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Things To Remember When Recording Sound for Digital Video

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/4/2011

Sound is an equally important part of video production, and here are a few things that you should remember when you are filming.

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    Difficult Medium

    Video is a difficult medium because you have to concern yourself with both video and audio. Capturing audio can be difficult when you are filming because it is difficult to get clear audio when you are trying to shoot a lot of visual activity. There are a number of things to keep in mind when you are recording audio to help ensure that you get what you want.

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    Plan Ahead

    Make sure you are aware, and everyone working on sound is aware, of what kind of scenes you are going to be shooting and what type of action is going to happen in them. If you and your sound engineer are more aware of what type of movement and dialogue are going on in the scene you will be more responsive to what happens. Make sure everyone on the crew knows what’s happening on planned shoots, and what could happen on unplanned ones.

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    Make It Clean and Focused

    It is true that bad sound is easier to fix in post-production than a bad picture, but it is still a lengthy and difficult process. Try to get the audio as clean as possible on location, and focus specifically on getting clean dialogue that doesn’t just sound good but is very easy to interpret and understand. Dialogue is much more important than background noise or sound effects, which are the easiest to add later. Adding dialogue loops later can be difficult, so don’t do it if you don’t have to.

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    Room Tone

    No matter what, you must record room tone, which is the overall hum sound of the room or area you are recording in. This can then be used, or removed, in post-production sound mixing and editing. This is also the background sound that you can use to cover up edits and meld together all the dialogue and sound effects in the final sound editing.

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    Sound Levels

    Make sure that the sound levels are not up too high, which you can see if the levels on the LCD display of your digital video camera peak at the highest levels allowed. Make sure that the sound recording levels are down to a correct level so the loudest sound does not reach all the way to the end of the sound meter. This is usually where sound gets distorted, so be safe and try to keep it lower. You can always amplify it easily in post-production, and dealing with sound distortion is not as easy.

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    Sound is an essential part of multimedia storytelling, so it should be given just as much importance as video. It may be easier to adjust sound in the editing room than video, but it is still not an easy proposition and should be saved only for extreme cases. Always try to capture the cleanest and most purposeful audio you can while you are on set or location.