Customer Evidence, Design Services, Marketing Musings
For effective customer evidence, it’s hard to beat video: it lets the customer’s story shine through, pairing visual context with the familiarity of listening instead of reading. We certainly believe in video—we use it to share our own happy customers’ stories as well as producing video testimonials on our customers’ behalf.
Many companies are self-producing video shorts these days. The lower cost of high quality cameras, even in HD, makes this more practical than ever. Companies post videos on their own website as well as using YouTube channels so clients and employees can stay plugged in.
Self-producing video is all well and good, but it’s easy to end up frustrated with the resulting audio quality. After all, even the most visually-appealing video isn’t going to do the job if people can’t hear your message. Poor audio also leaves a negative impression about the quality of results your company strives to achieve. Getting good quality audio involves two steps: capture and post-processing. Let’s consider audio capture first and we’ll follow up with post-processing tips next week.
First: Capturing good workable audio.
Very little can be done with audio that’s captured badly, so we need to make sure we get good stuff up-front.
Really, it’s all about the microphone! The type and placement of the mic are the critical factors in capturing decent audio. Consider the standard camera-mounted mic. The on-camera mic is as far away from the subject as can be. Even though it’s “directional,” meaning it tries to be more sensitive to sound coming from where the camera is pointing, there’s still too much sound coming from other sources, bouncing off walls and ceilings, and even coming from the camera operator, to capture decent audio. We need a better mic–and we need it closer to the subject.
Many cameras have a “mic in” or “line in” jack. If yours does, life just got a lot easier. If not, better audio isn’t impossible, it’s just more complicated. Let’s cover the “mic in” case first.
The “mic in” jack allows you to connect an external mic to the camera that will override the mic attached to the camera, i.e. a cable attached to a mic that your subject holds by hand like a news reporter. You’ve now moved the mic much closer to your subject—a good thing.
One step further is a lavalier, or “lav” mic. These are the small clip-on mics you see used on talk shows. Lav mics can be wired (i.e. plugged directly into your camera) or wireless. The wireless versions are particularly useful. Your subject wears the mic connected to a transmitter pack. A receiver pack attaches to your camera and plugs into your “mic in” jack, and voila! You get great audio, and your subject is free from wires and mic holding. You have a good quality mic literally attached to your subject.
The best audio requires another person. On film sets you’ll often see a person with headphones holding a long pole with a mic at the end called a “boom mic.” The mics used in this fashion can be very high quality (also high priced!), and having a person dedicated to capturing audio ensures the best result. But this technique isn’t practical for most self-produced projects. A good handheld or lav mic wired into your camera will do the trick.
Now to get back to those of you with a camera that has no “mic in” jack.
In this case, you’re stuck recording decent audio separately from the camera. This can get tricky, as you’ll need to make sure you can later join the video and audio together, and that can sometimes be difficult. In these cases, audio is usually captured into a computer-based audio system with “frame-accurate” capabilities that make matching the audio and video in post-production much easier. You’ll need the help of an audio professional to make sure you have the right equipment and software to record this way.
Okay, we’ve captured good audio. Excellent! Next week, we’ll cover how to manage audio during the editing process for a clear, quality final video.
Any tricks that work well for you? Any recommendations about what to try and what to avoid for really great audio results?