Blank Slate: Interview Audio

Last Updated by Alex Duckles | Senior Editoral Associate | PBS Digital Studios on
Blank Slate is a new 16-part instructional series from PBS Digital Studios with the production team Video Dads, made up of Emmy-nominated video producers Travis Gilmour and Slavik Boyechko. This week Alex Duckles discusses Interview Audio.

Interviews can be impactful in many different ways: the content can be eye-opening, the speaker can be inspirational, and the location can be stunning. None of this matters unless the sound quality of your interview is perfect. Poor audio can easily ruin any interview, either because the speaker is too difficult to hear or there are distracting and irritating sounds in the background ruining a great delivery.

So how can you prevent this? With some careful planning and a good ear, hopefully recording audio on your next interview will be a walk in the park.

The first element of recording great interview audio is picking the right location. When looking for your setting, listen closely for background noise that your equipment may pick up. Air conditioners, large electronics, and open windows are common causes for background humming. Also make sure you remove any distracting elements as well — like pets that could walk near the shoot or paper that might be crumpled on-set. Even if they’re not on camera, the residual noise can easily get recorded.

Another key element is coverage; most cameras have two audio channels, make sure you use them! By setting up a boom mic and a lavalier, you give yourself two attempts at getting great audio in case one goes down.

On the topic of lavaliers (sometimes called lav or lapel mics) be extra aware of picking up extra noise. The rustling of clothing can easily ruin a track if the mic isn’t placed correctly, and for subjects with particularly deep voices, sometimes these mics have trouble capturing low ranges.

The most importantly note about interview audio: don’t settle. Take your time setting up two microphones, testing levels, and eliminating any background noise. Interviews can often feel like a mad scramble to get the shoot finished and let your subject leave, but that’s never a reason to sacrifice good audio. Practice beforehand to know how to speed through your checklist, but always make sure you’re getting the best audio possible. Trust me, it makes a difference!

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