How to Improve a Sports Interview: A Skateboarding Example
Take a look at this short video that features an interview with a skateboarder cut together with some skate footage, accompanied by some pretty poor audio.
You can watch the video above, or listen to the isolated audio of the interview below. We recommend using headphones so that you can hear the full extent of the issues in the files.
Let’s take a closer look at exactly what we want to fix in this video. Breaking down the overall job into sub-tasks before you start is a good way of preparing an efficient edit and repair strategy.
Possibly the biggest improvement we can make to the video overall, is to make it more entertaining to watch. Skateboarding is fun, and the interviewee is talking about how much he enjoys it, but that isn’t being reflected in the overall tone of the video. At the moment it feels a little dull, and there is not much cohesion between the clips. Choosing the right background music from Music Cellar will be a good way of gluing everything together and making it more interesting.
The other issue with the video is that the recorded audio is simply not good enough. As with most outdoor recordings, there is some background noise that infringes upon the speaker’s voice at times. Microphones are extremely sensitive to the movement of air, and it doesn’t even have to be a particularly windy day for one to pick up a lot of unwanted noise.
The next thing is that the level of the interviewee’s voice is uneven. When we remove the background noise it will be even more obvious that it is quiet at some parts and loud in others, and in general it could do with being EQ’d to save it from sounding thin and muddy. There’s also a small amount of sibilance audible in his voice, which needs to be tamed.
Content with second rate audio won’t perform well on any platform, and we’re dealing with raw materials that aren’t at the standard required to capture an internet audience’s attention. With this in mind, we’ll devise a strategy that aims to enhance the video’s watchability and make for a more entertaining experience overall. Thankfully, with the help of Music Cellar and the ERA Bundle, that shouldn’t be too difficult a task.
Let’s tackle the audio repair job first. The best way to start off the repair process is to load up ERA Audio Clean-Up Assistant on the audio track in your DAW. Rather than switching back and forth between multiple plugins, you can house each of your tools in the same workspace by pulling them into one of the Clean-Up Assistant’s five slots.
Combining multiple plugins in a chain like this makes it easy to stay on top of the changes you’re making, and you can even save your work as a preset to load anytime you need it in the future.
- Removing background noise
As mentioned before, recording outdoors will typically result in a great deal of background noise, and the main culprit for this is the wind. Microphones are designed to pick up acoustic energy and convert it into an audio signal via a diaphragm that vibrates when air moves around it. Recording a human voice indoors in a flat environment is usually OK, but outdoors the wind often pushes too much air around the diaphragm, causing heavy vibrations and overloading the microphone preamps.
We’re not getting gale force winds in our recording, but the air around the microphone is still very audible. The first thing we’re going to do to fix that is to load the Noise Remover plugin into a slot on the Audio Clean-Up Assistant. The background noise is quite mid-range, so we’ll set the Focus to target the Mid-frequencies. Pushing the Processing knob up to 66% eliminates the majority of the air noise, without completely squashing what remains.
- Voice enhancement
After removing the background noise, we’re left with an average sounding voice recording. The interviewee is easier to make out now, but we need to do a few things to improve the audio quality.
The first thing we’re going to do is add Voice AutoEq to the chain. Without any changes to the settings, you can instantly hear that the plugin has automatically added some frequency equalisation to enhance the sound. We want to add some presence to the interviewee’s voice, so we’ll push the Tonal Blending Triangle slightly towards Air, which will brighten up the sound. The tonal balance is there now, so all that’s left to do is to raise the Intensity of the effect to 6.8, which adds a bit more processing.
Next, we can address the volume inconsistency in the audio file. The interviewee has a soft voice, but there are moments in the video when he emphasises a word and the volume spikes. Added to the fact that this conversation was held outside, we have some uneven volume levels across the board. Voice Leveler to the rescue! By dropping Voice Leveler into the chain, we get an instant level balance. We’ll push the Processing knob up to 45% for a little increase in intensity, but thankfully this is a plugin that does a lot of the hard work for you.
Finally, we’re going to add De-Esser to catch the “ess” sounds that are coming through. The interviewee is sitting a few feet away from the microphone, so we’re not dealing with a crazy amount of sibilance, but it’s enough to want to tame somewhat. We’ll crank the Processing knob up to 80% so that it has enough of an effect.
The audio of the interview now has more clarity and presence, and is easier to listen to. Repairing poor quality audio can be tricky, and you should always be fully prepared to have to compromise, but in this case we have managed to redeem what was a poor quality file. The interview audio can’t carry the video on its own though, so we’re going to give it a big helping hand in the form of background music.
- Choosing background music
Even with pristine audio it would have been a good idea to add a backing track to this video, as the extra element of music will liven it up and take the production value to a whole new level. Music Cellar is a royalty-free subscription service that provides a range of great tracks that you can use in your projects. Songs are split into albums like “Weddings”, “Comedy”, and “Uplifting” as well as into standard music genres like Rock and Pop, so we can browse around until we find something that fits.
Music creates moods, and gives the audience tonal cues to situate what they’re watching in a certain context. Of course, for any piece of content there are tracks that will provide the wrong context entirely, so we have to make sure that we go for something that complements our skate video.
To illustrate what we mean by the wrong context, let’s take a look at the video cut together with a track called Drunken Party, from the “Weddings” album on Music Cellar:
See what we mean? The presence of a cartoonish brass band soundtrack completely undermines the video, and makes the whole thing seem a bit silly. This is an extreme example, so let’s try something a bit less obvious, but no less suitable:
The track that we used in this example is called Energetic Upbeat, from the “Uplifting” album on Music Cellar. It only takes a couple of seconds watching the video to notice that the tonal balance between what you’re seeing and hearing is totally off. This type of track might work well on a TV advert for a new car, but it is far too energetic for our chilled out skate video. Cycling through tracks on Music Cellar in this way will help you to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and if you need any extra assistance check out our guide to choosing background music for your content.
OK, let’s head to the music genres section of Music Cellar to try and hone in on the right track. The Electronic category has a good mix of retro and ambient sounds, so this could be a good place to start auditioning tracks. Take a look at the video with a track called Inspirational Infinity of Space tucked in behind it:
We’re close, but not quite there yet. This style of chilled out, ambient music could definitely work in the background of a skate video, but this particular track is a little too eerie. We want to project an easy-going, cool vibe and there’s too much here that might be a little unsettling for the audience. A lot of the time, background music works well when you barely notice it! With this in mind, let’s try another track:
Fourth time lucky! With Future Technologies, we have a winner. This track is relaxed and fresh, underscored by a trap-style beat that gives it an urban feel that’s suitable for a skate video. The music ties the separate clips together and energises the content, and now we can feel confident about uploading our video wherever we please!
We’ve cut together four examples with video for the purpose of this article, but normally after auditioning your tracks in Music Cellar, your next step would be to head to your video editor of choice and stitch the audio together with the video. Check out our guides on syncing audio and video, and editing video to the beat of music for some helpful tips.