Getting Good Audio On Your Videos

I’ve shot some videos for the business blog recently and one thing I’ve strongly desired is the a good audio track. Most inexpensive cameras have a crappy tiny internal microphone. If you want to get audio from an external microphone, you’re out of luck with most point and shoot cameras, so you need to spend $500+ to get a camera that can shoot HD video and take audio from an external mic.

You can potentially record with a separate audio recording device and a nice microphone, but then you’ve got two files to keep track of: the video file AND the audio file. Plus, you have to spend time syncing the two as a post-production step.

There IS a class of cameras that can shoot HD video AND take an external microphone input: smartphones. My Samsung Galaxy S5 has a reasonable camera. Other low end smartphones are available that shoot HD video for less than $100.

Now the trick is getting the microphone input to the camera. I have a Audio Technica dynamic microphone with a 1/8″ phono jack that I’ve been using for years. Not the greatest microphone in the world, but durable and a big step up from most cheap mics.

Attempt #1: plug the microphone directly into the S5. This doesn’t work. Audio is recorded directly from the built-in microphone.

Attempt #2: Use the StarTech headset splitter. This cable splits the audio out (headphones) reasonably well, but it doesn’t let you use the microphone. It turns out that there is an impedance issue: The S5, and most smartphones, expect to be plugged into a low-impedance microphone, but most dynamic microphones and other audio devices intended for high quality sound recording are high-impedance. If you’ve got a low-impedance microphone, like one designed to use on a computer headset, you should be good with the StarTech headset splitter.

Attempt #3: The Headset Buddy external microphone adapter. Success. This cable is a little more expensive than the StarTech one, and doesn’t include a separate port for the headphones, but has impedance-matching and lets me use use my dynamic microphone with my Galaxy S5.

I noticed that there’s a lot of confusion over these products in the reviews. Many people are not able to get them working correctly, probably either because of the aforementioned impedance issues, or because the pinouts vary on various types of phones.

I confirmed with a multimeter that the StarTech is wired for the more common CTIA output wiring. This is the pinout used on all iPhones, as well as newer Android phones, including my S5. Other devices, including older Android and Windows phones may use OMTP output, in which case the StarTech adapter won’t work at all.

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Music for Your Podcast or Video

To add a little extra splash to my videos and podcasts, I’ve been using the Accelerated Ideas music clips. They have music clips that are around 10-20 seconds, perfect for an intro or closing credits. It’s all royalty free for both commercial and personal use. They just ask that you give them credit with a link to their website. It’s a little hard to find from the home page, so here’s a link directly to the music download catalog: http://www.accelerated-ideas.com/freemusictracks/aisearchtracks.aspx

Managing Orders

“When will my order show up?”

We get that question a lot. For many simpler e-commerce websites, I’m sure it’s possible to track everything through OpenCart. But we also get orders coming in through various sources, PayPal invoices being the most common. Then we have to fill them in various ways: shipped straight to the customer from the manufacturer, or shipped to us from the manufacturer, then forwarded on to the customer. Sometimes the customers pick up.

The manufacturers aren’t always great about letting us know when stuff has shipped. And they don’t always acknowledge when they receive an order from us. So we have to keep on top of them to make sure our customers’ parts get delivered.

Right now, some of this is kept track of through the Teamwork project management system. It’s easy to use, free, and will e-mail a daily report of what’s due.

But as we expand, we’re going to need something that’s customized to our needs. So I’ve been looking at the Redmine open source project management system. Redmine does most of what Teamwork does. It’s not without its warts though. The UI isn’t quite as slick as Teamwork’s. And certain things, like turning an e-mail into a task, are much more difficult than they should be. The next step is figuring out what I can do versus hiring a Ruby on Rails expert to customize.

Updating Windows 7 When It Doesn’t Want To

Recently I had to re-install Windows 7 due to a malware attack. After the re-install, Windows Update kept halting with an error. I wasn’t going to run this machine which had recently faced a malware infection without the latest security updates, so I hunted around for alternatives. I tried “AutoPatcher” but it didn’t work right either. Finally I stumbled on WSUS Offline Update, and it did the trick with little fuss. I strongly recommend it if you want to quickly bring Windows up to date without the slowness or fussiness of Windows Update.