I want to share a few of the basic lessons any hopeful videographer should learn. Much like photography,
the best advice is to just get out and shoot shoot shoot
but following these simple points will give you a foundation to make your videos instantly better.
First and foremost is capturing good audio. Wait, what? This is supposed to be tips for shooting good video, what does audio have to do with it? Everything.
Audio is something that most people don’t consciously call out, but in reality it’s one of the first things a viewer picks up on. Believe it or not, viewers will forgive a video for not looking perfect, but if it has bad audio, they’ll tune out and turn it off. So what can you do?
It’s one of those tricky situations where you have to ask what comes first, figuring out how to get great audio or just getting better at framing your shots and overall composition (and editing, which we’ll save for another day). Even if you do invest in an external microphone, which I highly recommend, they’re not the end of the discussion. They will improve the sound quality over any on-camera mic, but DSLRs and entry-level cameras don’t have great audio controls, which will nullify some of the benefits of an external microphone. To deal with this, professional videographers will record to an external audio recorder. You’ll sync up the audio with the video track in post-production. This is why you’ve seen those clapper boards in behind the scenes for movies, to quickly mark the audio and video to later be synced.
But now we’re talking about microphones, audio recorders, and clapper boards? Yeah, let’s back up a minute. That should illustrate the importance of audio, and how it quickly becomes such a big piece of your video production. But you want to know what you can do on a budget to make your video sound better. I have two tips.
1. Don’t use the camera’s audio.
If you’re filming around town or even shots of your family, just mute the audio track when you’re editing, and add a song to the background. I produced a video for Columbus startup Snapstagram that uses this technique.
But what if you want to hear people laughing or clapping? Just lower the volume of the track to mix it in with your music and any flaws in the audio won’t be as apparent.
Any music you select should be royalty free and you must have the proper permission to use it for personal or commercial use. You can find good resources at the Vimeo Music Store (free & paid) and The Music Bed (paid).
2. Record audio using your iPhone (or other mobile device)
The audio quality isn’t going to rival a professional microphone, but one of the biggest benefits is its small size and portability. You can stick it close to the audio source, such as on a table in front of a person speaking, and it will instantly sound better than your camera that may be three or five feet away. It’s inconspicuous and you always have it on you. To me, that makes it a great backup option.
Quality microphones that plug directly into your phone are starting to become affordable, so this will only increase the viability of using a mobile device as a dedicated audio recorder on a video shoot.
Whew, that was a lot of time spent on audio basics. But hopefully it drills home one thing: audio is extremely important, and often the one thing people ignore or forget in their videos. I’ll watch a video that isn’t composed or lit like a Hollywood production. But if I can’t hear what the person is saying, why would I stick around?
Check back in 2 weeks for Andy’s next post explaining light and stabilization! (Top photo credit to Cory Staudacher)
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