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How to Record Sound Effects for Your Video Projects

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/1/2011

You may not realise it while shooting, but during editing you may find that you need a sound effect to give your video that extra bit of depth or realism. What do you do?

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    If you’re looking for common sounds like gunfire, helicopter landing or dogs barking for your video project, you would not meet with much of a problem. You could elicit the help of a sound effects library.

    What if you can’t find a specific ambient sound in your library of special effects? Also, if you are not familiar with your library of sound effects, you would have to spend time testing each of the audio clip to determine whether it is the sound you really need. This could be waste of time.

    Even if you find a sound effect suitable for your video project, you may find that the clip is too short, maybe lasting only a few seconds. Also you find that the sound is too monotonous or repetitive to give your videos a semblance of realism.

    If you face the above problems, the way out would be to record your own sound effects. Sometimes, recording your own sound effects is more practical and fast especially if you’re on a tight deadline.

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    Equipment

    For most of your video projects, you don’t need fancy recording equipment to capture the sounds you desire. You can start with something basic, what you already have, like your camcorder’s built-in microphone. In most instances, it would do the job, and your audience may not notice any shortcomings in the sounds recorded.

    A stereo built-in microphone would do a better job than mono recording modes found in older camcorders. One issue with using your camcorder to record sound is the presence of `motor sound’ in your camcorder that may be captured with the ambient sound you desire. If you’re a recording a noisy environment like a cheering crowd or busy traffic, the intruding sound may not get noticed. If you’re recording a quieter atmosphere, then the mechanical sound of your video camera may spoil the effect you would want to create in your video.

    In such an instance, you may want to use a field audio recorder. It would be good if the device could record at stereo or CD quality.

    Anyway, a video camera still does a good job, especially if you have a higher end model. All you have to do is lug it over to your sound source and set it up like you’re going to shoot video.

    In this instance, you only concentrate on the sounds. Jack in a pair of headphones to monitor the sounds you’re recording.

    With a video camera, especially one with a Firewire port, transfer of your audio recording to your computer would be a breeze. Most video editing software allows you to capture audio only from your video clip.

    If yours doesn’t have that facility, you could capture it as AV footage and later delete the video part.

    Recording sound effects is only limited by your imagination. You don’t have to go to the woods to record dry leaves being crunched underfoot. You could do it in your own backyard, provided there aren’t other intruding sounds.

    Similarly, you could record footsteps for your horror or suspense video by hitting one foot after another on the floor of your quiet living room.