Wind-cancelling windscreen on boom mic

There are a lot of cringe-worthy ways people can sabotage their videos. Think about your local youth soccer league on a Saturday morning — you can look left, you can look right, and you can likely point out at least three of the most vicious video errors known to mankind.

From the dad who’s holding his shiny new iPhone 12 vertically to capture little Johnny’s wide-left shot on goal  — which he missed, of course, but will be shared on Facebook anyway — to the mom who’s bouncing her happy baby on her left knee, while bouncing her too-big-for-one-hand camera on the other as Sammy wave and jaunts past. Then there’s Veronica, the teenager who’s passing her time while recording a selfie-video of herself to send to her friends talking about how bored she is — with the camera lens pointed right into the sun, making her look like a hidden-in-the-shadows anonymous source from “60 Minutes.”

Look, we can’t all be perfect when we’re shooting video. But if there’s one thing we can all do to improve our chances, it’s to focus on avoiding the production flaw few give due diligence to when embarking on a video adventure, the one that trumps all others — bad audio.

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 If you’re going to skimp on something, make sure it isn’t your audio elements.

Bad audio can quickly sabotage even the best video. From tin-can voiceovers to unadjusted ambient audio that pops between cuts, bad audio can ruin the drama of a scene intended to move the emotions of the viewer. Here’s a good example of what I mean:

There is no production error more egregious than rolling with bad audio. Setting up your camera 10 feet away with no external microphone attached — either a wireless lav mic pinned to your lapel or a boom mic place strategically above your head — you might as well be speaking with smoke signals. According to research from Visible Measures, a video analytics company based in Boston, 20% of your viewership will give you about 10 seconds before deciding to stick or ditch your content. After two minutes, 60% of your viewers will be gone. Why give them any extra incentive to leave before the big payoff?

Creative mic placement in hair.
Creative mic placement in hair.

Susan is the Art Director at Videomaker and YouTuber Magazines.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Knock off the criticism of vertical video; it is very cool. We live in a world where aspect ratios keep getting wider while the vertical axis gets shorter which means that humans—because they are taller than they are wide have to be shown small in the frame. The only subjects that can be shown large on widescreen video are four-legged animals and fish.
    Shooting vertically on the other hand lets the cinematographer make humans a big, bold presence on the screen.

  2. The only situation I can think of off the top of my head where vertical video is acceptable is in retail shops where video can be used more like a motion poster. Consumers don’t turn their TVs vertically, normal video consumers don’t turn their computer monitors vertically. Professionals don’t turn their cameras sideways unless they are doing so for a specific reason, like visual effect or for compositing use. If you are recording video solely for Instagram, Twitter, Periscope, then I guess it can be excused, but I don’t want to see that crap on my desktop or laptop monitor. It’s hardly “cool”. I will admit, I see it being used more in the future, but mostly for things like in-store advertising, possibly vertical digital billboards, things like that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the first professional or pro-sumer camera that has a vertical video setting in the next few years.

    Also, aspect ratios aren’t getting wider. They’ve always been wide, but mostly in film. Wider aspect ratios are becoming more prevalent in the cheap-to-produce digital market, and producers and filmmakers are looking to mimic the wide aspect ratios that have been around for decades.

  3. True, but only in shots where you have a need to show the person head to toe, usually done when you want to show the location in the shot anyway.

  4. It also means one really has to work at it-the degree of attention necessary to achieve this is beyond the folks mentioned in this article. I am also not sure I agree 100% with the opinion about bad audio. I have watched (in part) many phone -videos where the image went tearing around the screen and was pretty much unwatchable. I always use an external mic, or, in the case of House-of -worship vid, I tap into the mixer, at some version of the main outs.
    Yes, audio is important,but no more so than stable in-focus video…

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