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Don’t Hit Record Yet! Mistakes Even Professionals Make and How to Dodge Them

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Even professional video productions can suffer from poor audio quality. While cinematographers may obsess over finding the perfect lighting and getting the ideal camera angles, audio capture is often an afterthought. The mindset seems to be “as long as we can hear the dialogue, the sound is good enough.”

But mediocre audio can ruin an otherwise stellar video. Muffled, echoey sound quality distracts viewers and makes it hard to understand speech. It conveys a sense of amateurism that undermines all the effort put into the visuals.

Some of the things we’ll cover in this guide:

  • We’ll highlight the common sound recording mistakes
  • Proper mic placement techniques
  • How to tame problematic room reflections
  • How to choose the right microphones for the job

Treating sound with the same care as the visual components will dramatically improve your production quality. The effort to record clean audio the right way will pay dividends for both amateur and pro content creators alike.

How to Avoid

The Most Common Sound Recording Issues

While many professional filmmakers excel at lighting scenes and framing shots, they often stumble when it comes to the audio side of production.

Not Prioritizing Audio Capture

Many videographers get hyper-focused on visual presentation, while audio capture feels like an afterthought. They meticulously set up the camera, lighting, and their own appearance on camera, but just grab any nearby mic without much consideration.

This tendency leads to muffled or echoey audio distracting from an otherwise professional-looking production.

Failing to Listen to Recordings

Another obvious yet rarely followed tip is actually listening to test recordings to evaluate how your audio truly sounds. It’s simple to get a sense of video quality with on-camera monitoring, but harder to judge audio in the moment.

Listening to test recordings should be standard practice for presentations, dialogue scenes, and other spoken content. Analyzing test recordings allows you to spot issues and refine techniques before the real take. Don’t forget this basic, but critical step.

Here is the chapter on Positioning the Microphone Properly from the outline:

Get a Little Closer

Positioning the Microphone Properly

One of the easiest ways to improve your recordings is through proper mic positioning. Here are some common mistakes to avoid in this area:

Keeping the Mic Too Far Away

A frequent error is keeping the microphone too far from your mouth. The distance causes the voice to sound faint and hollow while picking up excessive ambient noise.

To fix this, move the mic closer to your mouth to greatly improve sound quality by minimizing room noise. The mic should be positioned above your head, pointing at your nose for a natural sound.

Get the mic within 6 inches of your mouth if possible. For lavaliers, clip them close to your collarbone. Proximity isolates the voice.

Managing Room Acoustics

Hard, reflective surfaces near the mic can cause issues like reverberation that muddles speech. Some easy DIY fixes:

Use blankets, curtains, and backdrops to dampen problematic reflections. You can’t eliminate all of them, but reducing the worst reflections makes a big difference. Rugs on the floor also help absorb sound.

Treat the surfaces closest to the mic first, as those have the biggest impact. Pay attention to areas like desktops and monitors. A little acoustic treatment goes a long way towards a clean vocal sound.

Proper positioning and reflection management are simple concepts anyone can use to improve productions, even in less-than-ideal recording spaces. Don’t let room acoustics be an excuse for subpar audio.

Choosing the Right Gear

Achieving Natural Sounding Audio

In addition to setup techniques, choosing the right microphones and using proper mic skills go a long way toward capturing professional-grade audio. Here are some tips for achieving a natural vocal sound.

Picking the Right Microphone

Different mics have their strengths and weaknesses depending on the source and context. For speech, condenser microphones tend to sound more natural and detailed than dynamics. Their sensitivity picks up nuances in the voice.

Lavalier mics are ideal for interviews and vlogs, as you can clip them discreetly to clothing near the mouth. Their proximity effect boosts low frequencies for a rich sound.

Microphone Technique

How you address the mic also impacts the tone quality. Speaking across the mic at a 45-degree angle rather than directly into it is advisable. This reduces plosives and popping. Maintain a fixed distance – inconsistent proximity leads to varying audio levels.

These simple adjustments prevent issues that editing or processing can’t completely fix. Consistency is key for quality results.

Audio Processing

Light compression and EQ can make voices punchier and easier to understand. But subtle processing is the way to go, as heavy-handed effects like gating and overcompression make audio sound unnatural. Use just enough to optimize intelligibility without obvious processing artifacts.

Amplifying and carving frequencies is great, but resist the urge to overdo it. Allow the mic and performance to shine through.

With the right mic choice, proper technique, and gentle post-processing, you can achieve clear, professional vocal recordings. Let your natural voice be heard.

Here is the Conclusion chapter from the outline:

Conclusion

Great audio can make or break a video production. While lighting and cameras get most of the focus, sound quality is just as crucial for conveying information and leaving viewers with a professional impression.

In this guide, we covered some of the most common audio mistakes that creators of all levels make, along with fixes to help you achieve excellent results:

  • Proper microphone positioning close to the mouth to isolate the voice
  • Managing room acoustics through reflection-dampening
  • Picking the right mics for the situation, like condensers for voice
  • Using proper mic technique to avoid plosives and inconsistent levels
  • Applying subtle compression and EQ without overprocessing

With care taken to record clean audio from the start, you won’t have to struggle to “fix it in post” with heavy editing. Get the fundamentals right, and your videos will shine.

The good news is that with a few simple tweaks to your setup and methods, dramatically better sound is within reach for anyone. Don’t neglect the importance of audio – with some effort, you can take productions to the next level.

Remember, viewers will forgive subpar video if the information comes through clearly. But nothing torpedoes the viewing experience faster than muddy, unintelligible audio. Treat sound with the same care as the visuals, and your audience will thank you.

FAQs

What are some cheap ways to treat room acoustics?

Some affordable acoustic treatment options include using blankets, curtains, foam pads, and other soft furnishings to dampen reflective surfaces. Rugs on floors and acoustic panels made from rigid insulation also help absorb sound effectively on a budget.

Where is the best mic position?

The ideal mic position is above your mouth, about six inches away, pointed down at your nose. This captures your voice clearly while minimizing room echoes. For lavalier mics, clip the mic to your lapel or collar, as close to your mouth as possible.

How do you avoid plosives when speaking into a mic?

Plosives (popping P and B sounds) can be avoided by speaking across the mic at a 45-degree angle rather than directly into it. Using a pop filter in front of the mic also diffuses plosives effectively.

Should you compress voiceover audio?

Light compression can make voiceovers louder and more consistent sounding. But overcompressing makes the audio sound unnatural. Use subtle compression with a low ratio like 2:1 and target around 3dB of gain reduction.

Is it better to use EQ before or after compression?

EQ before compression allows you to shape the tone and frequency response. Compression after EQ helps control any spikes in equalized frequencies. For voiceovers, light EQ cuts followed by gentle compression usually works well.

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