How to produce videos with high quality sound (and why it matters)

Posted by Scott Winstead on 2 Nov, 2021
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A guide to improving the audio quality of your videos. Actionable and effective tips which don't need high levels of technical expertise.

Microphone.

Image source: Unsplash

When it comes to making a video, we all know the importance of eye-catching visuals. But did you know one of the most critical elements of a great video has nothing at all to do with appearances?

To produce a truly effective video, you need crisp, clear audio. Otherwise, you risk losing your audience and wasting a lot of time and money creating videos that just don’t cut it.

Why audio quality matters in your videos

If the sound quality on your video isn’t up to par – maybe it’s muffled and difficult to hear, crackly, filled with background noise, or even too loud and overpowering – you’ll lose viewers and won’t get your message across.

After all, who wants to watch a video where you’re having to struggle to hear what’s being said? Nobody.

But the importance of audio quality goes beyond what you might think.

A 2018 study by the University of Southern California and the Australian National University found that audio quality affects whether people believe and trust what they hear. The study’s authors explained that when videos had poor audio “viewers thought the talk was worse, the speaker less intelligent and less likeable and the research less important” and the presenters “lost credibility.”

Simply put, poor audio lessens your credibility.

So, what can the average small business owner do to increase video quality without putting on a major production?

How to improve audio quality in your videos

With video content becoming increasingly important for businesses that want to grow their online presence, it’s essential that you learn the basics of how to produce quality videos that have good sound.

Here’s the good news – it’s easy and doesn’t require much technical savvy to create high-quality audio for your video productions. No matter what kind of video content you’re producing, you can use these tips to ensure your clips have good sound so you keep viewers engaged and interested in your content.

Set up a quiet place to record

Before you can even begin to think about creating quality audio for your video productions, you need to make sure you have a good quiet place for recording.

No, you don’t need a professional studio, but you also don’t want to be recording in any random area where there might be background noise, echoes, or other issues that will kill your sound quality.

The noise floor in your recording space – that’s the base level of noise generated in your recording space -- should be at -60dB or lower. If you have a higher noise floor than that, you’ll need to treat the room with soundproofing/sound dampening materials.

While that might sound like a difficult (and expensive) task, it’s not.

You can get some acoustic foam tiles or sound panels off Amazon at pretty affordable prices and place them in strategic spots on the walls and ceiling of your recording space to cut down on reflective sound and echoes.

You may also want to look into using bass traps in the corners of your room to reduce vibrations.

If you’re recording in a room with hard floors, like wood or tile, even using some thick rugs or heavy blankets on the floor can go a long way to blocking out some of your room noise.

The overall point here is that taking the time to get your recording space set up properly now will save the time and trouble down the line of struggling to salvage bad audio.

Make sure you have a decent microphone

Once you have a properly treated room, you need to get a good enough microphone to ensure the audio you’re inputting will sound clear.

Again, this isn’t something that has to be ridiculously expensive. You don’t need to go out and buy the most expensive studio microphone off the shelf. There are plenty of microphones that are more than good enough at reasonable prices.

One thing I will say is that I recommend against using USB mics. While some decent USB microphones have come out in recent years, the overwhelming majority of voiceover talent and studios don’t use them for numerous reasons, including their propensity for humming, latency issues, and overall lack of quality in most cases.

Instead, opt for an XLR microphone for your recording setup. These are much more versatile, have more upgrade options, and you’ll find a lot more choice in various price and quality ranges.

Another thing to consider is whether to get a dynamic mic or a condenser mic.

Dynamic microphones are dependable and will get the job done, but they have a narrower dynamic range (difference between quiet and loud) and are less sensitive than condenser mics.

If you have a treated room you’re recording in, opt for the condenser mic. If you’re recording in an untreated room or even outdoors or at a live event, dynamic microphones might be the better choice.

Position your microphone correctly

Putting your mic in the right spot is essential to capturing your voice clearly. If the mic is too far away, your voice won’t come through clearly, background noise will seep in, and your overall sound quality will suffer. If you get too close, your voice might sound too low and bassy.

You want the mic to be close enough to your mouth that it only picks up the sound of your voice and not other room sounds.

While each microphone has its own “sweet spot,” a good rule of thumb is to have the microphone about 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) from your mouth. The mic should also be aimed toward your mouth, not off to the side or away from you. Aiming the mic slightly above or below your mouth – while still directly toward your mouth – can help reduce some clicking and popping sounds.

Know what you’re going to say… don’t wing it

No matter how well you think you know a topic, you don’t want to just make up what you’re saying as you go. When you’re trying to find the words as you go, your confidence might drop and your voice might lower and weaken, reducing your audio quality.

At the very least, you need a detailed outline of what you’re going to say, and you might even want to have a full script which will make producing a transcript and captions a whole lot easier.

When recording your voiceovers, don’t try to knock out the whole script in one go. Instead, record in smaller segments so you can focus on getting each part just right.

Do a sound check

This might sound obvious, but it can’t be stated enough. Even if you’ve recorded a thousand times in your space and have everything set up just right, you always want to take time to do a sound check so you can be 100% certain everything is working properly, and you’re satisfied with the audio quality you’re getting.

A sound check doesn’t have to be a long, intensive process. Just record yourself saying a few different things and play it back over your headphones so you can make sure the sound is just like you want it.

Why did I say to use headphones when listening to your audio? Because it’s incredibly difficult to hear everything in your recording over computer speakers, so you want to use quality headphones to make sure you’re aware of any subtle sounds that might be going on in your recording.

A good sound check gives you the opportunity to make any minor adjustments you need before you record all your audio, saving you from any unwanted surprises in your final recording.

Final thoughts

While it might take some trial and error to get the audio quality of your videos to the level it needs to be, this isn’t something you can afford to overlook. With a little time and patience, you’ll soon be making high-quality videos with great sound, allowing you to get your message across clearly and effectively to your audience.

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