Blog Graphic: Record Video with Good Audio

How to Record Clear Audio for Video: Simple Tips and Tricks

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It’s one of those not-so-little details many video creators think they can gloss over. 

The audio quality of your videos can determine whether viewers continue watching you or whether they click away to someone else’s content.

Viewers are more likely to forgive (and just barely) bad video such as terrible framing, a picture that’s too bright or too dark, etc. Forgiveness for bad audio, on the other hand, is harder to come by.  

That’s a bit confusing isn’t it? After all, isn’t video the shining star of…well, video? Think about it, while subpar video does make for a poor viewer experience, if you’re able to understand what’s being said, the video can still have context and value. 

Now, if the video has indistinct or just plain bad audio and you’re struggling to follow what the presenter is saying there’s just no point sticking around. 

Just to be clear, we’re not giving poor video quality a pass. All elements of your video—the message, the delivery, the images and the sound—should be top-notch. We’re just reminding you not to forget the audio, which is an aspect of the recording process that’s easy to neglect.

So in this blog, we’ll go through the need-to-know basics of how to record clear audio for video.

As entrepreneurs ourselves, we know that getting and keeping the attention of audiences is critical to the success of your business. You don’t want to be ignored or lose audiences to competitors because your audio is unclear,  loud or distorted.

That’s why we are sharing the fundamentals on how to get good audio on video so you can be both heard and seen in your niche.

Here’s what we’ll be tackling in this blog:

1. What is good audio—understanding what constitutes good audio by understanding bad audio.

2. Do I need to buy a microphone—chances are the device your recording your videos with can use a bit of help in the audio department. 

3. What’s a good microphone for recording video—smartphone to DSLR camera, there’s a microphone for almost any recording device. 

4. How to record video with good audioit’s not all about the equipment. Techniques for getting the best sound out of your gear. 

5. Recording audio for video checklist—a handy step-by-step checklist to help you get clear crisp audio in your videos for each shoot.

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The internet is awash with videos that stand out for all the wrong reasons – one of them is terrible audio; it’s a flaw that’s immediately noticeable.  

As an entrepreneur, you’re using video to build connections with customers, establish your expertise and build your brand. The videos you upload on social media pages and your website are like a living calling card or CV. 

Not to put too much pressure on, but every video you shoot presents an opportunity for customers or clients to judge you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you put effort into getting your videos up to a certain standard, the audiences most important to you will see you’re the one worth their time and interest. Good audio is one of the key components in being judged in a flattering light by audiences. 

We’ve been in the video game for a long time, having started our careers as broadcast journalists. Our experience has taught us everything that can go wrong with audio. So we’re quite happy to share what we learned over the years so that you can have all the info you need to understand how to record good audio for video.   

Bad audio is often a silent flaw in videos – you aren’t always aware of how it harms your chances with audiences. 

1: What is good audio anyway?

Bad sound can take many forms. Or rather, it can sound like many different things. An on-camera presentation can be too loud, too soft, drowned out by external noises or hampered by distracting echoes. There’s a lot to listen out for. 

Now that you have an idea of what constitutes bad sound, let’s examine what good audio sounds like. This will help you appreciate what standard you’re shooting for when recording audio for video.

Good audio is the capture of clean sound at the right recording level so viewers can hear and follow what you’re saying in your videos. 

2: Do I need to buy a microphone?

Even the most sophisticated, expensive cinema cameras equipped with in-built microphones need help with sound recording.  

At the more modest end of the price scale are DSLR and mirrorless cameras, as well as smartphones. Initially, they were designed to take pictures and, in the case of smartphones, to make and receive calls. 

Today, they have become video recording powerhouses. The quality of video produced by DSLR cameras and smartphones can be comparable to higher-end cameras. There is a downside, however—there are distinct limitations on the quality of the audio.

Built-in microphones of DSLR cameras and smartphones don’t generally produce solid, clear audio. These microphones have a limited range and a tinny quality to the sound they record. Additionally, they tend to pick up background noise from all around you, further compromising audio quality.

For most entrepreneurs creating their own video content today, DLSR cameras, mirrorless cameras and smartphones are the gear of choice. They’re reasonably priced and, more often than not, are great for a one man/woman  operation. 

