Whether you have knowledge of filmmaking already, or if you’re interested in having a promotional video made by us, you probably know that sound is even more important than the picture when it comes to film or video.
If this doesn’t seem accurate to you, try out this simple experiment:
- turn off the sound and watch a movie on silent for several minutes,
- then turn the sound back on, but don’t look at the picture.
The latter is something most of us do every now and then. People watch TV while cooking, cleaning or paying their bills and during this time they are distracted from the picture, but keep listening to the audio.
So what can you do to record better sound? In this article we won’t focus on soundtracks or voiceovers, but will instead discuss something which is hard to fix at the post-production stage: sounds recorded on location (diegetic sound).
Here are five tips that will help you control what is being picked up by microphones:
1. Listen to your location
Wind, cars driving past, children in a playground, birdsongs ― all of these are natural sounds of the outdoors and you can’t change them, but you need to make sure they set the right mood for your video.
Even when shooting in a room, there are always some external noises ― air conditioning units, clocks and even some lightbulbs make their own sound.
It may seem quiet to your ears, but it becomes a lot louder in the video. To make sure your location sound matches your plan, record it for several minutes and listen to it before you start shooting.
2. Ignore the dialogue
As a videographer, you should pay attention to the sound at the time of recording and try not to get distracted by dialogue. The speech volume, background noises and the quality of the picture are the only things that matter at this stage.
3. Record extra pieces of location sound
When there is no extra action going on, you are able to fully concentrate on the background sounds. Record the sounds you are looking for before or after the shoot and use it later.
4. Use soft cushions and carpets to create a quiet atmosphere
You can mute the room’s sound by using a lot of fabric. If you need a quieter space, add pillows, blankets and carpets. Keep in mind that you will need to adjust the volume too.
5. Place the mic correctly
This tip is mostly for recording dialogue and interviews. Although using an on-camera microphone for this is not recommended, if you have to use one make sure you’re as close as possible to the person who is talking.
When using a hidden lavalier mic, double-check that no hair, buttons or fabric layers can touch it when the person moves. Scratching noises from these kind of materials can be a nightmare and send audiences reeling! Another option is to cover the mic with special fabric.
If you’re shooting with a directional or boom mic, it is possible to obtain the best speech quality, but in this case you also need a helper who can adjust the position of the microphone while you shoot.
Your main goal is to make sure there are no loud external noises disrupting the dialogue, but in most cases you also need to have some natural noises in the background.
A video where people are talking outdoors, but the environment is completely quiet with no street sounds seems odd.
Although you can add audio at the time of editing, the results will be more natural if you use original location sounds and then edit or enhance them if needed.
With a growing number of users consuming videos on their mobile devices, sound is becoming even more important. Keep in mind that a lot of your customers are going to watch your video on a small screen, often using headphones. Studies show that viewers can tolerate poor picture quality in some cases, but they are very unlikely to watch videos with bad audio.
The bottom line is that audio is vital in video production, so make sure your videos not only look good, but that they sound good too.