 12-string videos soon. My videos are here.

UPDATE - dadgadjohn's comment reminded me that some links to source material might be a good update, so here are some handy links pointing to original sources.

Mplayer and Mencoder are the same program; mplayer plays and mencoder writes.

DVD author is software to move your final video to a DVD. Articles about DVD author a useful because they often focus on getting the correct video format.

Here are the links:

MPlayer web site documentation is here, in English (other languages available)
It's a bit overwhelming. I used this section about video formats a lot.

Linux journal articles about MPlayer / Mencoder here and a DVD authoring article here. article about DVD conversions.
A little crib sheet of MPLayer / Mencoder commands.
A DVD Author primer.


dadgadjohn said...

I'll have to give this a try. I have a good microphone, and I'm looking into a USB interface to connect it to the computer.

So much to learn. How did you learn which command performs it's desired function?

12String said...

Are you implying that I didn't just know this stuff magically? heh - well, you're right; I added some of the bookmarks that I find useful when making the talkies.

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