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As a general rule, your videography will need to include audio. There are exceptions to this that include B Roll footage and stock videos however, for most genres and in most situations high quality audio is a key element in videography. Audio adds a whole new dimension to videography and if it’s missing or badly executed then the audience’s experience will be significantly damaged.
Do Your Videos Need Audio? Sound is a vital part of videography and in some ways getting the sound crystal clear is just as important as getting the visuals right. Huge amounts of information are put across, in conscious and unconscious ways, to your audience through the audio elements of a video. The sounds in your video connects the viewer to the screen and drops them right into the action immediately.
Audio helps to engage the audience and increases the overall production values of the footage. The sounds in a video instantly set the mood and evoke powerful responses in the viewer. Just think of that famous Jaws audio when the shark is circling the boat! Most people who watched that movie decades ago will be unable to visualize the scene very clearly but they’ll all, without exception, remember that eerie audio track.
What’s Included in the Audio Track?
There are many facets to creating good audio for your videos but what you chose and will need to use will depend on the nature of your project. The main things to consider though are:
- Speech and Language. This will usually be recorded with the primary, or A Roll footage. Actors, interviewees and other subjects in the video will need to be adequately mic’d up. Alternatively you can use voice overs or narrators.
- Sound Effects. These can be recorded on location but you can also add more in post production to highlight or emphasize certain details of the plot. Sound effects are a universal way of telling the audience something about the action on screen. When sound effects are used well they can add texture to the video and create a more immersive experience for the viewer. Sound effects are especially useful when you’re putting together an animation – for instance a ‘ding’ on an elevator or the ‘creek’ of a door.
- Music. One of the most effective ways of setting the mood of a scene is to use music or songs. The tone of the music will impact the entire video so getting it right is vital to creating a well rounded video.
- Silence. Just as audio, music and speech are valuable tools in videography, silence can also be used to build tension, create dramatic pauses and highlight facial expressions and other action in the plot. Although you should avoid over using silence in your work, getting the balance correct can have good effects to the overall feel of the footage.
Note of Caution on Audio in Your Videography.
Remember, that just as a well chosen, smoothly edited and well transitioned audio track can transform your video into a highly engaging masterpiece; badly edited and poorly selected audio can absolutely ruin your project!
Crackly voices, out of time sound effects and the wrong music will make your video look worse than amateur and your audience will switch off straight away.
Many videographers, particularly when they are starting out, will forget about the audio in the excitement of filming the footage on location and then only try to fix it later in post production! The problem is though, that even with the best editing skills you might not be able to fix a bad audio track without going back and refilming the entire project.
How To Select the Best Type of Audio for Videography?
When you’re trying to decide what type of audio you’re going to need for your footage you should try to visualize the finished footage and imagine what would help to emphasize the important elements of the project.
When selecting the audio for your video you want to avoid letting the audio take over or distract attention from the main points of the footage. Instead, it should compliment what the audience is seeing on screen and help to highlight the significant details.
For speech and language it’s usually best to record the audio on location. Exceptions to this are in the documentary genre where voice overs are the more traditional approach. The reason for this is that having a presenter on screen throughout a documentary would distract from the visuals and would make it harder for the viewer to immerse themselves in the film.
It’s usually best to incorporate the music track into your video during the post production phase of the project. This will allow you to smoothly fade the music in and out, cut up the tracks as needed and let you sit back and see how it’s affecting the overall feel of the video.
Sound effects can also be added during the post production phase but they will also be picked up during the filming. Be careful not to over do the sound effects while you’re editing otherwise it can make the footage feel cartoonish and amateur – unless you’re creating a comedy in which case it might be appropriate to exaggerate them.
Free and Paid Audio Services To Get You Started.
When you’re creating an audio track for your footage you don’t need to create all the sounds yourself. Much like a videographer might buy some B Roll footage you can also obtain sound effects and royalty free music to use in your projects – either for free or by paying for it.
