DAW-casting

A lot of composers publish Youtube videos in which they share their composing and mixing advice in a less boring manner than I do here on my old-fashioned blog page. I still prefer to read advice instead of watching hours and hours, but Youtube proves there must be a lot of people having fun watching other people talk, dance, sing, tell jokes, play games or, why not, compose music. That’s why I recently dove into this topic and this post is about sharing my technological wisdom which is based on quite a few sources and errors that I went through before I was able to set up my gear for what I call “DAW-casting”. DAW of course meaning “digital audio workstation”, the tool we composers spend the most time with.

So here’s my summary of what you need or need to worry about when going about DAW-casting. (Please note that I’m on a Windows 10 system, so it might or might not fully apply to Apple computers.)

  • Voicemeeter. This little audio signal routing app does something that your sound architecture usually doesn’t. It enables you to mix your ASIO driver-based audio interface signal along with Non-ASIO-signals like your microphone.
  • Camtasia. This is the holy grail of screencasting software. It captures what’s on your screen, like notation or piano rolls, along with any video signal from a webcam that is attached to your computer. This facilitates picture-in-picture that makes your videos so personal. Camtasia is a bit costly, but it delivers. You can try it out for free.
  • Webcam. Notebooks usually have one built-in, otherwise you plug in a USB webcam. Mine is old and cheap, but it’s okay. More expensive ones won’t make me prettier, so unless you’re applying for “most handsome composer” competition, you won’t need the best one there is. One remark, though: There have been discussions about Camtasia being picky about the camera hardware, so if you encounter any stuttering or video errors, maybe switching to another model is a good idea. I’ve had that, but I got rid of it by changing resolution.
  • Microphone. This is much more crucial. 80% of all videos (and podcasts) get dumped by the audience because of low sound quality. I can’t stress how important it is for you to get that right, even if you think that your comments aren’t as important as what you’re screencasting. I have a Audio Technica USB microphone that has already proven to be podcast suitable. If I had to buy a new one, I’d probably get one that has a pop filter built in.
  • Concept. You’re probably laughing right now, but I mean it. Think about what you’re going to share with your audience before you start. In my case, I will do some “how to …” composing/scoring videos of minimal length because I myself am way too impatient to watch 2 hour videos of strangers doing their stuff, but I guess condensing it down to a few minutes has value for quite a few people, so that’s what I’m going for. Sometime in the future. 🙂

Now some in-depth advice as to how to setup Voicemeeter and Camtasia (if you’re not reading this because of the tech stuff, you’re probably dropping out now, so Bye!)

  • Camtasia lets you split your recording into two video tracks, one with your camera signal, one with your screen, and it will also let you split audio recording into one for your microphone which you can specify within Camtasia, and one audio track for “system sound” (which is basically the rest). Now this is important: If you later decide to edit your microphone signal, you must see to it that it’s not routed into the system sound or otherwise you won’t be able to separate the two.
  • In Voicemeeter you can route your Mic as well, but – again – don’t do that. Leave the mic be, just assign it as input device in Camtasia. This way Voicemeeter will route everything BUT the mic signal into your system audio “channel” which is what you want in the end.
  • There’s one caveat with this solution: It only works if you set your “normal” soundcard as default device in windows. Otherwise the mic won’t be processed accordingly. In order to make things work like explained above, this is an important prerequisite. It’s a bit cumbersone, because you will be required to switch to different audio devices in Windows depending on whether you’re about to screencast or do something different on your computer. If I find a better solution to this in the future, I will comment on here.

This took me a few hours to get to grips with, so I hope this helps other people getting it right. Happy DAW-casting!

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