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Tips for recording quality audio in videos

A video is only as good as its audio. Make your videos sound better with these simple tips.

Audio is arguably the most important part of your video. People will tolerate bad video but not poor audio. If you have any budget for equipment, consider applying it toward improving sound because quality audio makes the production value of your videos skyrocket. Even if buying new gear isn’t feasible, you can make your videos sound better by following a few simple steps.

 

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Keep the microphone as close to your subject as possible.

The key to recording quality audio is to keep the microphone as close to your subject as possible. This helps reduce interference from background noise or ambient sounds and will ensure you’re getting a clean audio feed from your subject.

General rule of thumb: arm’s length away, internal mic okay.

If you’re taking a selfie video and holding your device in your hand, your device’s internal microphone should be sufficient. Just be sure your hand isn’t covering up or muffling the speakers on your device while you’re recording. The internal microphones on most smartphones tend to be more capable than the ones on digital cameras, so it’s a good idea to do a couple test recordings to make sure your device’s audio will be adequate.

Pro tip: Use a separate audio recorder and external microphone.

If your device is farther than an arm’s length away, the internal microphone isn’t going to cut it. A separate audio recorder and microphone is a must. An audio recorder can be anything from a laptop to a professional audio board, and the best recorder is the one you have. Some recorders may double as a microphone, which can be a great option when you’re recording voice overs or narration and don’t have to worry about the recorder being in the shot. When you’re filming the speaker on screen, an external microphone is critical to getting that top-quality audio that you want.

If you’re filming with a video camera or DSLR camera, find an external microphone that connects to your camera so that you’re recording both video and audio all in one device, bypassing the need for a separate audio recorder. There are a wide variety of directional camera mics that will plug directly into your camera and attach to the top.

If you’re filming with a smartphone, look for external lavalier microphones that can plug into your phone or other device. Depending on your phone and the connections on the microphone, you may need to get an adapter in order to plug the mic in properly. If you’re using a Mac computer as your audio recorder, you can record your track through QuickTime.

Handheld recorders are a great option if you do a lot of videos and want to have a dedicated audio device and workflow. Most handheld recorders feature their own speakers, which makes them great for voiceover work, and they also have an outlet for a lavalier microphone. Handhelds recorders let you adjust settings as needed so that you can be sure to capture great audio no matter where you’re recording.

Shotgun microphones are long bar or barrel shaped mics that can be attached to a pole and positioned overhead of the subject, out of frame. These mics are directional mics, so they do a great job of filtering out background noise and only capturing the sounds directly in front of them. Your phone can act as a shotgun mic, too. Attach it to a pole above or below your subject, and record through the Voice Memo app or other audio recording app.

If you’re an iPhone user, Apple EarPods can double as your lavalier microphone. Tuck the earbud into your collar or shirt, and position the microphone bar along your chest like you would with a lav mic.

Avoid recording with Bluetooth microphones.

Audio is compressed as it’s transmitted over the Bluetooth bandwidth, which means lower quality. Lavalier microphones that have a belt pack use a transmitter to connect to the receiver without sacrificing quality for convenience.

Sound gear has become more efficient and capable over the years, and there are lots of different options out there. It’s easy to get bogged down trying to learn the latest and greatest setup, but the best thing you can do is keep it simple. Find the solution that works best for you and your content. Many times, that’s the smartphone in your pocket.

 


Kathryn Price

Kathryn Price is a video producer and designer at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tennessee.