How to Obtain Exceptional Sound Quality in your Next Video Production
By Benny Traub
Want better video sound quality?
When you combine a voice-over with music and sound effects, it is common for the editor to fight with the volume of each of these elements in order to try to find a nice balance, so that everything can be heard.
You need the voice-over to be heard and easily understood, because this is your sales pitch. Your marketing video won’t be of much use if the audience can’t hear the presenter!
But the mood and emotion created by the sound effects and music also add a lot to your video, so you obviously don’t want them turned down so low that you can’t hear those either.
A surprisingly simple audio solution…
The solution in not adjusting the ‘volume’ of the individual elements. At least not in the way you might think.
The real solution to great video sound quality is found in a secret audio-engineering technique known as ‘frequency carving’. Don’t let the name scare you. If you can use a graphic equalizer on your stereo, you can perform this technique.
Here’s how it works…
The typical male voice is in the frequency range of 85-180 Hz.
A typical female voice runs in the range of 165 to 265 Hz.
The audio elements do not have to compete for volume, as long as the frequencies do not overlap too much. The solution is to use a graphic equalizer to carve the frequencies of your music and sound effects around your voice-over, as shown below.
How to carve the frequencies
If you have a male voice-over, the EQ of your music and sound effects should be notched as shown here:
If you have a female voice-over, the EQ of your music and sound effects should be notched as shown here:
As you can see, you are pulling down the levels of your competing audio elements, but only in the frequency range where the voice-over lives.
So the solution really is volume after all, but only in these selected frequencies. The non-competing frequencies can remain at full strength, and thus all the audio elements will be heard just fine.
If you use a graphic equalizer to carve the frequencies of the individual elements, your audience will enjoy the music, be thrilled with your sound effects, AND be able to hear your voice-over clearly.
If you want to get really fancy, you can run a frequency analysis on your voice-over to see the exact frequencies being used. This might be helpful if the voice is particularly deep, or high pitched. But the general ranges as described above will suffice in most cases.
Frequency carving is the solution to beautifully mastered audio for your video productions (or any other audio project).
One further trick you can employ is the use of stereo.
Push your sound effects a bit to the left (10 o'clock), your music a bit to the right (2 o'clock), and leave your voice-over at dead-center.
By separating the elements spatially, you allow the brain the pick out the individual sounds and make sense out of it all, even though the audio levels on all of the elements remain high. This only works if the audience is listening in stereo mode, and that is not always the case, especially with web videos. But it only takes a few moments to adjust the balance of your audio elements, so be sure to do this for added clarity.
Now you are an audio engineer! With the above information, you can easily fix video sound quality, at least where volume levels are concerned.