DIFFERENT TYPES OF AUDIO YOU CAN USE IN YOUR VIDEO PRODUCTION
If you’re producing a video and trying to tell a story, audio is one of your primary tools. This post describes some of the various ways audio can be used within a video production and discusses the equipment needed to get it done.
Dialogue is whenever the characters speak to one another to move the plot along in a work of fiction. Dialogue is usually written out and rehearsed long before the cameras roll. Dialogue is primarily used in relatively big-budget stuff since typically, dialogue has to be written, memorized and recited.
If you are doing a video where everything is written and planned ahead of time, then no doubt you will use dialogue. No work of fiction can get along without it.
You can also make use of what is called natural dialogue. Natural dialogue would be what people say on camera as they ad lib. You can do this with fictional work. Hollywood director Robert Altman was well known for this. He let actors ad lib and then he did massive amount of editing later. Sometimes this made his movies a bit disjointed, but all-in-all, it was a good technique.
However, it is more practical to use natural dialogue if you are doing a work of non-fiction. In a non-fiction video, you can follow real people around with your camera and let them say whatever they want to say. This is natural dialogue and many TV shows are built around natural dialogue.
SHOULD I USE DIALOGUE?
Natural dialogue can be a great asset to your video. I have built many shows around natural dialogue. People who can ad lib and say something usable are a low-budget producer’s best friend! Find someone with great conversation skills and let ’em go. The gift of gab is a great talent for an on-camera host.
A word of caution. Most people will be better on-camera hosts if you edit out the irrelevant stuff that’s bound to occur. It’s real easy to go off on tangents. Edit that stuff out. Remember, the number one complaint about online videos is that they ramble and run too long.
RECORDING “NATURAL SOUND” DIALOGUE
To shoot decent natural dialogue, you need:
- Attentive camera operators
- Attentive sound operators
- Blabber-mouthed on-camera people
As you shoot, listen to what people are saying and keep the camera rolling during the good parts. When they stray off subject, take that opportunity to move to a new shot, then prod them to resume the conversation that you felt was good for your story. Be a director!
While you’re shooting, think about how their unscripted dialogue will fit into your overall story-telling. Are they describing something relevant to your message? If so, go in for a close-up. (Remember, walk closer, and don’t rely on your zoom unless you’re on a secure tripod, other wise your shot will be shaky.)
Make sure you have adequate sound recording. This will probably take more than just relying on the microphone attached to your camcorder. One of the best ways for a low-budget situation to get good sound is to have your main subject wear a lavaliere microphone.
WHAT’S A LAVALIERE MICROPHONE?
A lavalier microphone is a tiny mic that clips to your collar or lapel so it’s easy to hide. I got a decent, but not great, lav for my high school students at Radio Shack for $25. It make a huge difference in their sound quality. If you buy an inexpensive mic like this, it will come with a short cable. Spend five bucks and get an extension cable for it so the umbilical cord isn’t too short. You can get a high quality corded lavalier microphone for $125. They are not expensive.
If you can afford it, a wireless lav will allow for greater freedom of movement while shooting. A wireless microphone does not have to be plugged directly into the camera, so your on camera person can be far away.
A wireless microphone consists of two parts. One part is the microphone and it clips onto your on-camera person. The microphone also has a transmitter as part of it. The other half of a wireless microphone is called the receiver. It plugs into your camera. YOu can velcro the receiver to your camera for ease of use.
A wireless mic functions much like a small radio. It transmits a signal using the microphone and picks it up with the receiver. When you plug the receiver into your camera, the audio signal is recorded onto your tape. Wireless microphones are considered must-have tools by most professional videographers.
NEXT TIME YOU’RE WATCHING TV
Many professional shows will use multiple wireless lavs for each person. Next time you watch a show like the ones where they remodel houses, or anything else that captures people in off-the-cuff situations, notice they’re all wearing small black boxes, about the size of a big deck of cards, stuffed into the back of their pants. This is the wireless microphone transmitter.
They hook that onto their back belt loops and run the wires under their clothes. The microphone itself, which is smaller than the tip of your pinky finger, is penned onto the outside of their collar.
Tip! Never put the mic itself underneath clothing or you’ll get lots of rustling sounds. Hide the wires under clothes. Use scotch tape if necessary.
Multiple wireless mics get pricey and complicated but it certainly can be done. Wireless signals can cross. Make sure each microphone is one a seperate frequency. Each mic needs its own input into the camera, which would probably take a portable mixer.
One decent wireless will cost a minimum $200. Good ones are at least $500 and up. Cheaper wirelesses tend to not work very well and sound tinny.
BUT I’VE ONLY GOT ONE MIC!
If you only have one mic, let the person who is doing the majority of the speaking wear it. If other people stand fairly close, they’ll pick up well enough and you can boost their level during editing. Certainly it is better to have a mic for every person, but if you don’t, you don’t.
Listen to everybody talk and determine who has the most powerful voice. This person probably SHOULDN’T wear the mic since a truly powerful voice can be picked up well from several feet.
Lavaliere microphones pick up incredibly well for their tiny size.
USING BOOM MICROPHONES
It is better to use a boom mic if you have lots of people talking on camera. If you have a large enough crew, you can have one person operate a boom microphone (one that picks up sound from a distance). A boom mic used by a large crew is usually on a long pole and the operator constantly moves the pole around in order to pick up whoever starts speaking. Gotta be careful about bashing people in the head though.
ON-BOARD CAMERA MICROPHONES
One-man crews use a shot-gun mic attached to the camera, similar to how home movie cameras are set up, the mics are just better quality.
Adequate sound for dialogue can be picked up just using the on-board camera mic, but that’s not recommended. If this is your only option, going in close has the advantage of ensuring better quality sound. If someone is speaking loudly and there’s no distracting background noise, a distance of about five feet from the on-board camera microphone is optimal. Using your camera mic is easy, but unless you have the conditions just described, relying on your on-board mic probably will result in poor quality sound, perhaps even sound that is too bad to use.
AUDIO QUALITY HIGHLY IMPORTANT
When evaluating the quality of your audio, remember that poor quality audio is bound to make your viewer say, “forget it!” and quit watching long before poor quality video will. No viewer is going to strain to hear your video, they’ll click walk away. Viewers are much more forgiving of poor quality video than bad sound.
Evaluating the “hear-ability” of your audio is often difficult because you know what’s being said. Your viewer doesn’t. So it’s much harder for a viewer to understand the mumbled audio than it is for you to understand it. If you don’t think your viewer can understand it, either don’t use it or add subtitles.
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