The confusion begins right in the name of the entire art form itself: video production. This seems to imply that the visual element should be the first and primary concern, but that’s not always the case. Sound production, in fact, could be the determining factor in someone watching your video until the end, or quickly abandoning it.People can fill in little visual mistakes or gaps; they’re used to it, and they’ll forgive you as long as they can make sense of the bigger picture. Shabby sound, though, is harder for audiences to tolerate. They’ll bail on you before your video’s compete if they can’t hear, and therefore, can’t follow the story.
There are a few ways that you can help yourself and your sound. For any video production to be effective, it needs to be coherent, to speak the same language as the audience, and they have to be able to hear it, vividly.
As recording technology gets better, there’s more potential for error.
Sound recording equipment, like any technology in the video production industry, is better than ever at the moment. While the possibility of getting truly high-quality sound presents obvious advantages, this kind of progression also means that the end result has the potential to be that much worse. Let me elaborate.
The sound recording devices available today are capable of picking up even the finest audible details. That’s great, in terms of range and having a lot to play with in sound design. However, the problem that many sound recorders encounter with the new devices is that they do, in fact, pick up everything, including unwanted sounds.
There are some precautions and actions that can be taken through all phases of production to prevent or fix these kinds of issues. You just need to know the basics.
Choose the right tool for the job.
Again, with all the new and improved technology available, you need to make sure you choose the right microphone for the job. Different microphones have different strengths and pickup patterns. You’d want a shotgun mic for different reasons than you’d want a wireless lav or handheld mic.
For example, if you’re doing an interview setup in a controlled, sit-down environment, a handheld mic would be a good choice. However, if the speaker will be more mobile and the video production less controlled, you may want to hook a lavalier up to the subject to ensure consistent quality.
Additionally, choosing the right equipment to handle the sound environment also means ensuring you have the necessary tools to protect against any wind and weather that may be inherent to the location, which leads me to the next point.
Scout the location in pre-production.
Whether you’re handling sound on your own video production or you hire out, someone needs to visit the location prior to the shoot to get an idea of the acoustic environment. It’s not just about swinging by and cupping your hand over your ear like a funnel to get a rough idea of the overall noise either.
Just like you would bring the camera to test lighting conditions and such, you should bring the sound recorder that will be used to the location as well. Things sound different to the ear than they do on ear phones.
Something like an air conditioner or heater can sound somewhat natural, even harmless to most people, simply because they’re so used to these types of sounds. However, these harmless sounds can prove to be disastrous when it comes to recording sound at a location. It’s better to be prepared for this type of issue than to have to confront it for the first time out on set.
Consider a separate sound recorder.
So, you’ve scouted the location and have chosen the appropriate microphone(s) for the job, now what about the actual recorder? Some cameras come equipped with a gain circuit to maintain consistent recording levels, but the results can be lacking in certain areas.
A separate sound recorder can help alleviate this issue. It’s solely dedicated to capturing the desired sound levels, so you won’t have an issue with the quality of results.
It’s not just the quality either. Like any stock version of something, most of the recorders built in to DV cameras are missing something. In this case, you have more control over different aspects of the sound with a separate recorder than you would with a stock version in a DV camera.
Consider a separate tool in post as well.
This is probably the most common mistake. Most video production companies use an editing software that caters more to video. They’re designed without sound, specifically, in mind.
That’s why, if you’re dealing with any type of multi-layered, complex sound design, you may want to get software dedicated to audio design, such as Pro Tools.
It’s the same as using the stock video editor on an iPhone versus Adobe Premiere Pro. Yes, you can basically do the same thing, but there are far fewer options. A program like Pro Tools offers heightened control over all aspects of the sound design.
Enough about equipment, now you have to put it to work.
Don’t forget ambient sound! Sorry for yelling, but that seems to be a very common mistake. You must record ambient sound, and you’d be surprised how often this gets overlooked.
Ambient sound, the shooting location’s version of silence, can be used to fill in quiet moments and gaps. Also, it’s very helpful when trying to insert shots from another location while, at the same time, trying to imply that it’s actually still the same place in the finished cut of the video production.
Also, microphone position is essential to consistent and solid sound levels. Again, this depends on the choice of microphone and its pickup pattern, as well as the sound environment at the location.
The bottom line: Sound is often cast off to the side during video production, as if it’s not integral to the process. If you take the time to scout the location, choose the best equipment, and then use it correctly, your video could be like music to the ears of the audience.
KVibe Productions is a full-service video production company. Whether it’s a product video production, a corporate video, or a commercial production, KVibe offers the total package of multimedia services from development through distribution.