SoundBible.com – Free Sound Effects For Your Videography.
The Sound Bible has a great free database with over 2000 sound effects that are all royalty free and accredited under a Creative Commons license. This means that you can download them and incorporate them into your videography and use them for any purposes, including commercial.
With everything from heavy rain sounds to an airplane landing you’re bound to find what you need with the easy to use interface that requires no log in to use.
MusicVine.com – Multiple Paid Packages.
MusicVine is one of the best sites on the net for quickly getting hold of top quality music for your projects. You need to register but there are several ways you can pay for the music – either pay per use or by subscription. The service is of an extremely professional, high quality standard and they’ve provided music for everyone from Tesla to Amazon.
Tips for Making the Most of Audio in Your Videography.
As well as relying on third party platforms to get your sound effects and music you are still going to have to master recording your own audio as well – particularly when you are shooting on site. This applies whether you are making an independent film or shooting a wedding video.
Use a Separate Audio Recorder.
While you’re shooting on site, although your camera will have an audio feature, it can yield better results to use a separate audio recorder as well. This will give you a solid audio track which you can incorporate in post production. With a specifically designed audio recorder you’ll have far more control over the levels and gain.
External Mic – but which one?
When you’re recording audio on location you should really be using a microphone to get a consistent level that doesn’t fade in and out as the camera moves around. Microphones are frequently used in video production but there’s quite a wide range to choose from. Selecting the right microphone is critical though to get the best results and if you’re filming on location you should certainly have at least one or two auxiliary microphones at your disposal.
The Main Types of Microphones to Consider.
- Shotgun mic. This is probably the most versatile all round directional microphone however they are not advised for locations that have high background noise levels because these will also be picked up.
- Wireless mic. These are a fantastic choice because they can be placed anywhere giving you the freedom to sculpt the sound structure for your footage.
- Handheld mic. If you’re conducting an interview then this is the go to choice for most people. Frequently used by journalists and bloggers you can get a pro quality handheld mic for a very reasonable price.
- Boundary mic. Since you can inconspicuously place these anywhere without them being noticed they are very handy – particular if you’re working indoors or on a cluttered set. They have a very wide coverage and if you use multiple boundary mics you’ll get a nicely rounded audio sound.
- Stereo mic. You’ll have to learn how to properly adjust and set the gain levels but once you do they can record musical performances and deliver a natural sound and ambiance.
- Wired lavalier mic. Since they clip directly onto the lapel of a person they pick up perfect audio for voices and speech. Often used in interview settings although if they are placed more discreetly they can be used in other situations too.
Select Your Shooting Location Carefully.
When you’re scoping out a site for a shoot be aware of factors that might ruin your audio. For instance, an extremely windy location will muffle the voices of the actors and disrupt the sound quality throughout the shoot. Similarly, if you’re filming next to a busy road you’ll have traffic sounds, horns and other distractions caught on the audio track which could ruin otherwise perfect footage.
It’s not only outdoors though that you need to be vigilant about background noises. If you’re shooting indoors be aware of things like an air conditioning system; which although you may not notice anymore because you’re used to it will still come out very prominently in the audio of your footage.
Audio In Video is a Powerful Tool.
When you’re shooting video you need to be constantly aware of the audio elements that go into making up the finished product. The audio track of a video can make or break it and so you need to work hard to get it right the first time.
If you use the audio elements well the audience will hardly notice them because they will feel natural and fully incorporated into the video. The right music, sound effects and background noises will have the effect of immediately drawing the audience into the video.
The audio track of a video operates, in part, on a subconscious level, and so when you hit the mark it will make your work feel professional and slick. On the other hand though, if you get it wrong it can ruin the viewing experience and make the project seem amateur and poorly produced.
Using external mics, taking care in selecting the location of your shoot and constantly staying aware of the audio while you film will mean that your projects are highly engaging and immersive.
I use Epidemic Sound for my audio. Which service do you use?