Video Production

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them

Do your recordings not quite cut it? Here are 11 reasons why you’re not getting it right at the source, and how to make it right if you can’t go back

Recording pro audio for your videos isn’t quite as simple as sticking a mic in front of your sound source and hitting record. Of course, a quality mic will definitely help your sound, but knowing how to use the mic you have is essential if you want your videos to sound great.

If you want to know more about the various microphone types and how to use them, check our article about the "Best Microphones for Recording"

Common Problems with Recordings

There are several common problems video makers encounter when recording audio. In this article we’re going to be tackling the main offenders, so if you’re suffering from any of the following, this article’s for you:

  • Your voice recordings are too bassy (proximity effect)
  • You can hear too much ambient sound in your recordings (room noise)
  • Your mic just isn’t good enough
  • You get bassy rumbles due to vibrations from the floor or your desk
  • Your breathing is distractingly loud in voice recordings
  • Your audio sounds distorted and unclear
  • You have occasional ‘pops’ in your audio and ‘ess’ sounds are very harsh (plosives and sibilance)
  • Your video audio is bleeding into your voice over recordings
  • Outdoor recordings are unclear due to lots of wind noise
  • Sound is bleeding between microphones in your multi-mic setup

Most of these problems can be dealt with in post using audio plugin VSTs. However, these require some technical knowledge to use, and it’s always better to stop the problem at the source.

1. Your Voice Recordings are too Bassy

The proximity effect is when, as your microphone gets closer to a sound source, the low frequencies picked up by your microphone increase. This can be a problem for people with bassy voices. Luckily there’s a simple fix for this one: move the mic further away! As the distance between the mic and the sound source increases, you should find the bassiness reduces and you’re left with a more balanced sound.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Proximity Effect Before
Proximity Effect Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Proximity Effect After
Proximity Effect After

Don’t move too far away from that microphone, though, or you can run into other problems…

2. You Can Hear Too Much Room Sound

When it comes to reducing room sound in your recordings, the simplest method is to move closer to your mic. This increases the volume of your voice whilst keeping the room noise at the same level, effectively balancing the two so you have more of the desired sound and less of the undesired.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Room Sound Before
Room Sound Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Room Sound After
Room Sound After

It’s also worth considering what kind of microphone you’re using. To minimize room sound, you’re best off with a cardioid microphone which records in a single direction. Omni directional and figure-8 mics record in multiple directions and thus pick up more room sound. These are best avoided.

If you’ve got money to spend on improving your recording setup, it could be worth investing in some acoustic absorbers. These useful bits of kit deaden any reverberations or echoes, giving you a clean recording. You could have a go at making your own with a couple of mattresses or blankets hung from mic stands.

3. Your Mic’s Not Up to Scratch

This sounds silly, but it’s true. Many people, especially when they are first starting out, think that using the built-in microphone on their camera will be good enough. Some even try to use the recording app on their smartphone to record their audio. Neither of these options will get you anywhere close to a professional sounding video. Make sure that you’re using a dedicated microphone rather than an in-built one.

Sometimes you just might have been sold a lemon. Just like with everything else, you get what you pay for, and that budget-friendly no-name microphone from Amazon might not be the best microphone for the job. Sure there are some diamonds in the rough, but do you really want to chance it?  Audio is the most important part of any video, so make sure that you upgrade as soon as you can to get the best possible sound in your videos.

4. There are Bassy Rumbles in your Audio

Bassy rumbles from errant vibrations are a common problem for home recordists. If you’re using a mic stand, ensure that the lowest vertical part isn’t touching the floor – it’s easy to mvoe it up if so. Some mics have a handy high-pass filter option built in – this removes those annoying sub frequencies but should leave most other sounds, like voices, intact.

If your mic doesn’t have a filter built in, it might be worth investing in a shock mount. These cradle your mic and absorb vibrations reducing unwanted rumble. However, they won’t be able to remove larger vibrations from your recordings.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Rumbles Before
Rumbles Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Rumbles After
Rumbles After

The best way to stop rumbles is to make sure your mic doesn’t encounter any vibrations at all. This could mean turning your desk fan off, making sure you don’t move your feet when standing next to your mic stand, or waiting until your tumble dryer has finished before recording your voice over.

5. You’re Breathing is REALLY Loud

It’s nothing to be ashamed of, everybody does it. That being said it can ruin an otherwise perfectly good voiceover.

