Bad Audio in Video + Encoder Settings for Online Video

by Emon Hassan on September 3, 2008

I watch a lot of videos online, some made with the directors framing the shot with their fingers to those made with money that could pay for my grandkids’ (working on it) college. Now that anyone can make videos, as well they should, if they want to, a lot of bloggers, indie producers are going off armed with a camcorder to shoot their work.

My complaint, mostly with video interviews, is the bad audio. I mean it doesn’t have to be perfect but is it too much to ask to make the talking heads audible, at least?

Limited budget? Have $30 at least? Ok.

1. Buy one of these. It’s about $25(+) + shipping + if you want it to record stereo, a mono to stereo jack for about $3.

This from a reviewer at Amazon:

NOTE: The ATR-35 is a monaural microphone: when connected to a Stereo mic input jack on a camcorder like the Canon HV-20, it will produce a signal only on the left audio channel. If this is a problem for you, an inexpensive Mono-to-Stereo adapter is available from Radio Shack (p/n 274-374, $3.99) [product] that duplicates the output from the ATR-35 to both the left and right channels (this sounds better, at least to my ears).

2. The noise, if slight but bothersome, can be put bandages on – you can never really ‘fix’ audio in post – and great audio wizards know how to sweeten them so you don’t notice. But the free Audacity will do a decent job of removing noise [the video]

3. Another culprit is good quality, less-noise audio but the level is loooow. Thankfully, the free MPEG Streamclip has a very cool Adjustment function that works like a charm.

MPEG Streamclip

Then I just check this box. That’s it!


Let’s talk about video compression settings. I basically started using the settings as you can see on Screenshot #1. A new thing I started to do is boost contrast and saturation just slightly to prevent uploaded videos from having the washed out look. Still experimenting with that.

To give you an example of the video and audio settings I’ve used, check out this contortionist video I shot recently. I upload my videos to many sites and TubeMogul has been a blessing. But I’m amazed how different each site encodes the same video. Vimeo upload option via TubeMogul is still grayed out so I uploaded directly. My original video had low audio which was boosted by MPEG Streamclip.

New York Minute: Simon, The Contortionist. from emon hassan on Vimeo.

Now check out these other sites I’ve uploaded the same video and tell me which one you think did the best job and which did the worst. To me, the quality on YouTube and Google Video is the shittiest – unless you click ‘Watch in High Quality’ on YouTube; no such option on Google Video. If you have high-speed connection, please avoid this insanity of ‘standard’ vs. ‘high quality’ and change your account settings to play the latter by default. Perhaps I should try uploading directly? Would that make a difference? Wish I could spend a long time experimenting about this, but no time. :(

Contortionist video on:

As you can see, boosting the contrast and saturation helped the video from appearing washed out but I need to play with that a little more. The bluish tint is my fault and can’t be helped with MPEG Streamclip much. If you’re editing on Final Cut Pro, let’s say, take a minute and use the Color Correction function. I’ll make sure I do that myself from now on.

What good is it if I don’t demonstrate as I say? I’m in the process of recording video interviews for my guitar blog. I’ve, so far, been recording with the Azden ECZ-990 on my Panasonic GS-180 (the camcorder I used to shoot the Contortionist video). I just bought the ATR Lavalier mic I linked to above and will be recording my the upcoming interviews with that. Once I have them up I’ll post about it so you can see the difference in quality yourself. Before that, it’s all just theories and cheap talk.

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