Digital Storytelling – How to improve your audio

Whenever I’m running a video training workshop my advice is always to buy a camera with an input for an external microphone as there’s nothing like poor sound to ruin an otherwise good video.

However if your camera doesn’t have an input for an external mic you can still record high quality audio by using a microphone connected to an external audio recorder, for example one of the Zoom or a Tascam handheld recorders, and then synchronise the audio and video in the editing process.

In this video I demonstrate how to synchronise the video and audio by using a clapperboard or a handclap at the shooting stage, with the sound recorded externally to a Zoom H1 via a Rode Lavalier mic.  You will notice at the beginning that I also use the sound from the camera’s inbuilt microphone as well. Most if not all cameras that shoot video will also have an inbuilt mic which can be useful for software that can auto-synchronise footage by comparing the sound from the on-board camera mic with that from the external audio recorder. Apple’s Final Cut Pro X and, I believe, Adobe Premier Pro CC can both do this.

Once you’ve recorded your audio and video you will need to synchronise them using your editing software.  If your software doesn’t auto-synch you’ll have to do this manually following these steps, see also the second video with an example of how this can be done:

1. Place your video, along with the matching audio from the external recorder, onto the timeline.  N.B. if doing this manually make sure you place only the video on the timeline and not the corresponding audio from the camera’s inbuilt microphone.  If you do place the camera audio on the timeline make sure to delete it before synchronising to avoid hearing both during the syncing process.

2. Align the first frame of the video of the clapperboard or handclap fully closed against the first frame of the audio of your “clap”, (if you watch the waveform on the audio timeline you’ll see the spike generated by the sound of the clap.)

3. Once you have done this the two should be synchronised and you should now create a copy from which you can edit; again you’ll need to work out how your software does this as each is slightly different.  With FCP X you’ll need to create a compound clip (if you haven’t used the auto-synch feature). With Lightworks you select “Make Copy” in the edit viewer, title it and save it to a bin.  If you’re doing this in a more basic editing programme i.e. iMovie you will probably have to export your synchronised video as a movie then re-import it into your Event and work from that version. Whichever software you’re using take the time to experiment and find best method to use.

Following these simple steps will enable you to get high quality audio from recording through to the finished video.


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