Let’s Talk Audio: What You Will Need to Get Started on Your Next Video Production
Think back to the last time you saw an advertisement, interview, or explainer video on the internet that you were impressed by. Do you remember thinking at any point, “Wow, this audio is really spectacular”? …Probably not. But don’t worry, that’s the way it should be!
As an audio engineer, I take pride in providing the cleanest, most crisp audio to support the videos I work on. My goal is always to match the feeling of the video with sound, and subtlety is often the most effective way to do so. When an audience has no clue of my existence, I know that I’ve done my job right.
Naturally, there is going to be a difference in sound quality between what the average hobbyist video editor can accomplish with consumer level recording gear and software, and what a professional audio engineer can provide with top of the line microphones, recording gear, digital audio workstations, as well as years of training and experience.
My advice, if you have the resources, is always to enlist the help of an audio engineer to ensure your video is of the highest quality and can most effectively grab the attention of the audience. After putting so much time, effort, and resources into your video, the last thing you want is for its message to be weakened by muddy or blemished audio.
However, not everyone has the time and/or money to hire an audio engineer for every video production. For those of you in that boat, do not fret!
You don’t need to have ears like a fox to have great audio in your next video marketing campaign. In this blog we will go over a few basic things you will need in order to get started recording your own audio in your next video production.
It Starts at the Source
If you want to end with great audio in your video, it is best to start with great audio for your video. There are 3 main components you will need to consider when capturing audio: a microphone, an audio interface, and software that you will record into. Let’s briefly go over each of those.
There are a few basic types of Microphones to consider when recording dialog.
Lavalier Mics– These are small microphones that clip onto the subject’s collar or tie as they are speaking. They are specifically designed to pick up dialog, and not much else. While they may not be the most sophisticated microphones, they are inexpensive, often wireless, and relatively unnoticeable to the viewer and the subject, which can be a great thing if the subject doesn’t have proper etiquette with a handheld microphone.
Handheld or Podium Mics – These are your workhorse microphones. They are reliable, sound great when used correctly, and because they are not wireless, they will work 100% of the time when connected properly. There are plenty of gooseneck style podium microphones available on the market. Alternatively, you could opt for the industry standard Shure SM57. It is inexpensive, sturdy as a hammer, and has been used on the podiums of all US presidents since Lyndon B. Johnson. If it is good enough for them, it should be good enough for you.
Shotgun Mics – Named for their resemblance to the barrel of a shotgun, these mics work very well, especially in conjunction with a lavalier mic. They are extremely directional, meaning they will pick up sound from where you point them, and reject sound from where you don’t. If you have multiple subjects in the same shot, you may want to consider either using multiple or a different type of microphone altogether.
When talking about audio interfaces, the discussion can turn pretty technical, pretty fast. But we don’t need to worry about too much of the specifications right now. All you need to know is that an audio interface takes an electrical signal from the microphone and converts it into a digital waveform that your computer can understand.
For basic productions you will want an interface that has built-in preamplifiers, a USB connection for your computer, and probably somewhere between 2-4 inputs. There are several inexpensive interfaces available today that meet these qualifications. Keep in mind the standard connections for microphones and audio interfaces are XLR cables.
There are two main routes you can chose when recording audio for video productions. The first is recording directly into your video editing software, which is probably the most straightforward option. This way you don’t have to worry about buying new software, learning it, and using multiple programs in conjunction with each other.
The other route is buying a dedicated Digital Audio Workstation. If you are willing to spend the money and take the time to learn the program, Pro Tools is the industry standard for recording, editing, and mixing audio for film and video. It has the most features of any digital audio workstation and is laid out in a way that is intuitive for audio editing and mixing. While this is not the easiest route, I can guarantee it will provide you with the best results.
Try to envision your next video production. What are your wants and needs? Is it a small production, or a bigger production with multiple subject? Do you want it to be seen by a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand?
Planning and managing your expectations is the first step in determining what your audio needs will be. Enlisting the help of an audio engineer is not the cheapest option, but the results will speak for themselves. Alternatively, doing it yourself can be a fun and rewarding process. If you keep in mind what we have discussed in this article, you should be off to a great start.
As audio engineering assistant, Trevor Stull gives a boost to Granite Creative’s video and animation production team. Trevor works hard to ensure each finished video project meets the highest standards of quality while also assisting the team during on-set and on-location video productions, aiding in camera and lighting setup and tear down, as well as recording crisp, clean audio.