So, while they are capable of capturing sound, if you want to shoot with good quality audio, you’ll need to spring for an external microphone. It’s just the best way to record audio for video. 

Before diving into what kind of microphone is ideal, it’s good to first have an ear for the different types of mics on the market. 

Omni-directional microphone – This microphone gathers sound from all sides and directions. Omnidirectional microphones are the best choice when an audience needs to hear sounds from multiple directions. For example, a musical performance. 

Directional microphone – Such microphones are designed to record the sound directly in front of it. It is commonly used to record up close audio such as interviews or solo on-camera presentations. 

Both the omni-directional and directional microphones come in many different formats. The most popular are:

Shotgun microphone – this microphone is directional in design. It comes in all shapes, sizes and price points. 

Lavalier microphone – Also known as a clip-on mic, it can be a miniature wired mic clipped directly to your clothing or one with a transmitter and receiver. The transmitter, as the name suggests, transmits sound to the receiver which feeds it into your video recording device. A lavalier microphone can be either omni directional or directional. 

Hand-held microphones – You’ve no doubt seen these before on television with presenters holding these microphones and speaking directly into them. This directional microphone can also be mounted on a desk stand in a pinch. They can be either directional or omni directional.  

What we would recommend for anyone just starting out with video going with a lavalier mic. You can either get an inexpensive wired lavalier clip-on which can be plugged directly into your smartphone or a wireless lavalier microphone with transmitter and receiver for your DSLR. 

We use different microphones depending on what we’re shooting. A clip on mic, though, is the easiest way to get clean, clear audio and cut down on some of the echo that’s tough to control in a non-soundproofed room. 

3: What’s a good microphone for recording video?

Just like video cameras and lights, there is so much choice out there when it comes to microphones. We’re always being asked by our audiences, what’s the best microphone for recording videos?

We usually don’t identify any ONE microphone as being the best. What we can do is give our opinion on what a good microphone for recording video based on our experience. Any gear that’s recommended we’ve personally used.

So here’s a look at the microphones in our video gear toolkit. We produce many varieties of videos for our business and for many different clients. All these microphones have served us well over the years.

Azden WLX-PRO Lavalier Microphone

When we first started video production this was the wireless mic we chose. It’s durable and the price can’t be beat, coming in at under $200 bucks. Video purists would probably describe this wireless mic set as less than robust, or plastic-ky. Still, it’s a workhorse of a mic for the price point. 

Sony UWPD11 Lavalier Microphone

A few years later we upgraded to this Sony wireless microphone. Honestly, we can’t say too much about our long running love affair with wireless mics. This Sony wireless mic was quite the step up from the Azden in terms of performance and build. It was also quite the step up in price at about $500. 

The only shortcoming with this wireless is the particularly fragile microphone wire that tends to fray and break quite easily. Still, even though it’s pricier than most beginners would consider, it’s a dependable audio solution. 

Rode VideoMic Pro Shotgun Microphone

This is a neat little mic that we’ve found invaluable for shooting with our DSLR camera. It picks up great audio and is really easy to set up. It’s a directional microphone but there are range limits. 

It’s much shorter than the average shotgun mic so you will have to get a bit closer to the camera for clear audio. At $300 the price tag is certainly nothing to sniff at. Nevertheless, it is an ideal bit of gear to upgrade your DSLR from a camera designed for taking pictures to a proper video recorder. 

Rode NTG2 Condenser Shotgun Microphone 

This microphone is for the entrepreneur who’s really getting serious about video. As a professional shotgun microphone, we use it when shooting videos with both of us speaking to the camera. 

If you imagine that, at some point, you might be joined by someone else on your home video set, this microphone is ideal. Coming in at around $250, it is excellent for picking up the audio of one or more people. 

A few things to note about this model: will need either a desktop microphone stand or a c-stand on which you can mount this shotgun mic. 

Additionally, this mic requires what are called XLR inputs to be connected to a camera. DLSR and mirrorless cameras aren’t designed with XLR inputs so if you’re using this microphone option with either of these cameras you’ll need to get an XLR adapter. 

Smartphone audio

We also shoot regularly with our iPhones and, as such, have invested in specialized microphones to make up for the weaknesses inherent in a smartphone’s audio recording capabilities. 

