A lot goes into producing high-quality audio for your video projects. Every little detail matters, from recording audio to editing, mixing, and delivery. In this article we’ll take a look at a few tips and tricks for getting great sounding audio in your video projects.

Microphones for Video

Choosing the right type of microphone all depends on your shooting scenario, but by-far the most important piece of information to know when picking out a microphone is the pickup pattern, which dictates how the microphone records sound spatially. Here are four pickup patterns that every filmmaker should know.

1. Cardioid

Video Mic
Image by Andrei Marincas

Cardioid microphones have a very flexible pickup pattern, which is why they’re popular all-purpose microphones. This pickup pattern is perfect for everything from documentaries to weddings and events. However, if you are not in a controlled environment, a cardioid microphone will pick up plenty of background noise.

2. Omnidirectional

Omnidirectional Mic
Image by d8nn

Omnidirectional microphones record audio in every direction. They are great for interviews, but they tend to pick up additional background noise. In video production, the most commonly used omnidirectional microphones are lavalier mics.

3. Hypercardioid

Hypercardiod Pickup Pattern
Image by wellphoto

Hypercardioid microphones have a directional pickup pattern. These mics are perfects for mounting on top of cameras for documentaries, news interviews, or even recording instruments. Also called mini-shotgun mics, the hypercardioid pickup pattern picks up little sound behind the microphone – so it won’t capture too much of the camera operators breathing or the sound of changing camera settings.

4. Supercardioid

Supercardiod Boom Mic
Image by antb

Supercardioid microphones act much like hypercardioids – in that they have a directional pickup pattern. These shotgun mics are the type frequently used on boom poles. They offer the ability to isolate audio, focusing only on capturing the sound of your subject.

If you would like to see some popular microphone options, hear some examples, or learn about more pickup patterns, check out this pickup pattern post on PremiumBeat.

Audio Recorders

audio recording boom mic
Image by Lakewood Images

Many indie filmmakers and corporate video producers need to have a separate audio recorder, since many DSLR and mirrorless cameras don’t have XLR ports for capturing quality audio from a professional microphone. If you have a camera with an XLR input you should have a solid audio recorder built into your camera. But If your camera requires a microphone with a 3.5mm input jack, you should only use that audio as a backup or for syncing purposes. This is where an external audio recorder will come in handy.

If you have the budget to invest in a serious recorder, like in the image above, you’ll want something like a portable field recorder or a high-end handy recorder. Those recorders can cost anywhere between $200 – $1000. If you are looking for a simple to use recorder, you can purchase a handy audio recorder between $100 and $300. If you have no budget, you can opt for mobile devices like an old iPhone, which can be used as a recorder.


Editing Sound for Video

audio mixing
Image by handsomepictures

Editing audio is one of the most difficult things to do, not because audio is hard to adjust, but because broadcast standards can be so overwhelmingly confusing that people give up and go with whatever sounds best. This is, of course, a mistake.

When you’re editing for television, there are much stricter guidelines and rules, but editing a video for web or even an independent film allows you more freedom in the process. Larry Jordan has an excellent piece on organizing your audio timeline and setting levels.

Jordan uses the checker-boarding technique, a standard among major film studios. In your editor, each audio track represents a specific category of sound.

Organizing Your Audio Tracks

NLE_Timeline

  • Audio Tracks 1 and 2 – Sync Sound (SOT)
    • This is the audio of your main speaker, what was originally called Sound-on-Tape, or SOT.
  • Audio Tracks 3 and 4 – Sync Sound (NAT/SOT)
    • This is the audio from b-roll footage, called Natural Sound-on-Tape, or NAT/SOT.
  • Audio Track 5 – Narration (VO)
    • Audio from any voice overs, or VO.
  • Audio Tracks 6, 7, and 8 – Sound Effects (SFX)
    • Any additional sound effects used. By using tracks 6, 7, and 8 you allow for both mono and stereo SFX.
  • Audio Tracks 9 and 10 – Music Cue 1
    • This tracks is reserved for the score, songs, soundtrack, or royalty-free music. Side note, if you need tracks be sure to check out Shutterstock Music or places like PremiumBeat.
  • Audio Tracks 11 and 12 – Music Cue 2
    • Having separate tracks for music allows you to easily fade between songs.

Reccomended Audio Levels

Every single audio mixer will tell you something different about where your levels should be, but they all agree that audio levels should never go above zero dB. Digital audio begins to distort when audio levels exceed zero.

Though the following guidelines have some leeway, these are some of the average levels for audio.

Audio should never exceed: 0 dB
Audio Mix Levels: -3 dB to -6 dB
Speaker (SOT) Audio Levels: -6 dB to -12 dB
SFX Levels: -12 dB to -18 dB
Underscore Music Level: -18 dB


Other Helpful Audio Articles:

If you are looking for so more resources on editing audio for video projects, check out these great articles.

Top image by natrot