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Getting Quality Audio for Your Video: Prepare and Listen

Technology PlanningProject ManagementVideoDigital Storytelling

By: Allea Grummert, Director of Operations at Nonprofit Film School (powered by Reliant Studios)


Getting good audio for your videos can feel like an anomaly. 

Audio is an essential part of your video; if no one can hear what someone is saying, they won’t be hearing the message you’ve worked so hard to capture. Don’t let poor audio be the downfall of telling your nonprofit’s story, mission and testimonies through video. 

But don’t fear, I’m here to help! (In fact, this is a three-part series because there’s so much good stuff to share!)

Go on a Location Scout

If you have the opportunity, it’s important to actually go to the location where you plan to film your interview. It takes extra time, but being prepared for your shoot is going to serve you well for the following reasons.

Find Your Shot

Identify the space where you’ll set up your interview, including positioning the lights, the cameras, the action, etc. Whether it’s the corner of an office, in a coffee shop or on a park bench down the street, get out there and see what you’re working with. This will reveal how much room you’ll have to bring equipment. For example, we’ve filmed in some pretty tight spaces, and we knew to bring less equipment than usual so we didn’t overwhelm the homeowner or intimidate the interviewee.

Listen: Assessing Noise

Adjust your ears to pick up what a microphone might hear. Tune into your ‘peripheral hearing’ and focus on the noise hiding in the background. You’ll have to be intentional at first, but you’ll quickly start hearing a variety of noises the moment you walk into a space. 

Do you hear phones ringing, or a ventilation system turning on and off? How about some busy road traffic outside, or perhaps people talking in the room next door? Assess the audio situation and take notes of how you might be able to control the noise in the room.

You have to use your own judgment; even if a building manager says, “It’s a really quiet space,” in a conversation over the phone, they’re likely not hearing what you’d be listening for in terms of what “quiet” means. Remember, tune your ears to be like a microphone.

Controlling Noise

Determine whether you can control any unwanted noise in your interview location. Can you re-route the foot traffic so no one walks by your set? Or shut off the ventilation system while you’re recording the interview? Refrigerators and other appliances can also contribute to a noisier environment. We have a trick where we’ll leave our car keys in the refrigerator that we unplugged, so we don’t forget to turn it back on before we leave!

Consider Weather

Something to keep in mind when choosing your location is if weather might cause problems — even when you’re indoors! We’ve had many shoots interrupted by rain on a metal building or nearby windows.

Make sure you watch how the weather might affect your production day (wind, snow, rain, etc.) and do whatever you have to do to adjust accordingly. Sometimes, it’s better to reschedule. It sounds obvious, but we’ve seen people work through a storm, and their audio was almost unusable. This can be a bigger waste of time than rescheduling.

Testing Equipment and Reviewing Audio Quality

When you go on your location scout, bring your equipment with you to record samples of audio in the room. When you get back to your desk, you can open the files and listen again to see if there’s anything you missed.

Unfortunately, if you can’t control the noise, or the traffic in the area is too unexpected, you might have to find a new location. It’s completely up to you. At least with a location scout, you’ll know what your options are, and that’s always better than showing up the day of a shoot and hoping for the best.

Learn More

You can learn more about the whole scope of video production through my organization, Nonprofit Film School — it’s the ultimate learning toolkit for nonprofits to tell their stories through video! Our online school walks you through storytelling, pre-production, production, cameras & equipment and post-production best practices. Broken up into bite-sized modules, it’s easy to follow along. In a matter of hours, you’ll be armed with new skills that’ll make a noticeable difference in the quality of your videos.

Read on with Part 2 of 3 of the Getting Quality Audio for Your Video series. There’s more to come!

About the Author

Allea Grummert
Director of Operations at Nonprofit Film School (powered by Reliant Studios

At Nonprofit Film School, Allea’s the control center; the one behind-the-scenes making sure you have an amazing experience by ensuring everything's running smoothly. At Reliant Studios, she’s the Production Coordinator, often found shuffling schedules, deadlines, milestones and working with clients.

Nonprofit Film School is the ultimate learning toolkit for nonprofits to tell their stories through video. It’s an online learning experience designed specifically for nonprofit organizations to learn how to produce their own videos from start to finish - everything from storytelling techniques to how to edit a video and choose a camera that is right for them.