Audio is the backbone of effective video storytelling, but it is often the last thing that we work on. We get used to consuming audio constantly through ear buds, but there is a wealth of sounds beyond our curated playlists. Well, you’ve ridden the Staten Island ferry; you know what I mean. We hear snippets of bizarre conversations, distant environmental sounds, our own friends talking to us, and that recording that booms, “May I have your attention please.”
When you create stories, pay attention to these soundscapes. Collect audio from multiple perspectives, and with different types of microphones. Tell the story from above and below, from up close and at a distance. Collect natural audio, voices and intimate interviews, focused environmental sounds, and even historical audio. All these bits of audio, layered together, give your story depth and a sense of the humanity of it all.
To gather audio, we first have to hear audio, and that means wearing headphones. This should be one of your first purchases.
How to Listen & Record
Types of audio
Here, singing sets the stage. Interview audio enters. Natural sounds (both near and far) give a contextual background.
Types of mics
How to Wrap a Cable
From Raw to Produced: Editing your audio into a story
Audio sample — Wagner College class trip to Clear Channel, Times Square, August 2011
A great resource for audio is the Third Coast International Audio Festival. Their radio pieces are well-produced, cover fascinating and broad topics, and use a diversity of audio types. Also listen to This American Life and RadioLab for fantastic audio-only storytelling.