Breath Noises Before
Breath Noises After

We’re talking about breathing, of course. Unfortunately there’s no quick fix for banishing breath sounds from your recordings, all we can advise is to work on your mic control. Take a leaf out of Tay Zonday’s book and move away from the mic to breathe in!

6. Your Recordings Sound Distorted

When you’re new to the world of recording, it can be tempting to turn everything up to max. However, loud does not necessarily equal good. If the audio meter in your NLE or on any other input device is turning red, this means that your recording is clipping, which can create unwanted distortion. 

To avoid this, turn down the gain on your mic or your audio interface. If that sounds like too much work, you could always take a step back from your mic.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Distortion Before
Distortion Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Distortion After
Distortion After

7. Your Plosives are Really Popping

Plosives are a widespread problem, they happen because ‘p’ and ‘b’ sounds send a rush of air towards the mic creating a large bass response making it distort – think of the supermarket announcements asking “Mr PePPer to PoP to the Bakery”. Luckily there’s a quick and easy fix that won’t break the bank. 

Pop filters are mesh screens that attach to your mic stand and go between your mouth and the diaphragm of the mic. They stop bursts of air reaching the microphone without changing the character of the recording, and they’re pretty cheap.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Plosives Before
Plosives Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Plosives After
Plosives After

If you’re really on a tight budget, you could try the pencil trick: by attaching a pencil vertically in front of the diaphragm of the mic with tape or a rubber band, you disperse blasts of air so they don’t create bassy booms in your recordings. Make sure your tape isn’t in front of the diaphragm as that will affect your recording. Attach it to the body of the mic instead.

Another way to avoid plosives is to work on your mic control. Everytime you say a ‘b’ or ‘p’, by turning your head away from the mic, you can limit the burst of air hitting the mic. Also worth noting, omnidirectional mics are less susceptible to plosives.

Ofcourse, if you want a quick fix the ERA 4 Plosive Remover is an easy and effective way to remove plosives in post.

8. Your ‘ess’ Sounds are too Harsh

Sibilance occurs when we say ‘ess’ sounds like the letters ‘s’, ‘t’ and ‘z’. It’s that loud harshness that makes those particular syllables jump out of a recording. These syllables are concentrated in the upper mid range frequency (between 5kHz and 8kHz) and are caused by disproportionate audio dynamics. 

Speaking into a microphone is like whispering in someone’s ear. Usually we don’t do this and so the higher frequency sounds lose energy as they travel from the speaker’s mouth to the listener’s ear. However, this doesn’t happen when you are close to your mic, and so those sounds are more pronounced.

It’s also worth noting that people with gaps between their front teeth are more susceptible to sibilance, so if that’s you pay particular attention to this section! 

Sibilance can be dealt with effectively in post production using the ERA 4 De-Esser, we’ve got a whole article on that, but it can be reduced in the recording stage too.

Distancing yourself from the mic about 25 to 35cm can help, as can angling the mic downwards by about 10 degrees. Additionally, if you have a very bright voice it may be worth investing in a darker microphone, ie one with less pronounced upper mid range frequencies.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Sibilance Before
Sibilance Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Sibilance After
Sibilance After

9. Your Backing Audio is Bleeding into Your Voice Overs

Removing bleed from headphones or speakers is a surefire way to bring your video’s audio up a notch. If you don’t need any audio for reference when recording voiceovers, it’s best not to use any. However, if it is necessary, use headphones on as low a volume as possible. In this scenario, the further you position yourself from the mic, the less bleed you will get.

Bleed Before
Bleed After

10. Wind Noise is Ruining Your Outdoor Recordings

When recording outside you’re likely to get a bit of wind noise. This is similar to a plosive, a burst of wind hitting the diaphragm of your mic and creating a loud bass response and rumbling. The best way to avoid this is to invest in a ‘dead cat’. That may sound a little morbid, but these fluffy mic covers stop the wind reaching your mic whilst keeping the audio you want to record intact.

11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Wind Noise Before
Wind Noise Before
11 Common Problems when Recording Audio and How to Fix Them
Wind Noise After
Wind Noise After

11. There’s Bleed Between Your Different Mics

Multi-mic technique is a big topic, so we’ve written a whole article on it. However, if you are experiencing bleed between separate cardioid microphones and you’re looking for a quick fix, try distancing them from one another as much as possible. Pointing them in opposite directions also helps to limit bleed.

July 10, 2020
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