Getting set up to create these “screen capture” style tutorial videos was a pain in the interface. It might seem simple in comparison to dealing with 24 channels of audio inputs and multiple interfaces when tracking a band recording, but it was a special challenge! There are a lot of screen capture programs for mac out there, but most of them could get me tapped into the audio output of Pro Tools successfully. That was the trick… I needed to have another mixer “above” (so to speak) all the other audio involved in creating the video that would capture a stereo mix of the audio involved, and record it with the video.
Sure, I could have used an additional recorder, independent of the computer I am working on, but that would add several steps more to the process. Capturing the audio separately would force me to open another video editing program, import the audio, sznc it to the video, export that video again, and then upload to youtube. Blech.
In this way, by spending just $40 more on a little hardware/USB interface mixer (that I can use for many other purposes) I can immediately upload the finished video to youtube after I am done with the screen capture. This is a far superior workflow, and will make it fun and easy to do these tutorial videos when inspiration strikes!
Since Quicktime has a screen capture video function, there is no need to buy another screen capture program. All you need is a way to get the audio from the output of Pro Tools PLUS your voice over microphone in to Quicktime, live and in stereo. I managed to get it in there with some wild cabling, but Quicktime would capture in stereo for whatever reason. You need a mixer to combine all your tutorial audio and feed it into Quick time. The Behringer Xenyx 302 is by far the cheapest solution, and it actually sounds crystal clear and works perfectly.
The only compromise was plugging the output of Pro Tools (balanced output from my RME Fireface UC) into the unbalanced line inputs of the 302. The cable run is less than 3 feet, so the chance for noise is practically nil. The unbalanced connections also keep the Xenyx 302 small enough to fit in my opened hand; a tiny, very portable mixer that needs no external power supply. Yep – it powers from USB, too. If this thing just had two mic inputs, it would be the coolest bit of gear I’ve purchased in a long time!
I shot from the hip in the video above, so it rambles a bit… Here is a concise step-by-step to get this working for you:
– Buy Behringer Xenyx 302. $40 on ebay. Beyond making these tutorial vids, use it as an extra headphone amp in the studio, as a DI or mic pre for scratch pad ideas while on the road, or as a mini DJ mixer for an iPod and a mic. It will get a lot of use.
– Connect the 302 via USB to your computer. You are going to disconnect again before starting Pro Tools! This powers up the mixer for the next steps.
– Connect your mic (I used a condenser mic – the Xenyx 302 has phantom power, too!) and get a voice-over mic level. Just shout a few words while increasing the input so that the clip indicator lights up, then back off a bit. There is no metering on the 302 to speak of, so you have to fly by night. It is, however, quiet enough for making tutorial videos, so you’ll be OK with this method.Plug a set of headphones into the 302 and adjust your listening level. You will hear what you are going to capture into Quicktime.
– Connect the main outputs of your DAW to the line inputs. Again, check your levels. You should now be able to hear both the output of Pro Tools and your voice microphone. Adjust the balance as needed.
– Unplug the 302.
– Open your Audio MIDI Setup application in user>Applications>Utilities. (on a Mac). Check to be sure that the audio device “USB Audio CODEC” is NOT included in your Pro Tools aggregate i/o. This is important! You want this mixer to be independent of Pro Tools. Your audio output from Pro Tools need to flow into the Xenyx 302, not originate from it’s output! Again, for the next step, make sure the 302 is not connected via USB.
– Start the Pro Tools session you will use for the tutorial. After the session is completely opened, plug in the Xenyx 302 via USB. The session i/o settings won’t change while Pro Tools is running, so now the 302 is a separate mixer attached via USB to your computer! Your mileage may vary here – I am using OSX 10.6.8. It sould be that older or newer versions cause problems, but at this point I am assuming that it is more of a Pro Tools characteristic, and not so much dependent on the OS.
– Launch Quicktime. Now select “New Screen Capture” from the “File” drop down. In the window that appears, there is a little white arrow on the right. Click that to select the audio source that should feed Quicktime. We want to use “USB Audio CODEC”:
…this will get the stereo mix of our voice over mic and the Pro Tools output into Quicktime, and record in sync with the video. You’re ready to go!
– Arrange your windows and get ready to roll. When you are set, all you need to do is hit the record button in the Quicktime window, and all your audio will be recorded along with your video, ready for immediate uploading to youtube.
Naturally, you should run a short test capture before you launch into a perfectly-spoken 20 minute tutorial masterpiece. You can luckily see the audio input level in the Quicktime window before you hit record. Make sure the level is strong but not overloading, so your audio is not either low and noisy or clipping and horrid-sounding in your final video.