Audio is a very important component of video productions. Most of them are, after all, audio-visual experiences. To provide a high-impact sonorous experience synced with compelling imagery is a must in a professional and superior production. And audio editing is key to achieve this.
If you want your video to sound awesome, it's not enough to just have great audio, music and sound effects. You need to put effort in sound editing.
And here you'll learn the main aspects to take care of when it comes to your video's audio track.
Aim for Best Quality in Audio Resources
First things first, before diving in to the best tips for editing audio, you need to have audio to edit.
If your footage includes audio input, you must make sure to record it in the best quality possible. Of course, this depends on your budget and the kind of equipment you have.
If you have a camera with XLR input, you should have a professional-like audio recorder built into the device. And then it'll be a matter of choosing the right microphone for your purposes, focusing on the pickup pattern (the way the microphone captures sound in space).
If your camera doesn't have XLR jack, the quality of the audio you can record won't be sufficient for the final cut. In this case, you'll need a stand-alone audio recorder. According to your possibilities, you can use anything from a professional portable recorder, a good enough handy audio recorder, or even an old smartphone (like an iPhone).
Music & Sound Effects – Stock Audio
Now, the custom audio, if you have it will be the central piece of your track. But even when it's flawllesly recorded — and it should be –, this is not enough to provide a rich sound experience for the audience. An audio track that is nothing but people talking can easily drive your audience away, regardless of how compelling the footage might be.
Music and sound effects are very important to provide richness and depth of sound, to set the content's mood and drive emotion. In other words, to keep the audience engaged.
And stock audio is a great way to add music and sound effects to your production without breaking your budget. You can license tracks in pretty much any genre, theme or instrument combination you want, as well as the most varied sound effects, for very little money.
Find out the best 5 Stock Audio Agencies to buy cheap and high fidelity audio tracks.
5 Best Audio Editing Tips
Once the content is taken care for, let's move on to editing.
It's not enough with having great music and sound effects. Distortion, dispar volume levels, reverb, background noise and other flaws are distracting, annoying even. Imperfect transitions and weird feeling fade-outs affect the way the audience perceive and react to sound.
Editing your audio to be a fluid, seamless sound experience is what defines a great video production from an okay one.
And this is not always easily done, specially if sound is not your area of expertise. How can you edit and improve your video's audio track if you're not an expert sound editor? With these simple tips!
1. Organizing your Audio Tracks
As in most tasks, organisation is very important to ensure accurate results and to save time and effort.
When editing sound for video, it's a very convenient practice to have your audio organised in detail, by type and component. This makes easy to know where each piece of content is and how you're assembling them. This simplifies the whole editing process.
One of the standard and preferred ways to organise tracks is the check-boarding method, used by most professionals and serious editors. It consists in have your audio in a timeline board, separated in numbered tracks (A1, A2, A3 and so on), where each track corresponds to a specific sound component: main audio, secondary audio, sound effects, background music, and more. You can have more than one track for the same component, adding levels of details (for example, you can divide main audio in male and female voices).
Besides letting you know exactly where each component is within your final audio track and assist with mixing, this method makes it much simpler to set the volume levels for each track. And in complex audio pieces this is very important and not so easily done.
2. Controlling Overall Quality
Precisely because audio for video is made of different pieces of content, it's necessary to make sure they all match in sound quality.
Every different audio component can be at different quality. For example, stock sound effects tend to be available in MONO format (single track output), whereas most of the effects you record yourself will likely be in STEREO (double track output).
A simple indicator of the quality in a track is it's KBPS (Kilobits per second) rate. Tracks can be anywhere from 32 Kbps anywhere up to 18 MBPS (Megabits per second). The higher the rate, the more sonorous details the track contains, making it higher quality. Here's a handy list to make sure your audio is of acceptable quality:
- 32 kbit/s – Should be used for speech only.
- 96 kbit/s – Generally for speech and low quality streaming.
- 128 or 160 kbit/s – mid-range bit rate quality.
- 192 kbit/s – medium quality bit rate.
- 256 kbit/s – Most commonly used bit rate.
- 320 kbit/s – highest level supported by MP3 Standards.
It's important to identify this and to consider it when editing your video's audio. If you embed a 320 Kbps track between two 128 Kbps pieces, it'll sound distorted. The same if you go from MONO to STEREO just like that.
You must aim to keep consistent sound quality throughout the whole length of your audio track. If you have components with differences in quality, you need to make the necessary adjustments in the mastering process (mixing and equalising).
3. Mixing Audio Components
Besides ensuring coherent sound quality, you also need to take care of the way you bring your different sounds together. You can't just throw every sound element into your audio track's timeline just like that. To provide a pleasant sound experience, all the audio components must be integrated seamlessly.
There's different techniques and tricks to do this. Cross-fading, that lets you group different sounds together as well as switch from one track to another. Cross-over, which lets you bring together two unrelated components, or similar sounds. And many more.
In all cases, what matters is that you make the entire audio track to flow smoothly, without bumps, cuts or any other imperfections. All components must be integrated harmoniously to achieve this.
4. Equalizing: Setting your Audio Levels
Now we're getting to the most important aspects of audio editing, for when handled wrong they can have a very negative impact in your audience. Audio levels is one of these aspects.
If the voice in your video cannot be properly heard over the background music, if one of the voices sounds louder than the other, if the footsteps of the person are louder than the gunshots on a scene, if the whole volume changes drastically from one scene to the other. All those and many other examples of poor volume levelling are disrupting to the audience, and you can easily lose them if you make any of those mistakes.
Equalising, or setting the volume levels for each track to be cohesive with the concepts they represent, as well as with the emotion the footage is intending to evoke, and ensuring a consistent level of volume along the whole track's lengtht is key to give your audience a pleasant experience and keep them connected with what they see and hear.
The check-boarding method is very useful to this task. As you have all the different audio elements separated and visible, it's much easier to set the right volume levels for each.
5. Syncing your Audio to your Image
This is another super important aspect of audio edition, the one that can easily make or break the rest of your editing process.
It doesn't matter how flawlessly you have mixed and equalised tracks keeping consistent quality and an organised workflow: if your audio and your footage do not match at all times, it'll all be for nothing.
Think of seeing the explosion coming out of the gun, but hearing the gunshot 1 second later. Think of seeing someone's mouth moving before hearing their words. There's few things that put off viewers more than watching a video which audio is out of sync.
You must make sure at all times that your audio is synced perfectly to the video. This is not noticeable when done right, but certainly evident, and counterproductive, when done wrong. A perfectly synced video makes for a great audience experience.
Master Audio Editing to Excel in Video Production
If you keep these 5 main concepts in mind, and you keep developing your skills and learning more methods and tricks to edit sound, you'll be adding significant value to your productions.
While it can be easy to think that audio will never be as important as footage and that if the images are outstanding then the audio cannot ruin it, those are mistakes.
If you want to pull out really awesome videos, you need to take care of audio edition with the same level of detail you do for footage.
Start applying your newly learned tips and see how much better your videos sound!