Baby steps with audio

I mentioned in my last post that I have taken the plunge and started to work on my first ever DSLR video. My plan was to shoot, edit and produce the second segment of the planned video over the course of the last two days as a way of better understanding how each part of the process impacts the next. I have just finished this segment and the strategy paid dividends as I have learnt a lot and captured the learning on paper – real paper not the virtual kind!

This post captures the learnings with regard to audio, in particular to recording the narration. As part of my preparation I have been researching the various aspects of DSLR video making and it is every bit as involved as I’d imagined.  One factor that comes up time and time again though is audio; the quality of your audio can make or break a video.

Applying some of this research I used an external microphone to record directly to the cameras memory card whilst capturing the video footage rather than use the onboard microphone. Ideally I’d have an external device but I’m trying to work with what I have rather than investing in more kit.  A so-called dead cat on the microphone reduced wind noise and I was left with very usable ambient noise which I ran at reduced volume underneath all of the video elements of the final 55 second segment (above).

Following some further research this evening into synchronising sound I am in future going to record ambient sound with the microphone plugged into a stand alone recorder and not the camera. To be fair, the live-action audio requirements for this segment were very undemanding so part from the experience of attaching the microphone and adjusting levels there was little to be learned from this experience. Unlike recording the narration which did throw up some very useful pointers.

  • Building on the experience in the field I spent time getting the levels correctly adjusted before recording the voice over audio and it proved to be time well spent
  • I used a script and this proved invaluable in avoiding pregnant pauses and the inevitable “Uumms” and “Aaahhs” that I have realised pepper my day to day speech
  • With hindsight I should have recorded each of the narrative segments at the same time. Differences in background noise meant that the third clip, which I recorded separately from the first two, had a slightly different tone. The use of a script makes this easy to achieve too
  • Allow the recorder to run for a few seconds before starting to speak. This provides a useful clip of the background noise which can be used later when cleaning up the audio
  • After recording the first clip play it back using headphones to double-check the levels are correctly set
  • Take the clips into audio software (I used Audacity) for noise reduction and trimming to size ready for importing to the video project
  • When saving the clips use an appropriate name to make it easier to find when editing the video. Tracks labelled “zoom0003” are not particularly helpful. I used the first couple of words from each clip as a file name – e.g. “At first”, “Despite this”
  • Make a note of these file names against your script to make it much easier to select the correct one later.

Now, it has to be remembered that I only used 3 voice-over clips for this segment of the video so I’ve not tested my thoughts on a longer piece of work. However, I see no reason why this methodical approach shouldn’t also work with larger projects.

All in all I was very pleased with what I have learnt over the last 48 hours and I’m sure it is just the first small part of a much larger learning experience over the coming months.