Audio Quality: Why is It Important and How Can I Improve It?
Audio quality is extremely important when creating educational video because 1) you want your students to understand what you’re saying, and 2) we subconsciously judge the quality of a video we are watching largely by its audio quality.
Audio Quality Fundamentals
- Audio intelligibility is a way of quantifying the ease of listening and degree of comprehension of speech/audio. Intelligibility is the key factor when judging the quality of audio on a video or recording.
- In order for audio to be heard at the proper volume it is important to aim for certain decibel levels in production. As a rule of thumb, you should shoot for average levels of -12 dBFS (decibels relative to full scale), with peaks no higher than -6 dBFS and low points no lower than -24 dBFS.
Choosing the Right Environment
One way to increase intelligibility is to suppress unwanted noise. In production you can reduce noise by recording in a sound-proof space or by removing noise making objects, e.g. fans, AC units, cats, etc.
(Noise can be removed by using noise reduction processes in audiovisual editing software post-production. Jump to ‘Improving Audio in Post Production’ below for tips on editing audio after production has completed.)
Choosing the Right Hardware
There are several different types of microphones and their applications vary. To learn more about the different types of microphones and their application please watch this video on choosing the right mic for your needs.
Where to borrow a microphone on Pittsburgh campus
Classroom Services offers a wide array of mics for rent and can provide expertise on selecting the right microphone. Classroom Services also manages the Media Creation Lab, a broadcast-grade digital media studio designed for the development of a wide range of multimedia content. Sessions in the Lab can be reserved by faculty to complete video projects and staff are available to assist with using the room’s equipment when needed.
The Hillman Media Production Equipment & Services Equipment Lending Program also has microphones available to borrow.
Mixers & Supplementary Equipment
When multiple audio sources will be used, configuring each piece of equipment to work in tandem can become complex. If you will be hosting multiple speakers or your session will have several sources of audio (not including computer audio included in a screen recording), we suggest contacting Classroom Services or Academic Digital Media for a consultation. Classroom Services provides audiovisual support services, advanced lecture capture, as well as podcast recording for course-related projects and events. Academic Digital Media provides professional full-service audiovisual services for course-related projects and/or larger or departmental academic activities at the University of Pittsburgh.
Choosing the Right Software
The software you use to record and the settings you select beforehand will affect the quality of audio captured during production.
Jump to ‘Improving Audio in Post Production’ for tips on editing audio after production has completed.
- Panopto uses a colored meter to the right of the video preview frame to indicate audio volume. Decibels are not marked on this meter. Instead, aim to keep your audio in the midpoint of the green section, with peaks just touching the beginning of the yellow section. For more on adjusting audio levels in Panopto, please see this Panopto Support guide.
- Adobe Audition is an advanced software for producing, editing, and rendering audio. If you are looking to produce professional studio-grade audio for a project, Audition may be a viable choice for you. To learn more about controlling audio in Audition during production, please see this guide on monitoring recording and playback levels.
Adobe Premiere Pro
- Adobe Premiere Pro offers options for improving audio in video clips as well as editing voiceovers and other audio elements. For more information on adding, recording, and controlling audio levels in Premiere Pro please read Adobe’s detailed guide.
Other third party software offer the many of the same options to control audio during production. Check the official support page for your software of choice to ensure that these editing options are available to you.
Best Practices when Recording
Microphone technique is an essential aspect to recording audio that can improve both intelligibility and the input gain, or the level at which audio is picked up by your mic before it’s processed. Here are some useful tips for recording good quality audio:
- Make a test recording and listen to it before proceeding with your actual content! This will help to identify any potential audio issues before continuing with the project.
- It is best practice to position yourself between 3 – 5 inches from the mic (depending on the type of mic).
- Position the mic slightly down and point it towards your mouth to reduce Plosives and Sibilance. Plosives are “popping” P or T sounds, while sibilance is high, harsh S sounds. Using a pop filter with your mic can reduce plosives.
- When speaking into the mic, speak loudly and clearly as if you were speaking to a small group of people. It is important to enunciate clearly and speak at a consistent volume and tone.
- If recording classroom lectures, repeat questions from students for the audio recording before answering them.
- If you make a mistake during your recording but want to keep going, wait 3 – 5 seconds before retrying the phrase or portion you made a mistake on. This will help you edit out your mistake later.
Improving Audio in Post-Production
Post-production software used for recordings contain several ways to improve flawed or undesirable audio. Two ways to increase audio intelligibility are to apply equalization or normalization to the audio file during post-production.
- Audio equalization can highlight the strong frequencies in your voice and minimize any harsh or unwanted frequencies. Another useful process for improving audio quality is audio normalization.
- Audio normalization is a process that will increase the volume of the audio file by setting a peak target that determines the amount of audio gain needed to reach the set level.
- If you accidentally record low or undesirable levels into Panopto you can normalize your audio in the video editor. If this process does not significantly improve the quality of your audio, you may need to download your content from Panopto and employ the use of dedicated editing software such as Adobe Audition or Premiere Pro.
- Adobe Audition offers equalization, normalization, and many more options for improving the audio quality of a recording. For more information please see this detailed guide on how to edit, repair, and improve audio in Audition.
Adobe Premiere Pro
- Adobe Premiere Pro offers an array of tools including equalization and normalization to improve audio in video clips. Please see this video on improving audio in Premiere Pro to learn more about the options offered.
Other third party software offers many of the same processes to improve audio in post-production. Check the official support page for your software of choice to ensure that these editing options are available to you.
For more details on how to improve your audio quality, check out these videos: