For video work, crafting great visuals is really only one part of the production equation. Giving your video great audio is the other major ingredient, alongside other production components like editing, costume, speaking/acting and graphics, to name a few.
Utilizing audio in the foreground, like dialogue or monologue or background audio like music, sound effects (SFX) and ambient sounds will enhance the quality of your video. These types of video sound layers create a sense of immersion for viewers, whether it’s in a cinema, on television or on YouTube. Viewers can feel when video sound is good or bad, and bad audio will quickly take them out of a viewing experience, even if the visuals are striking.
Below, we will get into why video sound is so important, and why video and sound should be thought of together. We will also give you a few tips for enhancing the quality of your video sound.
What are the different types of video sound?
As noted above, audio for video can be comprised of both foreground and background audio layers. Some video sound features both simultaneously, while others will favor one or the other.
Foreground sound can be anything like dialogue, voiceover or non-spoken audio that is the main feature of a shot, scene or the entire video. This is the type of audio that usually (though not always) syncs with a video’s shots and scenes. It’s usually mixed at higher volumes and frequencies to capture a viewer’s attention.
Background sound, or ambient sound, is often quieter and less intrusive. Sometimes viewers might not even notice it, like wind, muffled background voices, electrical noise and so on.
Music is a type of background sound, although it can also be foreground sound like in music videos or specific scenes of YouTube videos, movies, documentaries, etc. Depending on the needs of a video or film, SFX can also be foreground or background sound.
Good voice mix
If a well-produced video features voiceover, dialogue or music, it’s vital there be high-quality audio recordings of these sound types. This starts with good microphones and audio recorders. However, it also requires good audio editing and mixing during the video post-production process.
Pro tip: Make sure that your voiceovers and dialogues are well-written and clearly (and even colorfully) spoken.
You definitely don't want your video or film to have poorly written and recorded music. For many videos (although certainly not all), great music is often vital for quality video and sound.
As we mentioned above, viewers and audiences will instantly notice lousy audio. And bad music is never a good thing for successful videos.
Take the time to not only think about the music you want for your videos but what viewers might like to hear as well. This is not to say that you should pander to the musical tastes of your viewers and audiences, but to think about them during video and sound production and editing.
For instance, if you’re making a video about how to care for plants, you might not want to use heavy metal or industrial music. Instead, consider using something like folk or gentle ambient music.
Cool sound effects
Good video sound is not just limited to voices and music. If your video or film seems to be missing something, either in the foreground or background, then it might be time to start adding sound effects to the video. And if you’re creating animations, then SFX will be critical, as they will help tell your story to viewers.
SFX can be both realistic and mundane or fantastical and hyperreal. The needs of your video production will dictate the type of SFX you will want to use. For instance, a tutorial channel on YouTube will have different SFX needs than a science fiction short film. (More on this in the next section.)
How to enhance your video sound
Now that you understand why good video sound is essential, let’s explore some tips for leveling up your audio for video.
Edit video sound with audio software
To create quality audio for video, you’ll need audio mixing software (also known as DAW). This will allow you to edit sounds (voiceover, music, SFX), adjust the volume, apply equalization and other effects and cut and fade, among other things.
Most video editing software, like Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro and DaVinci Resolve, give users the ability to edit sounds. But if you want more audio editing features, consider software like Adobe Audition, Audacity, Pro Tools, Nuendo, Magix Sound Forge Audio Studio 15 and Logic Pro, to name a few.
Audacity UI Image by Peter H Sampson (CC BY-SA 4.0)
(Note: Logic Pro is first and foremost a music recording and editing program, but it can be used to edit and mix other audio if you’re on a budget).
Use professional, royalty-free music
High-quality, professional music recordings will undoubtedly enhance your video’s overall production quality. While it’s possible to find some free music via Creative Commons or songs in the public domain, another great option—especially for those on a budget—is the royalty-free music you will find on Artlist.
In selecting music for your YouTube video or film, make sure it fits your production on a creative level. It should also match the various moods and atmospheres you explore in your videos and films. You can also choose to use music that subverts your viewer’s expectations, but in order to break the rules, you must know them first.
Use royalty-free SFX
Many YouTubers use humorous or attention-grabbing SFX to emphasize things they say or moods they are trying to evoke. You will also see YouTubers using a swiping or swooshing sound to indicate a cinematic swipe from one scene to another. They do this by adding sound effects to video.
SFX can also be more mundane, like ambient crowd noises, rainfall, wind, electrical sounds, closing doors, etc. These sounds are part of our everyday sound experience, so using them in certain videos and films will give your project more realistic audio.
Alternatively, if your video, film or animation is of the science fiction or fantasy variety, then your best friends will be digitally created SFX or foley sound. They will help fire your audience’s imagination and emotions, allowing them to become more fully immersed in your video.
You can find a wide array of royalty-free SFX on Artlist. The SFX catalog features both digitally created SFX and foley sounds, which are created using microphones and various objects and materials in creative ways.
Great video isn’t just visuals, it’s also about high-quality audio. Better video sound means professional sounding voice, music and sound effects recordings.
Remember, good voice recordings require quality microphones and recorders. To find high-quality music and SFX, check out royalty-free sounds on ArtList.
Finally, better video sound doesn’t end with capturing high-quality voice recordings and finding great music and SFX. These audio tracks must be edited and mixed. To do this, you’ll need audio software, whether it’s your video editing software’s audio features or dedicated audio editing and mixing software.
DJ Pangburn is a New York-based journalist, videographer, and fiction writer, with bylines at Vice, Fast Company, Dazed and Confused, and other publications. DJ records ambient techno and IDM under the name Holoscene.