Audio Lessons

Sound is one of the most important, but often neglected, considerations of video storytelling. In watching videos, we are more forgiving of bad visuals than bad audio.

4 Types of Sound in Documentary Productions

  • Ambient Sound - natural sounds
  • Soundtrack - music to set a mood or transition
  • Dialogue - spoken words
  • Voice Over/Narration - spoken script to help tell your story

Music & Soundscapes

Music is a powerful tool for documentary storytelling.

However, music should be used sparingly and intentionally. Don't just pick your favorite music to play in the background. A single piece of music shouldn't drive the whole production. Instead, use music to set a mood or make transitions.

Watch a few minutes of The Soundscape: "This is a short film adaptation of The Soundscape, which is a book written by R. Murray Schafer. The sound design and stock/filmed footage reflects many ideas from the book, including our relationship to sound, how it has changed over time, and what it can tell us about our society and future. Unlike most films, the audio was created first, and then the picture. The audio acts as the primary story telling tool in a sound design/song like fashion. The video supplements this design and supports it in a different sense."

Avoid Mistakes

As stated above, we are more forgiving of bad visuals than bad audio. If you start watching a video and cannot hear what is going on, chances are you will not finish watching the video.

As humans, most of us can filter out background sounds. That's why a LCD projector in a classroom or a loud refrigerator in a kitchen, doesn't prohibit us from communicating. However, these noise might ruin your production because the camera or recording device is unable to filter out unwanted noise.

Before you start recording, make sure you listen. A silent room without a lot of hard surfaces is preferable. Big rooms, lots of windows or hard floor surfaces may cause echos.

Always use earbuds or headset when recording to focus on any unwanted sounds and try to use a lavalier microphone for interviews.

Some examples of audio mishaps include a microphone rubbing up against the subjects beard, scarf, or necklaces. Outside buses, lawnmowers, trains, recycling trucks, sirens, you name it, can drown out your footage. Watch out for air-conditioners and water fountains!

Finding Sound

Whether you are doing an audio, video, or voice over stills project, you should consider adding sounds to enhance your project. Here is a video on how to search for sounds online.

Music & Sound Resources

There are many online resources for free sound and music. Visit the Resources page for a list.