How to Record Good Audio for Your Videos on a Budget
Why is audio so important?
Before we get into how to record good audio, lets just refresh why it is important in the first place. Many would argue that sound is often more important than picture. When audio quality is good, nobody notices. However, when sound quality is bad it becomes painfully obvious. This can be explained by how we find it easier to watch fuzzy picture, but when audio is quiet or there is feedback it becomes quite irritating. Neglecting audio is one of the biggest and most common mistakes made by people just starting out with video. Recording quality audio is important because poor audio can be incredibly distracting for the viewer. Poor audio makes it much harder to tell a convincing story, considering sound is such and important part of that process. Poorly recorded audio is also a lot harder to fix than dodgy footage in post-production.
Use an external mic
This is honestly the single best move you can make towards better sound quality. The difference between the built-in mic on your device and an external mic is night and day. As far as mics go there are a couple of good options at your disposal. SmartMyk is a directional microphone that does a great job in most situations. It works by localising the sound to the image, rejecting background noise to concentrate on the sound from the subject of the camera’s focus. It’s the way to go if you’re looking to take your audio up a couple of notches. SportsMyk is a lapel mic from the same brand. Lapel mics usually clip onto a shirt collar and capture consistent audio regardless of how your subject moves. This is great option depending on the type of videos you are creating.
If it is within your budget, I would honestly recommend investing in both. They offer a great amount of flexibility when you are shooting, which ensures you are capturing great audio no matter the situation. Another reason is that it never hurts to have a backup. Things go wrong all the time on shoot. The last thing you want to happen is to get home after a full days shoot to find your only mic started playing up half way through. So whilst there are a couple of things you can do to ensure this doesn’t happen, you’re better safe than sorry running a backup mic.
Get creative. Your sound quality is dependent on how well you capture the audio from your subject. This means getting close (sometimes uncomfortably so). The problem with the standard mic on your camera is that it is usually too far away from you. This results in poor audio quality. If you have your heart set on not using an external mic you have a couple of options. The first is to move your camera closer to the subject so that really only your head and shoulders are in the shot. Another option you have is to use an iPhone to record your audio separately, then sync your audio and video up in post-production. Lee Morris has a great video on this seen below.
Monitor the sound
I mentioned earlier how there are a couple of steps you can take to make sure you don’t have any huge issues with your audio. Monitoring your audio is an important one. Monitoring your audio is essentially listening to your audio through a pair of headphones while it is being recorded. It allows you to hear exactly what your microphone is picking up so you can identify and fix any problems that may occur in real time. It will let you know if your subject is speaking too loudly or the background noise is interfering with the clarity of your audio. This keeps the audio consistent and will save some tricky work in post-production. Although, that is an option if it comes to it.
Choose a suitable location
Your choice of location can make all the difference when recording audio. There are a couple of things you should keep an eye out for when looking for a location. Of course when shooting video you can’t satisfy all these aspects but you will do well to adhere to them as closely as possible.
Things to look for..
Even when it’s quiet, it’s never silent. There are often sounds that tend to just blend into the background when listening with our ears. However, these sounds can become much clearer when a microphone is involved. These sounds can sometimes interfere with the audio from our subject so it’s important to manage them correctly. These noises are generally referred to as ambient sounds. Ambient sounds have a couple of names depending on who you talk to. These include ambience, atmosphere, atmos or background noise. Some common ambient sounds you might find when shooting video are wind, water, birds, crowds, office noises and traffic.
Ambient sounds are an important part of recording good audio because they help immerse the viewer in the video. It makes it easier for the viewer to mentally connect the audio with the video.
When you are looking for a location to shoot your video, you want a spot where the background sounds are faint and won’t interfere with your recording.
Reverb can be described as the way sound moves around a space. Depending on how a room is set up, sound will interact with its surroundings differently. The most important thing to watch out for when creating videos is if a room is small or contains hard surfaces like cement, chances are the microphone will be capturing a lot of unwanted reverberations which will deteriorate the clarity of your audio. Reverb is often confused with echo and whilst similar, they are technically different.
A common way to test the reverb in a room is something known as a clap test. The process is very simple, clap as loudly as you can and then listen. You can judge the reverb in a room by how the sound echoes. If possible you want to choose a location with minimal reverb.
Recording outside can be tricky when wind comes into play. Wind hitting your mic can heavily distort your audio. Generally, Its best to film everything you can indoors in a controlled environment. However, there are some times when the situation requires or compels you to film outdoors. In these situations there is a couple of steps you can take to make sure you are capturing crispy clean audio.
The first tip is if the wind is coming from a single direction, turn your back to it to shelter the mic. It may also serve you well, if your budget allows, to invest in a windshield.
If a proper Windshield is a little out of your budget, Melody’s Dad on Youtube has you covered. He managed to create a DIY Windshield for $2!
Are quite a common nuisance when trying to create videos. If you have ever tried to create a video in an office you would know exactly what I am talking about. One minute everything is quiet. Then someone will walk past or a phone will ring. It can be quite disruptive. It is important to try minimise disturbances as much as possible. Finding a location that is guarded from disturbances can streamline your capturing process and ensure you are getting good quality audio. It is good practice to monitor and check your audio before moving on so you know that any disturbances did not detract from your recording.
Another thing to consider is that your mic and cables can make a lot of noise if not kept still. So try keep them as steady as possible for the best quality audio!
Recording background Audio
Room tone is the sound of a location when there is no dialogue being spoken. It can often make or break a film, which is strange because when it is done properly you won’t even notice it. However, when it is done poorly it can be quite jarring for the viewer, shattering any illusion of continuity and ripping away their immersion in the video.
The faint buzz of lights, the rustle of an air conditioner and the distant rumble of traffic or an airplane flying overhead are all sources that contribute to the ambience or atmos of a space.
Depending on where the microphone is positioned within a room there will be subtle differences in the ambient sounds because of the spatial relationship between the the microphone and the walls, floor and ceiling. As a result, dialogue recorded in different locations in the same space will have a subtly different room tone. This means that when cuts are made it becomes blaringly apparent to the viewer.
To counteract this, filmmakers will record thirty seconds to a minute of room tone where there is stillness and no talking on set. They will then mix this between cuts to preserve the illusion of continuity.
As you delve into the world of filmmaking, ensuring you record and mix room tone properly is a straightforward way of taking your filmmaking to the next level.
Vimeo’s Film School made a short video highlighting the difference between room tone and ambience with an example of how a film works with/ without mixed room tone. Check it out below!
Fix it After
There are a heap of things you can do with audio in post-production that can improve the overall quality. The most straightforward things are to add narration and sound effects. If you’re filming in a loud area and there is too much disturbance it can be a good idea to record a voice over or narration afterwards. Sound effects are another great way to enhance your video. We have another whole blog on sound effects coming shortly so make sure you tune back in for that.
If you have any questions check out our other blog posts or feel free get in contact with us on Facebook or Twitter. Happy to answer any and all questions regarding iPads and Filmmaking!
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