Unit 2 - Audio

Photo by Brad Flickinger CC

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Objectives

1. Participants will identify five components of good audio production

2. Participants will create a raw (unedited) audio file using the recording resources readily available to the participant.

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Introduction

This unit covers the basics of audio production. From the equipment you use, to your surroundings there are many things to consider if you want to create the best quality audio with the resources you have available.

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Read

Mini-course Reading

Audio recording can exist by itself, as in a podcast or radio play, or accompany video. Either way it is important to pay attention to the quality. There are a few simple ways to improve your audio quality with limited resources

In thinking about audio, it best to think in terms of priorities. While the priorities will vary a bit from production to production, here's a place to start.

Good audio is:

  1. Clearly understandable by the audience. Meeting that need will be different, depending on the circumstances. For example, if you subject is a non-English speaker with a heavy, hard-to-understand accent you will need to work especially hard to get perfectly clear audio. On the other hand, if the subject is using familiar terms, simple ideas, and is otherwise a clear communicator, your audience may be able to accept somewhat lesser quality in the recording.
  2. Free from unwanted background audio. Notice the word 'unwanted;' sometimes background audio is part of the story, such as the sound of a crowd at a sporting event as you talk to the athlete. But if you're going to get sound in that kind of an environment, you need to work even harder to make sure the audience can understand what is being said - since that's the #1 priority in most situations.
  3. Aesthetically pleasing or at least consistent with the story's tone. For example, an interview with a musician would ideally include some background which gives the listener a positive aural experience, such as using some of the music in the background, etc. Conversely, if the story is about the toughness of working in a particular environment, perhaps you want your audio to have a slightly jarring quality, in service to the message you're creating.


How do you get good audio?

Unfortunately, there's not a single answer to that question, but here are some general guidelines:

  1. Use a separate microphone. While there are exceptions, 99% of the time a separate microphone (as distinguished from the one built-in to your iPad, computer, etc.) will give hugely better results.
  2. Get close. The microphone needs to be close to the sound source - the mouth of the person speaking. The goal is to pick up as much of the nuances of the speech as possible, and to minimize background noise (if any). Usually a few inches to a foot is about right, depending on the volume of the person speaking, the microphone, and the environment.
  3. But not too close. Especially when using high-quality microphones in close you can get distracting breath noises, the sound of the tongue moving, etc.
  4. Listen when you record. All good audio recordists listen (ideally with closed-ear phones, not just ear buds) to the sound they're getting. You wouldn't try to take good pictures without using a viewfinder; listening while you record audio is just the same principle.
  5. Use multiple mics and multiple recording tracks for multiple sources. Even for something as simple as recording a conversation or interview between two people, it's a must to have a mic for each person and a way to separately record each. (The alternative is to mix the two sources as you record them, which works if you have the equipment and people to manage that.)


Linked Readings

There are no linked readings for this section. Watch the videos below to gain a deeper understanding of audio production.

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Watch

The videos for this unit are separated into two categories 'Audio in Video' and 'Audio in Podcasts', feel free to start with the section that interests you more.


Audio in Video:

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Please click this link to watch: 'How To Get Good Audio On Your Videos' by Home Brew Audio


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Please click this link to watch: 'The Basics of Recording Audio for Digital Video' by Filmmaker IQ


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Please click this link to watch: 'Use An iPhone To Record High Quality Audio For Your Videos' by Fstoppers Fans


Audio in Podcasts:

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Please click this link to watch: 'Podcasting Tutorial - Video 1: Equipment and Software' by Pat Flynn


Click the link to watch the video.







Please click this link to watch: 'Podcasting Tutorial - Video 2: My Top 10 Recording Tips' by Pat Flynn


Click the link to watch the video.








Please click this link to watch: 'How Do I Podcast - Ep. 01 - Microphones' by TeamworkCast

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Learning Exercise

Just like the old adage goes - practice makes perfect. For this unit you will create an audio recording (or two, or three) to test out the process and the equipment you have available.


Here is an exercise that will get you making audio files in no time:

  1. Look around you and note the devices that have microphones in them. (computers, cell phones, headsets, etc.)
  2. Explore the software that is on those devices. Do you have a way to record audio?
  3. If you don't have some already download Audacity (or another free audio recorder and editor) for your computer, or one of the many audio recording apps for your cell phone.
  4. Record a short interview or scripted piece. Aim for less than a minute run-time.
  5. Record the same piece using another device (or two, or three).
  6. Save all of the audio files to your computer and listen to them.
  7. Compare the quality of each recording. Ask yourself: Is this quality sufficient for my goals?
  8. If not, consider purchasing a microphone (See the video on mic selection in the 'Watch' section for advice)

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Execute Your Plan

Now it's time to implement the plan you created in Unit 1. Over the course of the next two units you will spend time implementing the plan you created. Plan too ambitious to get done in two units? No worries, you don't have to be done at the end of the course. You should have made significant progress and feel prepared to conquer any fears you had about creating an audio or video production.

Additional Resources

  • A longer video tutorial for capturing audio for scripted on location video productions.
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Please click the link to view. Filmmaking 101 - How to Record High Quality Audio on a Budget by DiCasa Film

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Reflection

Use the discussion tab at the top of this page to answer the following questions:

Instructions:
Select the 'Discussion' tab located next to 'Page' on the top left corner of this screen.
Select 'Edit' from the tabs on the right.
Type or Copy & Paste your reflection into the space provided
Questions:
  1. What devices did you try recording on? And, which sounded best?
  2. Discuss the elements of good audio. Had you previously thought about how to create good quality audio?

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Next Steps

Continue to Unit 3 - Video

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Navigation

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