I got an email recently from my lovely client Deborah, asking a question that, although it’s not specifically about VO, may be one that a lot of actors might love to know the answer to:
Self taping auditions – you can do it with an iPhone, or with a nice Canon EOS Digital Rebel, but the sound is not as good as the picture. Is there a good plug in mic? Can you use the wonderful AT2020 USB Plus? Where does one put the plug? Any thoughts, suggestions, words of wisdom? Maybe a 60 second rant?
Thank you so much for all your great advice and classes and your intelligent, sane approach to life and the business.
All the best,
I know it’s a bit off-topic from pure VO, but this question is one I hear a lot (and is one of the reasons I created my on-camera presence class, Camera Ready U), and it’s especially relevant to most of my clients and students, as they also have an on-camera acting life as well.
Here are my suggestions.
THE AT-2020 USB/USB PLUS: I wouldn’t recommend it, but if that’s your only option, you can use the AT-2020 USB for self-taped auditions, and I’ll show you how to do this as the first of three options.
(Scroll down to the lavaliere and shotgun options – they are your best bet. I’m answering Deborah’s question first.)
But…the problem is that the AT-2020 works best when “played” close, a few inches away at most from your mouth.
That would mean having a pretty big honking mic in the shot, and would limit your movement.
Since you don’t usually want the mic in the shot, and it would have to be to play it close, I have some other options for you further down.
And yes, if you don’t want to buy yet another mic, you can make your camera shot close enough to hide the AT-2020 just off camera, and it will do an OK job of picking up your voice as you move around in the scene. Play with various angles to get the best results, but note that there will be additional room noise the further away from the AT-2020 you get.
And…if you must employ the AT-2020 USB, you’ll need an adapter that will allow you to plug it into your iPhone or iPad.
Depending upon the iPhone (4s and up only) or iPad model, you choose either the Apple Camera Connection Kit, or the Apple USB to Lightning Adapter.
You plug the AT2020 USB Plus into the appropriate adapter, which then plugs into the charging/sync port of the iPhone or iPad.
Here’s an Amazon link for the Apple Camera Connection Kit if your iPhone has an older 30 pin connector (yes, it comes with two adapters – you’ll only be using one of them):
And here’s the adapter you need if your iPhone has a Lightning connector (the little flat spade-like 1/4″ plug):
I’d also consider a longer USB cable so you can put the AT2020 wherever you like, without the length of the USB cable as a limiting factor:
But there are a couple of much better options if you have the budget for it, and having these as your go-to mics for self-recorded auditions means you don’t have to constantly unplug and plug your AT-2020 in and out of your VO setup.
BETTER: THE AT-3350IS: The second option is also from AudioTechnica, the AT-3350IS lavaliere mic, just like the news anchors use, which you’d clip to your shirt, and plugs directly into your iPhone’s headphone/microphone jack (not the charging connection) with an included adapter. That adapter also has a jack for headphones, but I wouldn’t use those in an audition on-camera). That’s here:
If you’re going to be moving around, this mic will be best for picking up your voice consistently. Remember to position the mic under your shirt, and on the side that you’ll be facing when you address the camera, and watch for clothing noise if you’re making large moves.
BEST: THE ATR-6550: But the best mic I’ve found for this is another mic in the Audio Technica line, and it’s my third option.
It’s the ATR-6550. It’s an inexpensive shotgun mic that is more useful for filming (including self-taped auditions), but is also used in studio (I have its sister mic, the AT-875r, that I use in my audio studio from time to time). Note: this is a video camera mic with a standard miniplug, and you’ll need an cable adapter for your iphone as well:
I’m well aware that the last couple of options will cost you more money than you’ve already spent on your AT-2020. But it’s one of the best investments in your career that you can make – a tool that allows you to create great audio, as well as great video for your self-recordings. And that’s where the world is headed – more and more on-camera jobs are being landed by smart actors and VO talent who audition from home.
I’ve set up an entire space in my condo to self tape auditions, in addition to my VO studio, using this shotgun mic.
And that appearance I made on Disney’s A.N.T Farm awhile back? That audition was taped on my iPhone in a hotel room in Boston. I’m living proof that self-recorded auditions, recorded on an iPhone, can land you high paying acting and VO gigs.
Hope this helps!