How do I record audio for YouTube

Voice Recording for Videos: Nine Tips for Good Sound

Whether it's a smartphone movie or a video shot with a camera: good sound is half the movie. Because while YouTube users ignore poor picture quality or small picture disturbances, the audience usually does not forgive bad sound. But with a little planning and inexpensive equipment, a clean voice recording is possible.

Have you ever stumbled upon content on YouTube with difficult to understand, noisy or distorted sound and gave up watching videos (better: listening) after a few seconds. I just had an experience like this yesterday: I'm sitting on the sofa with earphones and hear the speaker yelling in my left ear in the how-to video. On the right it was quiet like at night in the cemetery. Stiller probably. That wasn't pleasant. So the video was over for me after 15 seconds ...

So that your videos not only look good, but also catch your ears, here are a few tips for voice recording. Don't worry: it won't be expensive. Good results can be achieved even with inexpensive equipment. What you have to spend is mostly time. It's worth investing in.

1. Examine the location

Good voice recordings are not so easy to make in reverberant rooms. Now you probably won't want to shoot your product presentation or interview in the bathroom or church; But offices with bare walls and large windows also provide plenty of reverberation.

Find a location that has little reverberation. To check the acoustic suitability, simply clap your hands and listen for the echo. If necessary, move to a room with less reverberation or use carpets, ceilings etc. (draped outside the image section) to reduce sound reflections.

In public or at a trade fair, you should avoid dense gatherings of people for the recording, otherwise your neighbors' conversations will be recorded on the soundtrack. Go into a corridor or possibly in front of the exhibition hall to create a distance from the "sources of interference".

2. Avoid background noise during voice recordings

If possible, switch off computers, printers, telephones, refrigerators or the air conditioning system for the duration of the recording. So that the sounds of cars, wind and rain don't spoil your voice recording, close the windows too.

This is not only important to improve the intelligibility of the voice recording. If you later cut the video and sound passages with different background noises “collide”, that is irritating.

3. Give yourself (and your audience) a microphone

It doesn't have to be a high-end microphone. Many 20 euro microphones are - if used correctly - better than the built-in microphones of conventional cameras.

Those who like to shoot with their smartphone can find good clip-on microphones (also called Lavalier microphones or Lav or Lapel for short) with the TRRS plug that is common for mobile devices for around 50 euros. Among other things, they are ideal for interviews or a voiceover generated while filming and can also be used for other devices via an adapter.

So-called directional microphones (video microphones), which can be attached to the system or video camera, also often work wonders - when they are close to the signal source, perhaps at a distance of one meter. They are therefore well suited for vlogging. Voice recordings from a distance of two or three meters still sound better with them than those from the camera's internal microphone, but not good, because this is how you capture ambient noise and room reverberation. If necessary, place the microphone near the sound source and connect it with a cable.

Handheld reporter microphones can also be an alternative for interviews. You can find more information about microphones, their properties and areas of application from suppliers such as Shure or well-known retailers such as Thomann.

4. Think of a windbreak outdoors

If you have to record sound outdoors, you should think of a windscreen for your microphone. Turning the microphone away from the wind helps a little. A foam cover for the microphone or, even better, a “dead cat” - a furry microphone cover - minimizes wind noise.

5. Get close to voice recordings

When it comes to voice recordings, get up close and personal with the mic. No, not quite as close as a singer - their microphones are specially made for very, very close discussion (singing). But just close. With clip-on microphones, 20 cm below the chin is a good distance, directional microphones are often around 50 cm away, mostly just outside the image section.

6. Check the sound while recording

If possible, listen to the sound through headphones. You wouldn't want to shoot the video without checking the framing either. Closed headphones are particularly suitable for sound control, as they dampen ambient noise. While listening in, you will also notice very well whether the wind blowing over the microphone is ruining the voice recording or whether handling noises or crackling clothes are being recorded.

7. Record the sound on a good device

If your recording device (for example your video camera or smartphone) has an audible noise, consider using an external, small field recorder. The devices cost from around 100 euros and usually exceed the audio amplifiers of expensive cameras in terms of recording quality.

If the sound is recorded separately, you will have to synchronize the sound and image later. So let the camera sound run along - it is important as a reference.

The audio tracks can be synchronized automatically in expensive editing software. If you use inexpensive video tools and have to synchronize the sound manually, you should clap your hands three times or hit a clapperboard after starting the camera and sound recorder. You can easily recognize the short, loud noise in the video editing program (visible as spades in the waveform of the audio tracks). So you can quickly move the separately recorded voice recording to the appropriate place under the video, check the position and then delete the camera sound.

8. Manually level out the sound

With Automatic Gain Control (AGC), the camera tries to attenuate loud passages or to increase the level when speaking softly or during pauses in speaking. Good for quick vlogs. But AGC also increases the background noise level in quiet places: The volume of your voice recording "pumps". If you can adjust the level manually, set the level so that the loudest parts of the voice recording reach a maximum of around -12 dB to -9 dB. This usually leaves enough "air" that a loud laugh does not immediately lead to nasty distortions. By the way: Do not say "one, two, three - test, test" when setting the level. Have normal text speak or have a conversation while adjusting the audio level.

If the sound seems a little soft, it doesn't matter. You can strengthen (or "normalize") it in most video editing programs, for example. However, it is hardly possible to save a too loud, overdriven recording.

9. Play back the voice recording in mono

If you are not shooting a feature film, but an interview, presentation, etc., it is best to play back the voice recording in mono. Anyone who recorded with two mics on a stereo track should mix the sound later on a mono track. Check (with your headphones, for example) that the sound actually ends up "in the middle" and not just on the left or right channel.

Try, try, try ...

Nothing beats experience. Try out where the mic is best placed. Or record sound as a test in the rooms that are suitable for a video shoot. Listen to your test recordings in peace and quiet and check them on the PC, on the TV or with good and bad headphones.

Incidentally, to gain experience, it is a good idea to record a strange voice that you know well, because your own voice always sounds unfamiliar.

Good videos about the good tone

Of course, these tips are not a substitute for training as a sound recordist or sound mixer. But maybe I have piqued your interest to learn more about the subject. For example, you can find a few videos on the subject of voice recording and sound recording on location in our YouTube playlist:

Bonus tip: Recommendations for post-processing sound and voice recordings

As free and extensive solution for post-processing of sound, Audacity has proven itself. If you have little time for post-processing or do not want to familiarize yourself with the software, Auphonic offers a web service where up to two hours of sound per month can be optimized automatically and free of charge.

Finally, two examples from our own production