How to Get Better Audio in Your Videos
Simple tips to how I make my audio clearer
I’ll never forget that feeling of being so proud of my freshly painted room.
My husband and I spent an entire weekend transforming the walls from khaki to crispy white.
I was beyond eager to film my latest YouTube video, featuring two of my favorite Medium authors, that I jumped into my power-dress, set up the camera, and then hit record.
I posted that video, knowing yes, maybe the audio had a slight echo, but as a relatively small YouTuber at the time I thought it was understandable. The content was after all some of the best content that I had pieced together- people would obviously get that.
Well, this was the first video that took off on my channel, and let’s just say, not all people check your subscriber count when they watch a video. They press play and expect a certain quality.
If you don’t deliver, prepare yourself for the kind, but often disappointing comments that will flood in.
Here are examples of what is attached to that video:
- Thank you so much — I had a little trouble hearing your audio but content was great.
- I had a very hard time with the audio, so left midway. But your content seemed really good.
- Really good video, but I would personally work on the sound.
- Suggestion; re-record your video in a room which is NOT an echo chamber!
That video is almost a year old now and to this day people are still leaving similar comments.
It’s such a shame to put so much time and effort into a video, only for people to be put off by the sound.
I’m still no audio engineer, but I immediately transformed my audio and I can confidently say that I have never had comments about the sound on any of my other videos.
Here are some things I focussed on to get better audio.
The best tip I can provide is not to film in an empty room.
I have found that the best audio when using only a built-in camera or phone-microphones, comes from the sound I record in a closet. This is only practical for voice-overs.
However, the second-best audio, when not using a mic, is in rooms where there are elements that contribute to noise absorption.
When I film on my couch, in my open-plan living room, the audio is far better than if I were to film in a smaller room where there is less noise absorption.
The outdoors may make for cinematic shots, but if there is wind, your camera or mic is likely to pick it up. I’ve tried, but there is very little you can do when the wind is louder than your voice.
Similarly, if you have an aircon or a fan in your filming space, you may be immune to the sound, but I find that when I am wearing headphones, I tend to be more sensitive to background noise. I can even pick up on rain or people walking in the street outside.
With the right mic and the right outdoor wind protection, this could be avoided. But if you are talking straight to the camera without being mindful of noises directly inside your filming location, or noises in your direct surroundings, you may pick it up in your edit which is always a pain.
What I used to do, before I invested in a mic, is that I would have my camera at a distance, and have my phone hidden on my lap.
I would press record, clap my hands so that I would see a spike in both the camera and the phone audio when I was editing, and start my delivery.
Because I was closer to my built-in mic on my phone, I could get the full image I wanted, but then have better audio from what I managed to capture on my phone.
Talking directly into the built-in mic on my phone has, to this day, competing with the sound I achieved from any other mic I’ve purchased.
The only negative is that you do twice the work in the edit, and if you’re pushing out a lot of content, that can feel like a mild form of torture.
There is an ocean of choice when it comes to mics, so I will only speak about what I have personally tried to keep the flow of this article.
I have used both a shotgun mic as well as a wired lavalier.
The best audio has been from the wired lavalier (t-shirt mic), but I do not use it often as it required additional admin.
Personally, I want to film to feel easy.
The minute I get stuck in the setup phase, it becomes a mission and easier to procrastinate.
I have heard too many horror stories of wireless mics, which is why I have opted to not go that route. I have yet to meet a filmmaker who hasn’t had the experience of investing a large amount of time into a shoot, only to find that they had issues with their wireless mic and captured no audio whatsoever.
My go-to is my shotgun mic. I attach it to my camera. It records audio from what is directly in front of it. This means that it does not pick up on background noise in the same way as if I were to use the built-in mic from the camera only.
By now I am sure you can agree that sound is imperative to the viewing experience.
There are budget-friendly options like recording directly into your phone and syncing it in the edit to recording in a cupboard full of clothing.
There are also options like shotgun mics and lavalier microphones. Depending on your choice of brand, these could be something you save for overtime. There are endless options and many brands, but where possible, rent before you buy so that you find what works best for you.
Depending on your editing software, there are options to de-reverb, de-noise, or reduce background noise. Familiarizing yourself with what your editing software offers can help with any final adjustments that may need to be made.
But, don’t rely on the edit to get your audio right. Focus on audio from as early as the filming stage. Allow the editing version of yourself an enjoyable edit.
All the best with fine-tuning your audio.