Sound design for film: Two essential tips for recording

Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash
Photo by John Hult on Unsplash

Sound design is an important part of any successful film or score, and some will even argue it’s the most vital component of any multimedia project. It’s why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has whole Oscar categories for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing – if no one bothered to edit out extraneous background noise from a movie’s penultimate scene, or to properly blend elements like music, sound effects, dialog levels and atmospheric sounds (the honking of a car horn on a busy city street), then a movie would be more likely to inspire scorn or frustration than praise from its audience.

While many components that make up the audio side of your film can be improved or fixed during post-production editing, our current artist in residence from Denver Open Media will tell you during any one of the Studio’s programs on video production that it’s always best to acquire the greatest quality audio during your initial recording phase. So, here are two things to keep in mind during production to help make your post-production editing process so much easier:

1. Keep your audio levels out of the red as you record.

I can’t stress this enough. You can always boost your audio levels during post-production editing if you find yourself struggling to clearly hear whatever audio sources you were recording. However, if you don’t set limits on the decibel level you capture audio at (usually anything above -10dB starts to get risky), your captured audio will be distorted, and that’s all you’ll have. There is no post-pro editing trick to fix an audio clip that’s distorted.

2. If possible, record audio with a microphone separate from that of your camera or computer’s.

This will make the audio quality much cleaner. In The Studio, you’ll have several high-quality, low-cost options at your disposal: the Rode smartLav+ Lavalier microphone for recording on your smartphone (list price $90), and Blue Microphones Snowball ICE mics, with the optional pop filter attachment (list price $75).

If your eyes glazed over right away at the words “audio levels,” don't sweat! It’s what we’re here for in The Studio. Right now, we're running programs on various video production topics every Monday, taught by local experts, as well as audio production classes every Saturday, taught by our fabulous Studio staff. If you have even the slightest interest in honing your audio/video production skills, or just want to observe and maybe learn a new A/V trick, then The Studio is the place to be. 

Just getting started with filmmaking? Check out our introduction to Adobe Premiere Pro

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