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Paul Rijnders

Making Great Email Videos Part 4 - Basic Audio Editing

Jan 28 2011, 03:46 PM by

We continue our series on improving the quality of the video that you include in your email campaigns with another lesson in audio. Why so much on audio? First, it's half the experience. Second, I'm no video guy. We'll depend on Andy for that.

I'll repeat that hiring a professional crew to do your video (and audio) will yield you professional results (should, at least), but we understand that more than a few of our 73,000 users are either upstarts or "mom & pop" operations. Some of you have a business to promote, access to Youtube/Blip.tv/Vimeo, and a brand-new shiny video camera that you've acquired over the holidays. Since we already covered microphones and some very basic recording techniques, let's move on to the next part: what do we do to make the audio we've already recorded behave?
Optimize That Audio File with the Right Tool
If you are planning to shoot your video with a flip style camera and immediately upload the whole shebang directly to Youtube, this might not be for you. These days, there are many useful programs that either come with your computer or that can be had for free (legitimately!) or at a relatively low cost. All programs do not have every feature in the world, but hopefully you'll latch onto the big idea and see that editing audio in either a video editing or dedicated audio program is not so tough at all.
Normalize
There is no substitute for recording your audio with good technique at a nice strong level. Some people - either through fear of overloading their microphones or just because they weren't close enough - find that their recorded audio track is too low. You can do all sorts of fancy titling, crazy video transitions, and maybe make awesome visual effects, but if we can't hear you in your video, it's kind of a fail.

Fear not. Let's see how normalizing can help. Basically, normalizing let's you raise the peak amplitude (read: volume) of your sound file to the loudest possible point without distorting. Sometimes you'll find this under "effects," "processes," or right-clicking.

Here's an audio file before normalizing:
And after normalizing:
You might ask, isn't this the same as raising the volume or gain? For the most part, yes, but normalizing allows you a louder result without going so far as to clip the audio.
Fades and Cuts
In a perfect world, you speak and there's never any noise between your lines. If you find that the spaces between where you talk have a tremendous noise problem, you can do a lot by cutting out the space between where you speak, and then… fading in starts and stops so that you don't get clicking or popping where the audio breaks in.

Before cuts & fades:
After cuts & fades:
This is a simple and easy solution. Higher end audio programs like Pro Tools have functions that speed up this process (with a function called "strip silence") and some of you old audio pros might know how to control these noisy in-between spaces using a good old fashioned "gate."
Automation of Volume
Many video and audio editing programs allow you to automate the volume level of an audio file by drawing a line or key points on a continuous volume line. Notice the blue line on the file below:
Believe it or not, even if you don't have a video editing program, you can load up your video file in a simple audio program that accepts video files like GarageBand, do this volume automation, then share it back out with that audio in check.

It's not a bad idea to add some background music or sound effects (remember to NOT use copyrighted material that you don't have permission to use - you don't want a lawsuit). You also can automate the music to be lower in volume when your voice comes in so as not to cover up important information your video email reader really wants to hear.
What Do You Do When You're Done?
Ah, here we come to the wild, wild West of video codecs. There are various video compression/decompression algorithms used to keep those video files good and small. Without opening up a can of worms, I suggest exporting out that video in the same settings that it was originally shot in. What I mean is keep the file type, codec and resolution the same unless you have a specific reason not to.
I Can't Write 55
I'd love to go here, but I think I get some kind of blog ticket if I go over 900 words. If the video email readers demand it, we'll focus a future blog on cleaning up audio noise using various plug-ins. Maybe even go hog-wild and throw around terms like "compression" and "equalization! We shall have to see if demand warrants this.

What is definitely coming in this series is more on the video side of things (from blog superstar Andy Shore) and even some basic script help. Stay tuned to this space.

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