Getting the Best Audio Without The Hype

One of the most disappointing things about working on other peoples audio is low quality.  It’s not JUST that is sounds, well, not so hot, its that poor audio can be avoided in the first place.  Some people are disturbed by it, many people just let it go. Some people want to invest in having the audio improved. Editing is one thing, but poor audio may be more trouble than it’s worth or even counter productive.

The best audio is audio recorded right in the first place

Compare it to plastic surgery. No amount of work is gonna make ME tall and willowy. Only Tequila can do that. Make audio that sounds good in the first place, instead of trying to fix something after the fact. If it’s recorded poorly, it probably wont get much better, or possibly just turn into another form of bad

You have to listen to your audio

How do you know if it’s messed up if you don’t HEAR it?  I don’t know about you but my brain came pre-loaded with massive audio filters. I am able to simultaneously ignore sound from the fish tank, an airplane flying over, a truck down the street backing up, wind-chimes, foot steps upstairs, a neighbor yelling, my fingers typing on my keyboard and the persistent tinnitus I have from wearing headphones for (many) years. All in the time it took for me to type this paragraph  But when I put on my headphones, (which are pretty good ones I must say) not only can I hear all that, I can see it. Because audio leaves visual cues while recording.

I said: “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain” twice.  before I

 

I tried to create some of the normal situations you might encounter.  If you could hear it, You would hear me move around, breath, tap on the desk, scratch the keyboard and a slight bubbling sound from my fish tank; It needs water. The room it’s self it creating a noise. I should have increased my record level a bit; it is recorded a bit low! You probably can see what audio elements I’m talking about in the screen shot. The solid line in the middle is the noise “floor”.

The right record level

You should expect the top of the audio to hit -3db occasionally. You can make the audio file louder, but that also increases the sound of everything, including the bad stuff. If the record volume is very low the audio will sound thin and weak, if it’s recorded too loud it will distort.

If you use audacity (free!) to record your audio you will see a similar window that gives a visual idea of how your audio sounds. If you can see a loud noise floor you might have some ambient noise or electronic sound getting into your recording. Try and figure out what is causing it, move to another place to record, turn off noisy things. This isn’t incidental noise like a truck driving by, this is constant.

If your audio is muffled the problem probably is your microphone.

The right methods

If you want to record an interview use skype, and ask that the other person record thru their computer with skype as well and not thru a phone. This is not the place to use conference call services which cost money and have low quality audio.

Save, or with audacity, export your audio as a mp3 at at least 128Kbps,  microphones are mono. but either mono or stereo is fine, If you try a few simple steps you should be able to create some useful audio and great video that people will enjoy and follow.

 

Brooke Bradford is a broadcasting veteran who lives in Santa Cruz California. She is a multimedia consultant and an audio and video producer. She builds websites that are beautiful and functional and creates content for websites that brings visitors.