Do you want a surefire way alienate the audience for your film or video project? Show them your finished work with sub-par audio. As a rule, audiences seem to be more annoyed by poor sound quality than by bad video. It isn’t just professional work I’m talking about, try sitting through a 2 hour family vacation extravaganza where the audio is too loud and distorts or is barely audible above the location noise. I guarantee you that most people watching will be taken right out of the story.
There is no arguing the point, sound is the most crucial component for producing excellent video. Yes, I’ve been a “sound guy” for decades but not many serious producers or directors would disagree with me. Ignore the quality of your sound at your own peril.
If you’ve listened to Episode 05 of our show you already know that I took the audio for granted on a video I shot of my kids making it virtually unusable. As a reminder to myself and others I offer some very basic tips that may help ensure better audio quality for your home video projects.
- Make sure your video camera has a jack for an external microphone. You don’t need an pro XLR connection. A 3.5mm mini-jack connection will do just fine. Using an external microphone gives you more flexibility for controlling the sound environment.
- Use a quality microphone. These days you can get relatively inexpensive microphones that provide excellent quality. A built-in camera microphone will give you decent quality but no where near what you’d get with an external setup.
- Decide on the correct microphones for your shoot and position them carefully. Clip-on microphones (also known as a Lavalier microphone) should be placed as close to your subject’s mouth as possible. Most Lavalier mics are omnidirectional, which is to say they can pick up sound from virtually any direction, so the closer you get to the mouth the more prominent your subject’s voice will be in the video. A shotgun microphone is a highly directional microphone with a tube that resembles the barrel of a rifle and should be aimed at the source of whatever you intend to record. A hand-held mic is just that, a microphone you hold in your hand that should be tucked under your chin anywhere from a foot to 6 inches away from the mouth.
- Always monitor your sound as you record with full-sized headphones and not earbuds. Full-sized headphones help block out extraneous noise giving you a clearer sense of what you are committing to tape.
- When recording outdoors use a wind muff. A “dead cat” wind muff can be especially effective. This type of wind screen is usually an acoustically transparent, synthetic fur material with long, soft hairs. The hairs deaden the noise caused by the shock of wind.
- If you do end up with sub-par audio you can always try fixing it in post production. Re-recording some segments and syncing it to your video is an option. Recording a voiced over narration track or using music cues can also help cover up bad audio.