How to Create a Virtual Choir Video

virtual choir

How do you go about creating a Virtual Choir Video.  Lots of choirs are doing this themselves with a degree of success.  4 Part Music offers you some tips as to how to get the best from your Virtual Choir Video


With lockdown in the UK entering (hopefully) its final phases, we are all looking forward to the days when schools and choirs can once more sing together.  Nevertheless, Choirs are quite probably going to be in the last group of people / activities which will be permitted in large numbers again.

So for now there is still a considerable demand to create virtual videos for choirs and schools in the UK.   We have talked about this in the past on several occasions but thought it was worth just putting together a short summary of just how you might go about creating your own virtual choir video.

Choose and rehearse a song

As with any choir performance the first requirement is that you choose a song.  When it comes to creating a virtual choir the principle of this is much the same.  However, you should bear in mind the level of rehearsals currently available.   As we all know, choir rehearsals on zoom or teams are not exactly that useful.   Yes everyone can sing along and the musical director can give tips and guidance, but you won’t hear your choir actually singing together until the virtual video is completed!

The way to get around this is to choose a song which is known by your singers.  In the case of choirs, this might be something you have performed before with great success.  If you are forming a virtual workplace choir, where a lot of the members may have never sung in public before, let alone as a choir, then it’s even more important to get the song choice correct.  In this instance we would recommend choosing something which is well known to your choir members – if in doubt ask them for some suggestions.  We would also recommend in such cases that you sing together in unison rather than being too ambitious with several parts – although each choir is different!

If you choose to use 4 Part Music to help with your virtual choir, we will generally run a couple of zoom sessions. Firstly these will help people to learn the song and then we can also discuss how you go about recording the video (see below).

Prepare a backing track

Depending on your song choice and indeed the complexity of the arrangement you might be able to use a backing track from an online source such as Karaoke Version.  These tracks are relatively cheap to purchase and can then be manipulated depending on what instruments you want to play in the backing.  For the purpose of the recording we would always recommend leaving the vocals in so your choir members can sing along.  Particularly for people with little experience of singing in choirs the idea of singing along just to an instrumental is quite daunting.

4 Part Music can help you with the backing tracks – we often record custom backing tracks either taken from a score or we can help with adapting an existing track to suit your choir.

As well as the music you will also need a count in at the beginning of the track. For the purpose of creating the video, it’s also important to have all your singers clap at the same time on their recordings before they start singing.  This will create a spike in the audio on their recording and will enable the video editors to line up each video fairly easily.

Recording your Virtual Choir Video

Once you are happy that everyone knows the song and you have a backing track distributed to your singers, now comes the time to record the video.

Although it might seem obvious, do make it clear that everyone has to record to the supplied track.  We have known instances for popular songs were some singers have just sung along to a track on you tube, assuming it was the same.  In many cases it might, but it could also be in a different key or at a slightly different speed which then renders that particular persons contribution useless!

When recording you need to play the backing track through earbuds or headphones so that the microphone recording your voice only hears you and not the backing track as well.   Try not to have the volume too loud in your ears to avoid ‘bleed onto the microphone’.

Find a quiet place to record along with a fairly neutral background – unless you have been given instructions to do otherwise.   Check the washing machine isn’t on in the background or there are no pets about to make a noise!

Lighting is really important in video.  You don’t need professional grade studio lighting but often a table lamp to light you, even in a well lit room can make a big difference.  Avoid sitting in front of the window as a light source behind you will potentially make your image very day and you will appear silhouetted.

Virtual choir video

There are no rights or wrongs as to whether the video is shot in landscape mode (as above) or portrait.  We tend to recommend landscape purely because not everyone uses a phone to record the video in which case a laptop or video camera will most likely default to landscape. What matters most is ideally that all the videos are shot the same way so it looks tidier in the final production.

When your choir members record the video it’s best to ensure that the device being used is fixed in place.  If you hold the phone while recording for example the video will be constantly moving around which will be quite distracting in the final production particularly if all the other videos are steady.

Once all the videos have been made then they will need to be sent to a central source or whoever is making your video.  4 Part Music tend to advise using WeTransfer for this purpose as it is free and will cope with the large file sizes involved.  Most videos will be too big to just email so do be aware of that.

Production

When all the videos have been received the the job of assembling the final production begins.   This normally starts with the audio.  In our studios we would always separate the audio from the videos and process it to the best of our ability.  Of course the majority of the audio has been recorded on iPhones, all in different environments and at slightly different distances from the microphone.  Some people will sing louder than others.  Factor in just these minor details and there is potentially quite a lot of work to be done.

However, if you are familiar with how to operate a DAW and have some plugins at your disposal then a fairly decent job of the audio can be made.  We often enhance the audio quality by adding instrumentation to give depth to the performance – this of course may also have been achieved if you used a professional backing track.

It is this point where the clap at the start of the audio tracks becomes important as this will help you quickly line everything up.

Once the audio is processed and you are happy with the final sound, you can then start working on the video.  For this you will need some professional video software.  At the lower end of things is Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier. If you want to do things properly you might want to consider DaVinci Resolve or similar.   Again, other solutions are available.

Below is an example we recorded with Cirencester Male Voice Choir and JAM Duo.  This video raised £1500 for charity in its first week online.

Distribution

Once the video and audio is assembled then all that remains is to publish, usually online. You Tube or Vimeo are the obvious choices but other means are available.  A lot of corporate choirs prefer to host the videos on a local intranet.  And indeed schools may have their own preferences or guidelines for where videos must be hosted.

Summary

Putting together a virtual video with your choir can involve a lot of time consuming hard work. It also requires a little more than basic knowledge of audio and video production. Nevertheless it is something that a lot of people can do from a fairly well equipped home studio.

4 Part Music are here to help. We can create the entire project with you from scratch or we can assist with any of the areas above.   With prices starting from just £399 for an all inclusive solution from choir rehearsals through to final video production we like to think we are pretty competitive when it comes to creating virtual choirs. Get in touch to find out more.

 

 

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