The importance of good sound

When it comes to film, most people immediately think of the visual aspect. What the camera is recording visually. What a lot of people forget about, is audio. Audio is absolutely essential in film. It is just as important, if not even more important than the visual.

Today I had the awesome chance to sit in with some professional videographers and sound mixers and learn about sound. Matt Bardwell, Nathan Driskell and Nathan Gibbs all work on staff at ACU, and Matt and Nathan Driskell work in the learning studio in the Library. They held an audio workshop for aspiring filmmakers to come and learn the ins-and-outs of how to get good audio. Here are some of the things they said that I felt would be great to share:

1) Get the right equipment.
It is crucial when shooting video, whether for video-journalism or narrative films, to have a good quality mic. You almost never want to rely solely on the on camera mic, especially if you are filming with a DSLR. But a mic is not the only piece of equipment you need when recording good audio. You will also need an external audio recorder. The learning studio has the Zoom H2, which is a great option.

2) Be intentional when recording audio
When recording audio, it is absolutely imperative that the boom operator or sound mixer be attentive and focused. The mic should always be as close to the object creating the sound, without getting in the shot. You should also be aware of where the mic is pointed. If the mic is a shotgun (directional) mic, you want to be aware of what else could be producing sound in the area that the mic is pointed towards. Matt stated, “All objects reflect sound”. He went on to explain that it may be best to aim the mic not only at the actor/subject, but in an area that will not reflect the sound back toward the mic.

3) Recording Levels
Recording levels are measured in decibel’s, and tell you how loud or soft your input is. They recommended having your loudest audio peaks hitting around -12 dB to -6 dB. Anything above 0 dB is referred to as “clipping” audio. When audio “clips”, the sound bite is literally digitally damaged and cannot be restored to a certain extent.

4) Ambient sound is essential
One last thing that I want to touch on is the topic of ambient sound. Until the workshop today, I was under the impression that ambient sound was a bad thing, and oh was I wrong. Obviously too much ambient sound can be distracting. But what both Nathan’s and Matt pointed out was that, “ambient sound is what makes a scene feel real, and not like it is a video someone is watching.” Recording audio where your actors and extras remain perfectly silent for at least 30 seconds to a minute is how you capture ambient sound. Then in post-production, you are able to add that sound in over clips that need a little bit more atmosphere sound to them.

This audio workshop was extremely valuable to me and I am truly glad that the learning studio put on such an event. If any of you are aspiring video professionals, or hope to be, I encourage you to check out the learning studio and to talk with Matt and Nathan.


One thought on “The importance of good sound

  1. I absolutely enjoyed this post and will definitely be keeping it for future reference.
    Audio is one of the top, if not THE top aspect that defines a professional video.
    I really liked every point that you listed and think that they are all essential. I especially liked point 3 and 4. Learning how to read the recording levels is detrimental to getting good audio, especially in regards to actually picking up audio (knowing that you actually turned the mic on – yikes!) and not blowing it out at the same time. I would add that it’s almost an obligation to bring headphones to test the audio. Ambient noise is part of professional video, as well. I like what you said about too much. I think it’s important to have so that it’s not awkward and feels more natural.
    Thanks for sharing what you learned today!! I’m definitely keeping this in mind for future videos.


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