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Getting Clean Audio - DIY Tips

You know the difference a professionally shot video can make for your business branding. Now that you’ve seen results, you’re a bit of a perfectionist. Good. So are we.

So now that you’ve seen the power of video in web marketing and social media, don’t get gun-shy about blasting out those announcements that are too big for an arm’s-length selfie, but too small to call in a production crew! Afraid your audio’s going to sound like you shot in a tin can? A production cart full of gear isn’t necessary to solve that problem.

The first step to better audio is to simply find a pair of headphones. That air conditioner you didn’t notice kicking in during the middle of a quiet interview? Being able to turn the A/C off and reshoot is a simple fix that’s only available if you’re listening while recording. Second, get the mic close to the people who are talking. Sometimes zooming out and moving the camera in closer cleans things up. Remember the inverse square law? Getting a little closer can make a large difference.

Bad audio kills more video than any other technical problem, and your camcorder’s built-in mic isn’t your friend. Outside of ENG (electronic news gathering) assignments, professional camera operators rarely use audio from an on-camera microphone. Even in ENG shooting, news photographers typically use a mic with a hypercardioid pattern that’s sensitive to what’s in front of them, but less sensitive to things on the side.

For quality sound, you need to be close to the source, especially if you're picking up sound with a mic that's omnidirectional.

Professional sound mixers typically use tie clip style mics called lavaliers along with wireless transmitters and receivers costing thousands of dollars so they can get the mic closer to the source of the sound. For great “talking head” shots where people aren’t walking around, a wired lavalier mic will do the trick nicely, and for around $60, you can get one that will plug into the mic jack of a consumer camcorder. Just don’t forget about it and pull the tripod over with the cord!

Finally, if you’re shooting indoors, room acoustics can make a big difference. A “hard” room like a karate dojo sounds very different from a carpeted room with tapestries on the walls. When you’re picking out an interview spot, try clapping your hands and listening to the sound. That feeling of hardness or softness comes through a lot more on camera than it does in your ears.

Bad audio is much more distracting than bad video, but now you’re well on your way to resolving problem #1 first. Experiment and have fun on your own, but call me when you need to hire a professional.

In the next article, we’ll look at the capturing accurate skin tones and dealing with lighting basics.

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