“The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change.”
Music gives a filmmaker the power to make an emotional connection with their audience and reel in a viewer to immerse them in their film.
When it comes to being a filmmaker, having high quality visuals is not enough. Sound design is about 50% of video production, and can deteriorate your video rather quickly.
In fact, you will probably succeed more with excellent audio and average visuals versus having poor quality audio with exceptional visuals.
In this article, we will discuss common mistakes and how we as filmmakers can solve these problems without having to spend part of our budget on a sound design professional.
5 Common Audio Mistakes
1. Capturing Poor Audio
The phrase that many love to use “fix it in post,” is something we should not rely on, and can’t be used in many situations.
When it comes to shooting on location, it’s important to know your environment, the sounds associated with it, and how we can minimize it.
The noise floor is the is a signal created by the mechanism at which you’re capturing audio. Many devices have built in base level of noise, so this is extremely important to take into consideration.
Reverb is defined as a reflection of a sound. One of the hardest things to clean up is reverb, so it’s imperative to minimize as much as possible. This can be done by adding furniture, props, people, or anything really which can deflect audio.
2. Not Recording at the Right Levels
The majority of filmmakers will either record at levels that are way too high or way too low.
The average levels to record at should be between -18db and -12db with the peak being at -6db.
3. Using Stereo over Mono
Mono audio recorded with one single channel. Stereo on the other hand is where two or more channels are used to record.
Many amateur filmmakers when recording dialogue will use stereo, but mono dialogue sounds much more natural because when one normally listen to another person, the audio comes from one place.
When it comes to sound design, mono should be used for dialogue and stereo for music and/or sound f/x.
4. Not Processing Audio in Post
Just like video post-production, audio needs to be enhanced. You would never just shoot a video and release it without editing, color correcting, using transition, etc. Audio is half the project and needs to be addressed always.
The top two sound design effects to enhance the quality of audio is EQ and Compression. EQ is a tonal sharper, similar to the levels tool in color grading.
Compression, contrary to popular belief, is not making the file size smaller. It’s used to get the audio track more even. One thing to be aware of is fixing compression can also raise the noise floor, and it’s something to be mindful of.
5. Not Realizing You Can do Most of What a Sound Engineer Does
The use of a sound technician is not need in basic types of production, such as weddings, interviews, and smaller budget films.
Brendon Bytheway, a very well-known sound engineer, stated that just by learning how to apply EQ and Compression, you can do about 80-90% of what he does.
Typically, he says he’s hired for a minimum price of $500 to on a project. Balancing dialogue and music, sweetening the sound, and cleaning up messy audio, are the most common fixes made. All which can be done on your own if one would take the time to learn the two techniques.
Sound when done properly, audio has the potential to 4x your production quality and enhance your overall brand.
Be sure to write what common problems you’ve experienced in the past. I’m curious to know!