5 Low Tech Tips to Better Audio

digital_camcorder     Audio is the most important part of your video.

Let me explain. When you make a video, you need to pay special attention to the audio. That’s because the viewer will forgive you for less-than-perfect video, but if the audio is muffled, hard to understand, if there is background noise, or if you sound like you are speaking from the bottom of a well, people won’t stick around to watch your video or listen to what you have to say. Nothing screams “amateur” like bad audio.

5 low-tech tricks to improve audio quality of your next recording.

  1. Up close and personal. If you’re using the microphone in your cellphone or video camera, try to get as close to the microphone as you can to avoid an overly “roomy” sound.
  2. Avoid recording outside.  Unless you’re okay with the sound of planes, trains and automobiles in your video.
  3. Find a quiet place to record. Put the dog, cat and the kids in another room. Turn off any noise-makers in the area –  things like cell phones, air conditioning units, fans, buzzing flourescent lights.
  4. Create a padded room. Audio bounces around on hard surfaces. That includes hardwood, tiled or concrete floors, and walls. Soft surfaces will absorb that echo and make your audio sound crisp. Carpet is a great dulling device. So are those moving blankets you can get at your neighborhood U-Haul or even find on Craig’s List.
  5. Go in the closet. If you are only recording audio, believe it or not, a closet full of clothes is a great place to do it.

Finally, If you have a few bucks to spare, invest in a good microphone. There are 3 main types:

        • Lavalier microphone – like TV news anchors wear.
        • Hand-held microphone – like speakers use in a conference room
        • Boom microphone – like TV news crews use. Basically, it’s a microphone on a long pole. The mic is held out of view – either above or below your head to gather your audio.

So next time you are making a video, remember these top tips for great audio, and you’ll sound like a real pro.

The Art of Voiceovers

I once described what I do as “halfway between fake and normal.”

Let me explain. In normal, everyday conversation, people communicate with more than just their voices. It’s a combination of several elements: your voice, facial expressions, gestures, posture and even your smile. In voiceovers, your voice has to do the job of all of the above. It has to project emotion that you would see in your face and convey the subtle messages that your body language projects. For that reason, when a normal person reads a voiceover script in a normal voice, it actually comes off sounding monotone and, well, boring.

How to sound “natural” in a voice-over narration

Ironically, to sound natural, you actually have to hype your delivery. Exaggerate your inflection to convey excitement, happiness, concern, anxiety, anger, mystery — whatever the desired emotion. Think of how you talk to a baby – the pitch of your voice changes, your cadence takes on a sing-song and exaggerated quality, and you may even enunciate more deliberately.

In other words, you are half way between fake and normal.

The odd part of it is that this half-fake-half-normal voiceover delivery winds up sounding completely normal on TV or the radio. If I talked to you like that in a normal conversation, you’d probably ask me if I’d had too much caffeine, and to dial it back a notch.