Tips for Audio Post-Production: Editing & Mastering
In my last post in this series, I highlighted several tips for capturing high-quality sound, interviews and narration. Once you’ve recorded and uploaded all the audio (and possibly video or other visuals) you need to create your multimedia story, you’re ready to edit. This is where the magic happens as you weave everything together!
Here are a few tips for making your final product as rich, engaging, and seamless as possible.
- Clean up the garbage. Even when you’ve done your best to capture crisp, clear audio during production, you’re likely to find some ambient sound or white noise in your recordings. If the primary audio isn’t essential, great! Avoid using that segment. But if it is essential, there are some last-resort tools for trying to salvage it. Get to know your editing software so you can fix as much as possible in post-production—but if the problem can’t be fixed, re-record the segment to ensure quality audio for your listeners.
- Pay attention to context. As you’re overlaying audio—and especially if you’re overlaying audio with visuals—be careful that you don’t unintentionally imply connections between your story elements that don’t actually exist. For example, if your narrator is talking about a disease outbreak, make sure you’re not showing people who are disease-free. (Imagine what it would feel like to see your face on the evening news during an ebola report, especially if you aren’t infected!) It seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how often even leading news organizations make this mistake, and it’s easy to do if you’re not careful.Similarly, avoid the temptation to mix interview recordings, or use interviews out of context, to communicate a preferred message. If something’s unclear, or if you need a more succinct sound bite, it’s better to go back to your interview subject and ask to re-record that segment (perhaps even with a script this time) than to risk breaching his trust with unethical editing.
- Paint a picture. Ultimately, your goal is to create such a rich soundscape that your audience stops listening and starts seeing—envisioning themselves inside, rather than outside, of your story. Post-production editing is the perfect time to layer in your secondary audio elements, such as actuality, natural sound, foley, and a soundtrack to heighten your multimedia’s emotional appeal.
- Have it mastered. When your budget allows, it’s a good idea to have your final product professionally mastered. That means paying someone to equalize all your audio levels to ensure there are no major variations in overall volume; to add or enhance certain effects to make the sound “pop;” and to prepare your final product for distribution by optimizing it for television, radio, or any number of online platforms. Publishing specifications for each of these platforms vary widely, so if you can’t afford professional mastering, make sure you do your research before exporting your final product.
Above all, remember that great audio is every bit as important as great video, if not more so. Your audience will forgive bad lighting, or occasionally shaky footage, but it won’t suffer poor sound quality silently. Employ the tips in this post, as well as in parts one and two of this blog series, to make your audio count and your story memorable.