Have you thought about making video recordings of your DJ gigs? Such recordings could be used for promotional purposes, to give/sell to your clients, to show off what you can do, or even just to give you a chance to learn how to make video – just for the hell of it!
I’m a mobile DJ and I think this would likely be most useful for other mobile DJs, but I guess it could be cool for bars, clubs, festivals… really, anywhere you have the extra space and time to set up.
And while it is of course possible to take this idea and run with it, my approach works especially if you’re a solo operator, without the luxury of a team to help you to do this at your events.
Having actually successfully recorded a few events recently, this article explains exactly how I do it.
Checking the legalities
Be sure to check out what the legalities are for recording people in public in your area. In the UK, this falls under something called “GDPR”. I obtain consent from the client booking me. I have a legitimate interest in recording the event for the client and I am respectful of the content published. If anyone asks me to not be included, I edit them out, and I also filter out any scenes of people that might embarrass them to see.
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I actually perfected this method experimenting at home during lockdown (when I had little better to do!), with the view to making it simple to operate when it’s just me at events – and recent events have confirmed that it works really nicely.
I have tested recording in 4K and Full HD. It turns out that 4K file sizes are huge and for what I am doing Full HD is good enough and much faster to transfer, edit and encode. This is the resolution I recommend you use.
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I’ve actually experimented with two options here, and the jury’s out as to which I prefer. Here they are:
Option 1: Mics and audio interface
Using mics to record music? Yup! While I have tested also taking a booth out from my controller into another channel to post-mix the sound, so far I have found that the P420s pick up everything really clearly and can handle up to 150dB, so are never going to distort.
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I use the “wide stereo” pickup pattern when recording – it’s the one that looks like an “O”. (It does pick up me speaking and anyone requesting songs, too, so you might want to think about what you say while recording.)
Option 2: USB microphone
Same deal, just a different type of mic. Here, I use an AKG Lyra all-in-one USB mic. The Lyra is cool because it is so simple and quick to set up – you just plug it directly into the laptop, like you would a webcam.
So why is the jury out on which is best? Basically, it’s down to appearances. I think the Lyra is likely better for cheaper gigs and the P420s for more expensive gigs, simply because they look more “pro”.
The thing with OBS is that it’s free, and it is just as happy recording the webcams and microphones you have plugged into your laptop as it is livestreaming them to the web. Learn once, use for both purposes.
Start livestreaming your DJ sets like a pro: DJ Livestreaming Made Easy
Why webcams, laptops and USB mics?
Simple. It’s easy and simple, especially if it’s just you “running the show”. There are no batteries running out or needing to be charged or swapped out. There are no storage issues, as you can buy huge SSDs. You get a visual display of what is being recorded right beside you on the laptop screen, with audio levels and so on all visible. And you can also pre-configure scenes with multiple cameras and so on.
No, of course it’s not as “pro” as dedicated DSLRs and lots of post-editing, but it’s getting close, and a good compromise for the solo operator between results, cost, and ease of use.
I had issues on my first recorded gig where my audio was dropping out exactly every 10 minutes. Turned out that I had forgotten to disable all power-saving options, and specifically, for the USB ports. Be sure to disable all power saving features and optimise your laptop for performance (see this article on optimising your laptop for DJing for more info).
Setting it all up
Let’s zoom in on my photo. Do you see the mics left and right on the inside of the laptops? That positioning works well. As for the webcam, it’s on the left-hand side up above me on a thin Gravity 60cm mic extension. (I have my 4K camera phone on the other side, for redundancy, and for symmetry).
Next up? I want to integrate more webcams or standalone cameras around me to capture action shots of me while mixing. As I write this, I’m already thinking I’ll place two cameras to the left of me instead of just my backup cam.
Read this next: How To Film Your DJ Mixes Using Your Phone
My forays into this side of what I do as a DJ are still a work in progress, but my clients so far have been thrilled with the results, and I’m having lots of fun experimenting.
The beauty of this approach is that it’s relatively cheap and easy – especially if you already carry a second laptop as a backup to your gigs (which I humbly suggest you should, as a professional).
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I hope that this article has inspired you if you’re considering doing something similar but don’t know where to start or what gear you will need. Any questions, please ask below.
• DJ Ricky Gold is a DJ based in the UK. Ricky has over 25 years of experience DJing everything from pubs, clubs and festivals to private parties, weddings and corporate events.