7 Tips For Improving The Quality of The Audio In Your Videos

04.08.2014 15:32

7 Tips For Improving The Quality of The Audio In Your Videos
                by Craig Vollgraff, Video Producer, Inspire Video Marketing www.inspirevideomarketing.com

I’m often asked how to increase the quality of video productions, and invariably this leads to a discussion of what my friend and business partner Steven Osinski calls “Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. In other words, planning your video by refining the content and planning how and what you are going to shoot, (or shooting for the edit) are 2 of the keys that will separate your video from an average one. The 3rd key (and most overlooked key) is making sure your video has a great audio track.

While I am a huge proponent of creativity, making sure the basics of your production are covered is essential to putting out a great product. As Mark Shapiro and I have discussed recently, one of the most overlooked aspects of video production is good audio.  Good audio is a critical factor in a great video. I can’t count the number of videos where the audio was subpar, where the speaker’s voice was far too low in the mix, where the ambient noise was far too loud, or where the balance between the voiceover and the backing track or music bed was poor, resulting in a less than effective presentation. In music productions featuring vocal performances you are taught that everything exists to support the vocalist(s), and the message of the song. It’s no different in video production. Everything you do, every frame, every motion graphic, every effect exists to support and amplify the intent and message of the production.

How can you get good audio? Good audio takes good equipment, a proper setup, proper monitoring, and decent post production skills. Notice I did not say it takes lots of money. Don’t think for a second that good equipment costs a small fortune or is only applicable for large productions. Companies like Azden, Rode, Audio Technica and Tascam all make high quality budget friendly gear that can produce high quality results. I’ve gotten great audio with $20 wired lavs and nearly unusable audio from $600 wireless mics. If the shooter had paid more attention to the setup and monitoring had been better, the audio would have been usable as shot and would not have had to be resurrected take by take in post. Save yourself the headaches by doing the following:

  1. Take some time to research the mics and audio recorders that are within your budget. Google the product’s name and read the reviews on Amazon, DSLR Shooter, Creative Cow, etc. This will help you determine if the product you’re considering is worthy of your hard earned money, and in what circumstances it’s a good tool to capture high quality audio.
  2. Use the right tool for the job. The most common microphones for video production are:
  • Lavalier mics (mics that clip onto the presenter’s clothing} Use a lav mic when you are shooting a single subject or in an interview situation and you or your presenter want to have their hands free.
  • Handheld mics: Handheld mics are great when you are in an interview situation and have a host who can direct the mic to the person they are interviewing (such as a red carpet event, movie premieres, etc.)
  • Shotgun mics: Shotgun mics are great for capturing audio in situations where ambient noise is not a big issue, and/or where you have a dedicated audio person who can position the mic to capture the best possible sound in a group situation. 



 3. Make sure your mic and audio recorder are setup properly and your audio signal is solid and free of noise and hum. Most consumer or prosumer audio gear uses 3.5mm unbalanced inputs and outputs. Unbalanced connections make getting a good clean audio signal more challenging because unbalanced gear is susceptible to electrical hum, RF interference and a host of other unpleasant things. Most professional audio gear has balanced inputs and outputs that help to “balance” or cancel out noise, shield the connections and minimize interference and hum. These balanced inputs usually come in the form of XLR or TRS connectors consisting of a ground (cable shield), a positive (or hot), and a negative (or cold).

4. Monitor your audio during shooting. The axiom that “Nothing stays the same” is doubly true in video production. Your talent can move, pulling cables out of jacks, batteries can die in the middle of the best take ever, or the SD card in your audio recorder runs out of space. Use both your eyes and ears during shooting to be certain that you’re capturing high quality audio. Headphones are an absolute must to do this properly. Heed this advice as it will make everyone’s job easier.

5. Check the quality of your audio (and video files) immediately after shooting. There is nothing more embarrassing for a videographer than having to explain to a client that the footage they shot is unusable due to an error on your part. All of the confidence your client had in your abilities is gone when you make that call. To prevent yourself from looking like an incompetent fool, review your footage on location to be sure that you’ve captured quality audio and video files. You’ll be glad you did.

6. Create a good balance between your audio track and your music track. Most music tracks are mastered to be as loud as possible. To support your audio track without competing with it, reduce the audio gain of your backing track by 24-32 db, and adjust to taste. Remember that supporting the talent and the message of your video is the #1 goal.

7. Finally, remember that video production is a journey. Developing any skill or competency takes practice, and lots of it. Video production is a rich, creative, collaborative endeavor filled with endless opportunities for personal and professional growth. Savor the moment, and enjoy the ride!




Craig Vollgraff is a video producer and the owner of Inspire Video Marketing, a video production & marketing company based in San Diego, CA. Craig’s background in technology, entertainment, market research and marketing helps entrepreneurs & small to medium businesses attract more and better clients through the use of targeted online video. Check them out at www.inspirevideomarketing.com