Filmmaking Tip: Audio

September 28th, 2012

ThailandThey Said

This is a video tip series in which we’ll single out one technique we used in our films to help you make better travel films. If you’re new to our films, Humanity.TV aims to inspire authentic travel through brief but intimate HD videos on fascinating people around the world.

The Sustainable Farmer from Humanity.TV on Vimeo.

If you’re just starting out with filmmaking, you’ve likely spent most of your time trying to capture the best shot. This tip reminds you that while visuals may be the most obvious sign of a captivating video, they are only half the equation. Good audio makes good video, plain and simple.

To put it another way, bad audio can very easily make a bad video or detract from an otherwise awesome video. While this is especially true when documenting people, it’s not the only audio you need to cleanly capture in your video. Natural sounds are a huge part of giving your video a full dimension and they are frequently overlooked by beginners. Notice the natural sounds at the start of the posted video that were purposefully recorded to establish the environment and bring the viewer in just before the introduction of a voice.

There are a bunch of tools to help you capture high-quality audio from a microphone other than the one built into your camera. These built-in mics are problematic, even on the best cameras and especially on digital cameras and phones. For starters, they’re not directional so they pick up all the ambient noise around you, starting with whatever’s closest to them (generally your voice and/or movements). You want a dedicated mic that will let you hone in on the noise you’re trying to capture, like our farmer’s voice without distracting ambient noise in our video.

Rode is one of the best known microphone brands. We use a Rode Videomic Pro that sits on our Canon DSLRs, making for convenient and directional audio capture. We also use a dedicated recorder, the Zoom H4N, which let’s us capture stereo sound for a fuller, more natural sound (two channels – left and right – as opposed to mono, one channel). One thing to keep in mind when using a recorder like the Zoom is that you’ll have to sync the audio with the video in editing. One way to do this with the help of a clapper (link) but it’s often easy on smaller projects to sync up visually. And as you get more pro and invest in tools to streamline your editing, check out PluralEyes, which automatically syncs audio and video.

For your next video, consciously think of capturing clean sounds – interview people in quiet places and direct your mic at the source of the sound you want to capture. Stay tuned for our third filmmaking tip, and if you missed our first tip, check out how to elicit emotion from your viewers.

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