9 Ways To Elevate Your Audio Production

9 Ways To Elevate Your Audio Production

A forgotten element of video production is half of the experience when watching video: Audio.

It's a well-known fact that audio can make or break your production. However, despite the fact that audio is half the experience of watching a video, it can often become neglected in a lot of run-and-gun situations. 

Most of the time, it's simply because smaller productions may not have a dedicated sound engineer on hand, and there are dozens of other logistics vying for your attention when you're shooting in the field.

If you're looking for some practical tips to improve your current sound setup, here are nine ways you can have better audio for your video projects!

1. Use Quality Mics

In recent years, companies like Rode and Deity have endeavored to bring innovative and affordable audio solutions to filmmakers everywhere. Here are some of the most versatile shotgun/boom mics available right now.
If you’re often on your own and prefer a more flexible wireless setup, the Rode Wireless GO audio system is one of the most popular choices for quality audio in a seriously compact form. Keep in mind that the 2.4 GHz wireless needs a pretty clear line of sight between the receiver on your camera and the transmitter on your talent.

You can use the onboard mic as a clip-on, or plug in a 3.5mm lavalier mic for more professional audio.
The Rode Wireless GO can also be used in tandem with smaller 3.5mm shotgun mics, and has more creative uses than just about any other wireless audio system due to its size and capabilities. It can even allow you to have wireless audio monitoring with virtually zero latency.

2. Use the Right Mic for Every Situation

For the best audio, allow the context of your scene to determine your mic selection.

Microphones have varying characteristics best suited for different environments, and there's really no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to audio.

One easy way to think about your situation is simply to match the look of the shot with the sound of the shot. Generally, if the camera is far from your talent, the audio should sound far from your talent.
For example, if you're shooting an interior scene with whispered dialogue, a shotgun mic mounted to your camera could make your audio sound distant, and probably wouldn't be as effective as a lavalier or low overhead boom mic in properly conveying the context of the environment.

Similarly, if you're shooting a dramatic exterior scene where the camera is a significant distance away from your talent, a boom mic slightly distanced from your talent could be a much better choice than a lavalier mic, because a lav would make the audio feel unrealistically close, while the talent is far away.

Also, think about the direction of audio that you need to capture. Lavalier mics are omnidirectional and capture the entire environment, whereas most shotgun and boom mics hone in on a narrow field of sound, and cut down reflections and reverb.  

To understand how different pickup patterns can affect your audio, check out the great explanation below.
The TL;DR is that supercardioid mics are usually your best choice for clean dialog in a variety of environments, but they do require careful placement and attention when recording. 

3. Hide Lavalier Mics

In the case where you may want to use a wireless lav mic to capture omnidirectional audio, here are a myriad of ways to hide mics in your scene, including some great hacks to get around the issue of rustling fabric!
Whether it's under clothing, in your talent's hair, or on a car visor, these are all simple, but very effective techniques that can give you outstanding results.

4. Record Backup Audio

Nothing is worse than thinking you got the shot, then discovering in post-production that you had a major audio issue.

If you're limited on time and takes, consider using a secondary mic to capture audio. You can purchase some pretty decent lav mics on Amazon that can connect to your talent's smartphone. Just have them use an audio recording app set to the highest quality audio setting, and voila! 

You've got a backup audio source that they can send you later. This will give you some redundancy and peace of mind when recording audio.

5. Record Background Audio

One of the most helpful tips when it comes to recording audio is to quiet the set and capture a couple minutes of room tone or environmental sounds.  

This affords you several advantages you may or may not end up needing. First, it provides you with the ability to have some audio padding in your edit. If you end up needing some audio to fill dead air in a scene, environmental background audio can make a huge difference.
Man recording background audio
Next, it gives you the ability to have a noise print for much better noise reduction/sound removal in post, should you miss an instance of background interference during your talent's lines.

Third, background audio can blend incredibly well with focused shotgun mic audio in the edit, enhancing the soundstage and adding a subtle vibrance to your audio.

6. Actively Monitor Your Audio

It might be tempting to throw headphones on and focus solely on camera work, but make a practice of listening intently to the audio that's coming through the mic. 
Production crew member listening to camera audio
Before calling action, call for a quiet set and listen closely for any sounds that may be avoidable. If you're indoors, you may need to turn off an A/C fan or adjust anything that could get in the way of having pristine audio. 

7. Sync Your Audio Instantly in Premiere Pro

If you've ever had to work on a multi-cam shoot and had to sync audio in post, you know how tedious that can be.

While many NLEs have various ways of syncing audio, here's a very handy tip in Premiere Pro if you want to quickly get your audio synchronized.

8. Use J and L Cuts

One of the more subtle ways to increase production value is by implementing J and L cuts between two different shots.
Image displaying a J cut
Image displaying an L cut
Especially helpful in conversation scenes, J and L cuts can add a cinematic quality to your video that draws the audience in, as opposed to relying solely on hard jump cuts between both video and audio.

9. Know How to Properly Mix Audio

Lastly, be sure you spend some time sweetening the audio in your edit by adding EQs, compression, and any necessary noise reduction.  

You can use a dedicated program like Adobe Audition to fine-tune your sound, or the more non-destructive Essential Sound panel in Premiere Pro.
There you have it, nine ways you can drastically improve your audio. Any tips you've learned in the field for achieving better audio? Let us know in the comments below!

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