What? That doesn't sound right? But it is!
I forget where I read or heard this quote, but it's always resonated with me. When I first started in video production, audio wasn't a priority. I was so concerned with the video framing, lighting, exposure, focus, and using smooth and steady movements that I completely ignored the audio quality.
It didn't take me long to realize the importance of quality audio after a couple of failed production shoots. I remember being so embarrassed, showing off my beautiful interview and B-roll footage, only to hear my boss complain about the audio levels.
I, of course, was sent out again to recapture the interview. I don't remember which was more humiliating - reshooting the interview or having to call and explain why I needed to reshoot it.
It's been proven that people will sit through a low quality video with good audio, but they will not sit through a high quality video with bad audio. With that being said, let's cover some quick tips!
Tip #1- Do not use the built-in camera mic.
Say you just bought a new video camera and plan to produce some "in-house" content to post on YouTube, Facebook, or other social media platforms. But you didn't think about buying any additional audio mics to go with the camera. Oops! Here are some of the problems that you might experience:
· The audio might sound "muffled" and "echoey", depending on how close the subject is to the camera and where you're taping.
· You might hear yourself fumbling around with the camera. You may even hear the camera zooming in and out. The camera might pick up the loudest noise in the room and amplify it. Air conditioning, loud noises, birds outside, cars, trucks, people laughing, etc. now seem to be what the camera mic thinks it should focus on. If this happens, the camera mic is likely in auto mode.
All of these things can be extremely distracting during an interview. So how does a professional avoid these problems?
The first thing I do is, of course, use an external mic. When I'm taping an interview and a loud truck rolls by or I hear other distracting noises, I reshoot the segment again, even if it was spot on. The problem of noise interruptions can occur whether you have an external mic or a built-in camera mic, but it's definitely worse with the latter.
So, what do you do if you don't have access to external mic?
· Choose a quiet room, and be sure to turn off any air conditioning.
· Place a "Video Taping in Progress" sign on the door.
· Situate the interview subject as close as possible to the camera. Use a tripod (or a stack of books) so that your hands are not touching the camera.
· Make sure your interview subject is not making extra noise, such as rustling papers or clicking a pen.
Tip #2- Record room tone.
So, what the heck is room tone? It's the ambient sound of the room or area in which you're taping the interview subject. And why the heck do you need it? Here's an article that briefly explains: http://bit.ly/PFe3UR
Room tone is important if you want to edit out "uhms" and "ahhs" and make the video more polished and professional. You can change virtually anything someone says with proper B-roll footage and room tone. Plus, recording room tone will help Visual Media Concepts edit your video if you were to ever need some help! :)
Tip #3- Good or Bad, make sure it's consistent.
Audio levels can be "fixed" or "sweetened" after you finish, but don't rely on this exclusively. Always try to get the best possible audio signal. The proper way to check this is to use headphones and monitor the audio while it's being recorded. If your camera doesn't have a way for you to accomplish this, run a test recording and watch/listen to it.
One thing I've learned is to NOT over-tweak the audio while it's being recorded. Why? Well, it's easier to raise or lower the entire audio track at once than to have to tweak a bunch of areas independently. Don't misunderstand this tip; it's alright to turn the volume slightly up or down. But don't make any dramatic adjustments. If your viewers have to turn the volume up and down while watching the video, then you've lost them. Even if your audio is bad, just let be bad all the way through and then try to fix it in postproduction.
These audio tips are just the tip of the iceberg. Wait until you hear about compression and other ways to tweak your audio!
Do you have a tip for shooting on a low-end camera, phone, or even a prosumer camera? If so, please leave a comment.