Why sound quality can make or break a video – and five easy steps to improve it
A professional content creator has to be a master of many different skills. Camera operation, photo and video editing, marketing and social media networking are all essential abilities to have. However, possibly the most important skill set, which most creators overlook, is audio recording and editing.
This may seem obvious to podcasters, but it’s just as important for video focused creators such as YouTubers, livestreamers and TikTokers.
Research published in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society found that low-quality audio made people perceive the quality of a video overall as much lower. if you’ve invested a lot of time and money in mastering video editing, color grading and presenting skills, it’s frustrating if people still perceive your video as low-quality. But that’s not the only reason why this is bad news for content creators…
Videos with lower quality audio are likely to have poor retention rates. You have seven seconds to make a good impression on people. It doesn’t matter how great the content of your video is – if your audio is unclear, people aren't as likely to stick around and watch it.
Think about it. You must have clicked off a video due to the obvious low production quality before, and so has everyone else. There’s so much high quality content on YouTube that people don’t have patience for amateur-sounding videos.
The YouTube algorithm shows videos to people based on a lot of factors, one of these being retention rate. If people tend to watch the entirety of your videos, then other YouTube viewers are much more likely to have your videos recommended to them. If people bail on your upload because they don’t like the experience, the YouTube algorithm will soon lose faith in you as a creator.
Production quality keeps viewers and listeners, which leads to view and subscriber growth. So high quality audio is a major factor in achieving sustainable growth on any content platform.
YouTube confirms this themselves in their Creator Academy, stating “videos with consistently high audience retention and watch time have the potential to show up more frequently in Search and Suggested locations on YouTube”.
But it’s not just online content creators who must view audio quality with utmost importance. A recent study at the Australian National University found that people listening to scientists discussing their research believed them to be less intelligent if they were listening to a low-quality recording.
Five ways to improve your audio quality…
1. Level your audio
As hilarious as you and your mate’s freeform comedy podcast may be if a listener has to constantly adjust their volume to adapt to your constantly changing audio levels, they’re going to get tired of listening to your show pretty quickly.
That’s why it’s important to make sure your volume levels are consistent throughout your podcast. You can use a compressor to level the dynamics, or you can use a dedicated voice levelling tool such as the ERA Voice Leveler.
2. Use an EQ to smooth your sound
Podcasts aren’t like YouTube videos. They tend to be much longer, and so your audience has to put up with any audio problems for much longer. The chances of them sitting through an hour long podcast with low-quality audio recorded from a computer or phone’s in-built microphone are slim. On the other hand, a silky-smooth vocal recording that’s easy on the ears will make your podcast a joy to have on in the background.
Using an EQ is a great way to make any voice recording sound better. An equaliser can help to improve clarity, remove harsh frequencies and really make your vocal recordings pop. Equalizers can be difficult to master, and the human voice is notoriously difficult to work with. However, a tool such as Voice AutoEQ will get the job done for you in seconds. It listens to your recording and automatically applies the optimum EQ curve, doing all the hard work for you.
3. Get rid of plosives and sibilance
Popping “P” sounds and harsh, hissing “Ess” sounds are two of the biggest problems faced when recording voice work. You can take steps at the recording stage to avoid them but sometimes it’s just impossible.
Sibilance – those Ess sounds – can be harsh on the ears and sometimes painful to listen to. The same is true for the p-p-p-plosives. If there’s too much of either going on in your video or podcast, your audience could leave pretty quickly. Fortunately, plosives and sibilance can both be dealt with using the ERA 5 Bundle.
The ERA 5 Bundle comes with a dedicated De-Esser and Plosive Remover. Both of these tools are quick and easy to use with a simple, one knob interface.
4. Cut through the noise
Have you ever recorded a podcast or video, opened your files to edit and found that your audio is unusable due to noise? This can be a huge blow for a content creator. Re-recording can be expensive and time-intensive, and sometimes it’s simply impossible.
Fortunately the ERA Bundle offers two powerful noise removal plugins which can be used to clean up even seemingly unsalvageable audio.
The ERA 5 Noise Remover comes with the ERA 5 Bundle. It’s an elegant, one-knob plugin which will get you noise free audio in a matter of seconds. You don’t need any technical knowledge to use this plugin, it really is as simple as turning a dial.
For slightly more control of the noise removal process, there’s ERA 5 Noise Remover Pro. With this in-depth tool, you can salvage even the most noise damaged audio recordings. Make re-records a thing of the past!
As with YouTube videos, showing up in peoples recommendations is one of the best ways to grow your listener base. Podcast services like Spotify, iHeartRadio and Pandora use algorithms to suggest new podcasts to their users. Pandora analyses over 1,500 data points including retention related stats such as skips and replays - so audio quality is essential if you want your podcast to be recommended to potential new fans.
5. Get a good mix
Creating a good audio mix is essential to creating high-quality content. A mix is the balance of all the audio elements in your podcast or video. You want the most important elements, like voices speaking, to be the most prominent sounds. However, you still want other elements such as sound effects and music to be clear as well.
Crafting a mix can be difficult and becoming a really good mix engineer takes a lot of knowledge and experience. That being said, there are a lot of quick and easy things you can do to improve your mixes – check out our blog for loads of advice on working with audio.