What Makes You So Special? 10 Minute Tips: Audio in Video

Video Production is a busy marketplace, and even at a small business event you’ll meet several companies showcasing their wares.  So how can you win those all important jobs?  How can you make sure you carve yourself a niche and stand out from your competitors? What makes you so special that someone will hire your company over someone elses?

crowded marketplace
Video production is a crowded marketplace

One way is to concentrate on the quality of the work you produce for your clients.  I think  it’s always worth remembering these two key things:

  1. Any work you do could be used on your showreel to present to potential clients.

  2. If you really go that extra mile and wow your clients, frequently exceeding their expectations, they may refer other companies they know to you.

So we’ve established that the quality of the work you do for your clients can have a very positive knock on effect.  One area in which I see (or should I say hear) video production companies falling short of the mark time and time again though, is not the visual aspect, but the AUDIO aspect of their videos. Lets think about the key aspects of audio usually used in a promotional video: Location / Ambient Sound, Voice Over, Music and perhaps some Sound Design or Sound FX.

Ear Art

Location / Ambient Sound

The main issue I notice with location sound is merely the quality of the recording.  Take the best microphone/s you can and always check your recording levels are good but not hitting the red.  If you’re recording people talking make sure there’s no annoying sound interfering with the speech – try and move away from or switch off loud air conditioning or heating, and listen to the ambience of the room.  Is it very echoey?  Try and stay away from large rooms which have lots of reflective surfaces (wood, windows etc).  If you don’t achieve a good recording while you’re there, trying to’fix it in the mix’ could turn into a nightmare – I know – people have sent me audio files to try and clean up.  Remember you’re trying to wow your clients with the quality of your work.

Voice Over

Most voice overs I hear have been recorded well, probably because you’ve shelled out for a nice little reflexion filter and a lovely expensive microphone (I hope!).  However, I don’t always hear them being compressed or EQ’d properly.  What I usually do is raise the EQ slightly in the 150 Hz region (depending on the depth of the voice – trust your ears) and maybe a touch at the top end, both with a wide ‘Q’ (a smooth bump as opposed to an acute point – see below).  I then compress the VO until it sounds smooth and strong, but not enough for it to sound like its ‘pumping’.  Have a look at the compressors in your software – are there any presets you can tweak for voice overs?

Voice Over EQ curve

Voice Over EQ curve

Also see my blog post specifically on compression.

Music

Library Music

A low budget does not have to mean low quality or no music.  If you are using library music, really listen to the quality of the tracks.  There are libraries out there which are excellent value for money with high quality tracks, like Cinephonix (and yes, I do write for them).

Bespoke Music

Bespoke music is not going to be the best option for every job, but it’s certainly worth considering if you think it could work really well, and is most likely less expensive than you think.  If you’ve read my blog before then you’ll know the many benefits of bespoke music, like driving the pace, versatility, saving you time, strengthening brand identity, personal touch and expertise.  If not my blog post on this is here: Why Use Bespoke Music?

Sound Design / SFX

Subtle sound effects on graphics and logos can go a long way to polishing a video to that gleaming professional level.  I’ve worked on many projects where I’ve tied in the effects with the music, like a subtle marimba hit or piano note in the same key as the music to punctuate a titlecard or quoted text.  The key is to not go over the top with them – only hit main titles and don’t use something that sounds overbearing.

Monitoring

Also I just wanted to make a note on monitoring.  Mixing sound is an art in itself so maybe I’ll save that for another post, but with monitoring, I have noticed something in many an office that’s always a worry.  That is – speakers on the desk!! For a start, desks are usually quite reflective so may colour the sound but also, this is way too low a position to have your speakers.  As a basic rule, your ears should be in between the tweeter and woofer which needs to be achieved with desktop speaker stands or Auralex pads.  If your speakers are lower, everything will sound more ‘tinny’ than they actually are, any higher and things may sound more bassy – either way you are not getting a true idea of the sound which means you may be adding EQ in an unproductive way.  And don’t even get me started on using laptop speakers! Only ever use your proper monitoring set up in your studio or very good headphones.

So there you are – I hope this post has helped you to improve the audio in your videos – if so I’d love to see / hear the results!  And if you’re ever considering using a composer to create bespoke music, sound effects or mix your sound, please see my website www.clairebatchelor.co.uk

Until next time 🙂

Claire

Claire Batchelor, Composer for Television, Film, New Media, Theatre and Live

Claire Batchelor, Composer for Television, Film, New Media, Theatre and Live

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About clairecomposer

Professional composer for screen - TV, Documentary, Cinema, Live, Corporate, Web.
This entry was posted in Music, Media, TV, Film, Video Production, Composition and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What Makes You So Special? 10 Minute Tips: Audio in Video

  1. I’d say with recording on location try and use the same mics consistently – not the brand necessarily but I definitely noticed the differences when using on-board mics (no bottom end) compared with directional ones. You can’t necessarily add much to it in post especially from location recording, or you end up bumping up passing traffic and all other ambient sounds.

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