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Filmmaker Audio Mistakes – 5 Misunderstood Tips

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tips for filmmakers to fix audio and edit audio professionally

While there are an abundance of great audio tips for filmmakers on YouTube and countless other forums, there are a handful of tips that I often come across that just strike me as misguided. Some tips, if taken to the extreme or out of context, can often cause more problems than they solve.

Those 5 Audio Tips Are:

  1. Normalize your audio
  2. Stereo is better
  3. The closer the mic, the better
  4. EQ and compression will fix your problems
  5. Just use presets for EQ and compression

On the surface, these are all great concepts or starting points. As a beginner in your audio production journey, these can be helpful stepping stones to get you going in the right direction. But there is also great potential to ruin your audio and make it worse off than if you had left it alone.

Normalize Your Audio

Normalizing audio can be a great way to bring the peaks of your audio levels up to a very specific decibel range. For best practices, you should normalize your audio first before you get into chopping everything up. If you wait until the end to normalize, you risk the potential of getting inconsistent audio levels. This is especially true if you are working in sections at a time and normalize things by section. In the video I demonstrate how Premiere Pro normalizes audio from clip to clip.

Stereo is Better

The debate about whether stereo or mono audio is better is simply contextual. In a final export of a video project or audio mix (that’s not mixed in surround) should be in stereo. However, when recording audio, I would argue 90% of the things you capture should be in mono. Within filmmaking, dialogue should always be recorded in mono. Foley is most commonly recorded in mono and then placed where it needs to sit in the stereo field in the mixing phase. The only time stereo audio is needed is when you want to capture the ambience or reverb of a specific space. Even in those scenarios, you’re taking two mono microphones and they are getting bounced into a stereo file.

The Closer The Mic, The Better

Again, in the context of recording dialogue, closer is generally better. But there are some situations where the further away the microphone, the more natural or organic something can sound. In the video I talk about a couple examples where when recording foley, allowing some distance between your subject and the microphone is ideal. This allows you to capture the action or the area more accurately.

EQ and Compression Will Fix Your Problems

I believe EQ and compression can really elevate and sweeten audio that was good from the source. But, if you have bad source audio and attempt a bunch of drastic EQ cuts and boosts or apply any compression to level things out, it’s going to sound disgusting. The same goes for recording in a location with bad background noise. You’re going to endlessly chase your tail. In the video I show you how it would sound to try to “fix” the audio recorded from my camera’s internal microphone instead of the boomed shotgun mic.

Just Use Presets for EQ and Compression

I’ll go ahead and say just avoid EQ presets all together. We’ll get to compression in a second. The problem with presets for EQ is that the people who engineered the vocal enhancer preset doesn’t know what your audio sounds like. They knew what their audio sounded like when creating the preset, but your audio could sit in a totally different frequency spectrum based on the microphone or even the subject you are recording. In vague terms, they might know to get commercial dialogue you want prominent low end, crisp high end with minimal low-mid build up. But the presets don’t know where your frequency sweet spots are.

For compression, some of the attack and release settings might be great. However, if your audio levels aren’t sitting exactly where the engineer had their audio sitting, you might not be helping your audio at all. If your audio isn’t even at or above the threshold, no compression would even be happening whatsoever! Once you put your threshold to a level where it is getting acceptable gain reduction, that is where the attack and release settings will play nicely with your audio.

Conclusion

Some of these concepts are hard to understand in written form and might be best understood by following along in the video. Again, there are plenty of situations where these tips are great advice. I really just wanted to bring to light some of the areas where you can get led astray.

Watch the Full Video on YouTube.

AaronFilmmaker Audio Mistakes – 5 Misunderstood Tips
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Are “Smooth” Transitions Just a Gimmick? Let’s Talk About It.

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smooth transitions tutorial in davinci resolve

Video transitions have been around for as long as I can remember. As a kid watching Star Wars, there were always those “super” cinematic linear wipes that would take you from one scene to the next. While transitions might have been simpler back in the day, they still had their place and served a specific purpose (even if they DO happen to look amazingly cheesy now).

How Transitions Are Used Today

It seems transitions have gotten pushed to the max in the past several years within the online filmmaker and content creator community. Sometimes it feels like these effects are becoming over saturated. In today’s video, I want to open up a discussion about “smooth” transitions and their most commonly paired-with counterpart – speed ramping (or more technically referred to as Time-Remapping). I talk about how I personally believe they should be used and also where they’re unnecessary and can turn the viewer off. Knowing the context of when and when NOT to implement these techniques into your videos is important. It goes back to that basic rule of marketing and advertising – know your audience.

Professional Example

After the discussion, I take you through one of my client examples of how I incorporated some in-camera “smooth” transitions and time remapping on a local Mini Cooper S feature. The set up and equipment used for this shoot was very stripped down and minimal. Focusing on getting the right camera moves while shooting was an important step in achieving the smoothest transitions possible. By planning out your shots ahead of time, the post-production side of things becomes very fast because the only real work you have to do while editing is nail your time-remapping and cross fade points. You can see more of my professional work on my homepage.

Video Gear Used:

Watch the Full Video on YouTube.

AaronAre “Smooth” Transitions Just a Gimmick? Let’s Talk About It.
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How to Nail Perfect Skin Tones Without Eyeballing It – HSL Curves & Color Scopes

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perfect skin tones for video

Whether it’s during color correction or color grading, sometimes you just want the freedom of tweaking your colors in post. If you were shooting in bad lighting, had trouble white balancing, or you just need to go the extra mile to make those skin tones pop, Hue Saturation and Luminance Curves might actually come to the rescue.

The Limitations

Keep in mind that most popular DSLR and mirrorless cameras, like the Sony Alpha and Canon EOS lines, are limited to 8-bit color for internal recording. Some newer camera lines like Fujifilm and Panasonic Lumix offer higher bit depths. Even if 8-bit is all you have to work with, you can still get some great results if you’re careful with your color selections. If you want to learn more about color bit-depth, there is a great article that covers this topic over on Videomaker’s website.

Non-Linear Editors

This isn’t exclusive to any one NLE, so all the big names like Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and Davinci Resolve have these options available to you. While these are just the top three, any video editor that lets you manipulate colors might have these options as well. However, some more basic/mobile video editing software like iMovie, Kinemaster or Premiere Rush will not have this flexibility. Typically, advanced color manipulation will require editing on a desktop or laptop.

I’m going to start frequently sharing how I approach a variety of my video projects in hopes to reach anyone who might need help in their video production process. Rather than a random dude that just records videos for YouTube, I hope to actually share some insight from my actual client work. If you have any specific questions or requests on future video topics, I’d love to hear them! It will help me plan more videos like this in the future.

Now…..go isolate some colors, friends! 

Watch the Full Video on YouTube.

AaronHow to Nail Perfect Skin Tones Without Eyeballing It – HSL Curves & Color Scopes
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