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Weekly Video Tip: Audio

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By Stephen Schweickart

All too often, when we think of video we forget the importance of audio. Even the best video can be severely compromised, or rendered useless if the audio isn’t right. Here are a few basic tips to point you in the right direction.

First, if at all possible, don’t use the built-in mic. The audio quality is often poor—background noise can be a major issue—and the echo chamber effect can be very annoying.

Next, always use headphones. If you’re just watching an audio level meter, it’s not enough. For example, if you’re using an external mic but forgot to adjust the camera’s mic settings, you may be capturing echo chamber audio from the built-in mic, while things look just fine on the audio meter. Buzzes, hums, snaps and pops can also sneak in and unless you’re using your headphones, you’ll never know.

On a related note, never use the AGC or automatic gain control. It’s better to manually adjust your mic levels to avoid sudden compression or amplification by the AGC circuit.

Be on the lookout for unexpected noise. This can include ringing phones, computer devices, intercoms, air conditioners, elevators, traffic noise, nearby conversations, aircraft, etc.—the list goes on. Look for potential sources before you record, and turn them off or minimize them by changing locations if you can.

Finally, always double check your audio by recording a sample before you begin. Listen carefully using your headphones and compensate for problems. Murphy’s Law pops up when you least expect it. Covering the basics can go a long way to ensure your project is done right the first time.

Stephen Schweickart is the co-founder of VScreen. For more information on this topic, visit VScreen’s blogsite at http://www.vscreen.com/blog/.

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