They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to video production, it’s often as much in the ear, too. Believe it or not: one of the main hallmarks of amateurish production has nothing to do with the visuals. However much dazzling visual flair your video has, it’s the sound that can really make or break it.
So, what are the things we keep in mind when ensuring that our audio is good enough to carry your video's message?
Use an external microphone
Almost any camera – even if it’s just a mobile phone – can record sound, but it’s rarely the ideal option to use. With an on-board camera microphone, you lose vital control. You run the risk of having the sounds that you want to capture obscured by all manner of other sounds that you definitely don’t want.
By using an external microphone, you can tailor your sound recording to the kind of video that you’re making. Are you recording a simple sit-down interview? Then a clip-on lapel mic is perfect. Maybe you're recording outdoors. In that case, a shotgun mic or boom mic might be a better way of capturing the voice without the sound of rustling clothes getting in the way.
A good location is a must for perfect audio
A location that can facilitate a perfect sound recording is just as important as a place that has the right look for your project. Most obviously, you want somewhere that will be quiet for the amount of time you’ll need to record. But there are many other considerations that should definitely form a part of your location recce.
For recording speech, for example, you ideally don’t want a room that’s too spacious. The sound might reverberate a little too much. And say there’s an air conditioning unit that automatically switches on when you enter the room. It’s worth finding out if you can turn that off before recording.
Test the recording
One of the worst things that can happen when editing a video is finding sections that are unusable because of distorted audio. Avoiding this is a case of making small preparations before filming.
We always take some time before hitting record to ask a few test questions. A common one, to get someone talking naturally, is to simply ask what they had for breakfast that morning. We use this time to listen out for “plosives” – popping sounds on hard consonants, often meaning that the microphone is positioned too close to the speaker’s mouth – and to ensure that the sound is generally clear, and free of unwanted intrusions.
We don't rely on our ears alone, either. We keep an eye on the specific recording volume and, generally, try to set it so that the loudest points hit at around -6db. This means we’ll get what we need and, in the event that they speak any louder during the interview, we’ll most likely be able to capture that undistorted.