Top 5 Tips For Better Audio Quality!
Some say that at the heart of every video is a good looking image, but I don’t think so. I think GOOD AUDIO is just as important as good images – if not more-so. When was the last time you saw a video with bad audio and stayed more than 10 seconds? It just doesn’t happen; people would be hard pressed to watch your video (even if shot on a RED EPIC) if your audio sounds like it was recorded using a tin can.
In an effort to help you get the most out of your filmmaking setup here are my TOP 5 Tips for better audio:
(BONUS) DON’T USE THE ON-CAMERA MIC!
This first one couldn’t be stressed enough; if you do, almost 99% of the time you are going to get audio that sounds like it was recorded using the tin can method. Put simply, DSLR’s weren’t made for video and their poor audio capabilities reflect that. If you take nothing else away from this list let this be the one thing that follows you forever. You don’t use your phone to brush your teeth with, you use the right tool for the job; DSLRs are NOT the right tools (by themselves) to record audio with.
5. Use the Right Microphone
There are many different types of microphones out there, but they all serve very specific functions. If you don’t know the different types that exist I have a video covering that and their pros/cons coming soon. What ever your project it is vital to have quality sound and using the right mic for the job makes things that much easier. If you’re shooting outdoors, a mic with a narrow pickup range (like a shotgun mic) would be best as it allows you to record their voice while isolating distractions from the environment.
4. Monitor your Audio Levels
Being aware of your audio levels while recording will allow you to prevent quality destroying distortions in your audio. Most recorders have a screen of some sort that allows you to see your sound levels (the numbers -12, -6, etc.). You generally want to leave some room towards the end of the scale; this provides a safety area for sudden loud noises such as an actor yelling. I mainly use a Zoom H4N for recording and don’t allow the levels to get past -6. Another benefit of monitoring audio levels is that it allows you to see if the mic is ready for action. It always sucks to get a great take only to realize you weren’t recording audio at the time and the entire take is useless.
3. Get On-Location Sound/Foley
Foley or on-location sound are the background sounds you hear in a video; the whine of a plane taking off, footsteps along a wooden floor, and the buzzing of an alarm clock are all examples of foley. These things are important as they add depth and realism to the scene. Now, not all projects need foley, but the ones that do benefit GREATLY from having it. For a good breakdown on the foley making process check out this video. Foley is key to making a realistic film because in reality, very few places are truly silent. This in addition to music can add more cinematic qualities to your productions.
2. Pay Attention to your Surroundings
Make sure your recording area is clear of any unwanted noise and distractions; these can take away from the quality of your work. A good practice if you’re just starting out is to focus on recording one thing at a time. If you are recording dialog, try and keep everything else quiet while you record; viewers would be understandably frustrated if they were about to learn who the killer was and then the air conditioner (or a cell phone) blocked the dialog. This same principle applies for anything you’re recording, limit it to one thing at a time if possible and you’re more likely to get the best quality from that one focus.
1. Get the Microphone as Close as Possible
THE biggest issue with most amateur video is that the sound seems like it was recorded from 30ft away. The goal with your microphone is to get it as close to the source of sound as possible without it being visible in the shot. To do this you may require additional tools such as mic stands, or boom poles, but they will be well worth it. Following along that same path, a good rule of thumb is to keep whatever it is that is holding the microphone steady. This will prevent vibrations from the movement to be transferred into the mic and degrade the quality of the recording.
These tips won’t win you an Oscar, but they will put you one step closer to making the best possible productions you can make. In addition to the blog post here, there will also be an accompanying video posted on YouTube coming shortly. I highly recommend subscribing to my channel on YouTube and following me on Twitter and Instagram to get a more in-depth look at the concepts covered in this post; I also cover other aspects related to the technology and techniques that go into some of your favorite visual content. Thanks for reading, and catch you guys in the next one!