The quality of smartphone video gets better with each new iteration of established brands. For the time being, though, there are still boundaries on the quality of audio a phone can record. 

If you’re using your phone to create videos for your business, getting a special purpose microphone is a good investment. 

Shure MV88 iOS Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone

The Shure smartphone mic is robust in design and fairly easy to use with more current iPhone models (it connects via lightning port). This smartphone mic solution costs roughly $150. With an accompanying app, it also offers a welcome degree of audio control and flexibility. 

Audio recorded by this mic is a respectable improvement over the iPhone’s in-built mic performance. One drawback with the Shure (and it isn’t a small one!) is that it plugs into the same port used to power the phone. 

As such, if you’re doing long recordings on your iPhone, power can be an issue as you’ll have to rely solely on the battery.

Rode VideoMic Me

The Rode VideoMic Me is compatible with both iOS and Android phones. On the iPhone it’s connected via a headset jack input rather than the lightning port. It connects to android smartphones in the same way. 

If, however, on your android phone the headset jack input is on the same end of your phone as the camera, this mic isn’t an option. That’s because the microphone will appear in the shot given its proximity to the phone’s camera lens. 

So which option is a good microphone for recording videos?

That’s a perfectly reasonable question, given all the choices we’re presented here. It’s also not likely we’d get away with merely saying, it depends. In a way it sort of does (bear with us!); budget, business model, video types – these are all considerations when deciding on a mic. 

So drum roll please…even though we’ve been hinting at our preference throughout this post – For us, the go-to mic has always been the wireless lavalier. It’s convenient, portable and works well in both indoor and outdoor situations. 

We’re particularly attached to the lav mic because it considerably reduces echo that’s bound to crop up when shooting in the home environment.  

It’s not the only mic in our toolkit, but the lavalier is certainly the one that has the most mileage. 

4: How to record video with good audio

So now you have your mic. OK, maybe you haven’t ordered it yet. 

Choosing the best microphone is just the first step in recording high-quality audio. There are several other factors involved in recording clear audio for video.

Position your microphone properly

How you use your microphone will determine, to a large extent, the performance you get out of it. 

As a general rule, you always want to set up your microphone close to the audio source, which will be you.

Placement of a shotgun microphone

If you’re using a shotgun microphone, invest in a microphone stand or a C-stand to position the mic properly. The microphone must be close enough to record audio clearly, but still stay out of the shot for a neat, professional look.

We prefer the C-stand because it doubles as a holder for a reflector or can sub-in as an extra light stand. It’s one of those all rounders that’s great in any video toolkit. 

If you are using a shotgun microphone mounted directly on your camera, you’ll need to set up the camera fairly close to capture clean, clear audio. Three to four feet between yourself and the mic is what we’d recommend. 

Placement of a lavalier microphone

The lavalier microphone is also referred to as a lapel mic. That’s because it’s most often clipped to the lapel of a jacket. If you’re wearing a t-shirt, sweater or any other kind of top, run the microphone under your clothing and clip it to the neck of whatever you’re wearing. That way the wire is obscured for a tidier look on television. 

Lavalier mic tip: If you’re shooting outdoors with a wireless mic, even with a windscreen high wind conditions will make a complete mess of your sound. You can combat wind distortion by clipping the mic on the inside of your shirt. 

Placement of a smartphone microphone

The quality that a smartphone microphone records depends to a considerable extent on the distance between the speaker and the phone.

When shooting videos with a smartphone, we recommend placing the phone no more than three to four feet away from you. 

Choose a quiet spot

Directional microphones are great at focusing on the source of sound directly in front while excluding noises from the sides or behind it. There are, however, limitations to this superpower. Loud background noises will be audible in your video. 

If you’re shooting at home or in the office, you need to choose the quietest room. Pay attention to the times of the day when there is the least noise. 

When planning to shoot outdoors, scout the location the day before to identify any possible noisy interruptions. Be on the lookout for street traffic, dogs, lawn mowers; anything liable to be picked up by the mic.

Once satisfied that the chosen outdoor location is relatively quiet, try to get to the spot early in the morning before the wind picks up. You don’t want a stiff breeze competing with your voice for the attention of the audience. 

