Great Video Starts with Your Ears

August 18, 2017 / By

You may have encountered Atanas Bakalov as one of the tireless leaders on our education team. But you might not know that Atanas is not only a passionate voice for education, but he’s an experienced professional TV and film technician! This month he’s dug into his bag of tricks to share some helpful audio tips that you can use in your own projects.
It’s easy to get caught up in the visual wizardry of video. But ask any pro about what separates amateur video from high-end production and one of the first things they’ll point to is good sound.
As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” Sound is easy to overlook when you are shooting video. With a little planning, you can dramatically improve the quality of sound recording on any video shoot. Here are some tips to get you started:
1) Choose your locations with sound in mind
A couple of years ago, I was hired at the last minute as the sound mixer for a TV pilot. All the locations had already been selected and locked before I arrived on the scene. You can imagine my chagrin when I discovered that a key exterior scene was to be shot next to an interstate highway. Suffice it to say that I couldn’t do much to record quality sound at that location no matter how hard I tried. The only choice I had was to advise the director to plan on dubbing the dialog in post-production.
To avoid this mistake, make sure you keep your ears open when you do location scouting. Paying attention during the early stages can pay off big time during production. Pick places that are relatively quiet and/or plan to shoot during the times of day when the noise will be minimal. Factors to avoid when choosing locations include sources of hum such as traffic or airplane noise, unpredictable human-created noises (for example, proximity to a sports field), etc. Close your eyes and open your ears; you’ll be amazed what you notice.
2) Control the room
When shooting interiors, be mindful of the way your voice resonates in the space you are in. You will discover that large rooms with bare walls are echoey. Low ceilings can boost volume unnaturally. When excessive, these effects will invariably seep into your recording leading to a sub-par final product.
If you are stuck with a “bad” room, a quick trick to dampen the effects I described is to cover the walls with drapes or blankets. You’ll be amazed at how even partial coverage can lead to substantial gains in sound quality.
3) Use external microphones when possible
Experience will quickly convince you that your cell phone, iPad, and most other handheld video capture devices will not give you the full, rich, compelling sound normally associated with high caliber video.
The good news is that even a simple, inexpensive external microphone can go a long way toward mitigating this problem. The choices are endless, but really there are two basic mic types to keep in mind: the lapel (or lavalier) microphone that you clip onto the person who is speaking or other sound source, and the directional (shotgun) microphone that you aim at your audio source. In both cases, try to get your microphone close to your audio source while making sure it doesn’t creep into the frame.
4) Keep it “quiet on the set”
This is probably stating the obvious, but it is easy to overlook ambient sounds that you’ve become accustomed to. Turn off the AC before you roll the camera. Make sure your crew members aren’t chit-chatting by the water cooler in the middle of your take while your actors are pouring their hearts out. Take as many precautions as you can to keep your original audio clean, loud, and free of interruptions.
I’ve only scratched the surface of good audio recording, but with even these few basics you can achieve remarkable results. For tips on working with your audio after your shoot has ended, check out these videos at WeVideo Academy.
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Guest Author: Atanas Bakalov, Customer Success Manager at WeVideo