Switch off devices and appliances

If shooting in doors, turn off any devices or appliances that generate noise before you start recording your video.

Fans, air conditioning units, cellphones; they can all generate sound that will stand out in your video.

Even though our home is in the tropics, we usually turn off our ac units to get the cleanest audio possible. For that reason, we shoot during the coolest period of the day – early in the morning.

Reduce echo

Unfortunately, strong echo is a scourge in many online videos. It diminishes  audio quality and, when it’s particularly bad, it can make it difficult for viewers to follow what you’re saying.

Hard surfaces in a room help make it an excellent echo chamber. The sound of our voice bounces off those surfaces before going into the microphone. 

It’s a detail not many entrepreneurs doing video worry about. By minimizing echo in your videos, in an indirect way, you’ll set yourself apart from others in your niche.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to reduce echo in videos.

There are usually books around in many home offices that double as a makeshift video set. Apart from being great for reading, they are also quite effective as echo dampeners. 

We’ve also tackled annoying echoes in our recording spaces by muting hard surfaces with plush blankets and cushions. These additional dampeners are best placed outside of your shot. It’s not ideal for viewers to be watching you ensconced in a cushion and blanket fort. 

Use headphones

Before hitting the record button it’s always good to use headphones to listen out for sounds that shouldn’t be there. They are handy for checking your mic levels and uninvited background noises. 

Do a test recording

We’re big on doing test recordings as they avoid potentially massive headaches when the time comes to put a video together. Do a test recording of your voice and play it back to hear the sound quality. It’s a step we never skip.

Sometimes, it could mean the position of the mic may have to be adjusted. Perhaps a few more cushions or an extra blanket would do a better job with  echoes. More often than not, a test recording might clue us in on a rattling or humming device we forgot to turn off. 

Project your voice

The way you speak also influences how clear your audio is for video.

You want to speak with clarity and energy. Don’t yell, but project your voice. 

This is a point we keep returning to because it’s important: Not many entrepreneurs dabbling in video will even think about how they’re speaking on camera. 

By paying attention to how you project your voice, that’s another advantage over your competitors; by the way, competitors aren’t just people in your niche, but pretty much every video out there. 

5: Recording audio for video checklist

Success is often borne on the back of mistakes. Many of the techniques we use for recording clear audio in our videos come from experience and fumbles. 

It can be tough, though, to keep track of all the steps that combine for a good sound recording. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy checklist, a sort of guide to good audio. You can simply scan through it during a video setup. 

1. Position your microphone correctly

In the case of a shotgun mic or a mic mounted directly on the camera, a distance of three to four feet from the camera is optimal. 

2. Choose a quiet location

Different noises, such as cars, barking dogs or garden equipment can intrude on your recording, causing unwelcome distractions in your audio. 

3. Switch off devices and appliances

Smartphones (unless shooting with one of course) AC units, television – turn off any devices and appliances that can add unwanted sounds. 

4. Reduce echo

While it isn’t always possible to eliminate echo, record your videos in rooms with plush furniture – use blankets and cushions to minimise echoes. 

5. Use headphones

Headphones can pick up sounds your ears might miss. If you can hear them in your headphones, they will likely turn up in your recording. 

6. Do a test recording

A short test recording speaking at the level that you’ll be presenting on camera will help identify audio problems before committing to the real thing. 

7. Project your voice

Whenever you’re speaking on camera you need to speak a bit more loudly than you would in a normal conversation. 

The clarity of your voice is another key component that helps viewers decide if watching your video is a good use of their time.

Conclusion

The quality of the picture you produce with your camera is important. It should be well lit and properly framed. A tidy backdrop is a huge plus and of course how you communicate your thoughts and ideas on camera is crucial to success with video. 

Even with all these quality checks ticked off, everything will fall apart if your audio is poor. Remember, if audiences have to strain themselves to hear what you’re saying, chances are they won’t stick around for the duration.

There are just too many videos online to choose from. If the audio quality in your content is sub par, viewers will click away. That’s a lost opportunity to make a connection. Those can add up if you’re not careful. 

So, choose the mic that’s right for your video needs. Above all else give good audio the respect and attention it deserves. Do that and audiences will give you the respect and attention you deserve. 

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