How Good Audio Editing Adds the Finishing Touch to Your Videos

(and Where to Find FREE Audio Software and Music!)

by Elizabeth Blessing

Audio editing is an important part of creating a great video that will attract an audience. Because of this, most video editing software includes features to help you edit your video's sound and import additional audio tracks. 

Don't underestimate the importance of good audio to your video project. You'll risk losing your audience if your video's sound quality is poor or if there's a lack of variety in the audio. Good audio helps tell a story, can add emotion to your video and is an inexpensive way of adding a professional feel to your video.

Here are our favorite budget-friendly (some of them even FREE!) audio software, music and sound effect finds to help you with your next video production.

Audio Editing Tip #1: Plan Good Audio BEFORE You Start Filming

There are things you can do before you even start filming that will ensure you capture great audio along with your video. One is to select the right audio equipment for your project. 

In general, the built-in microphone included with most consumer-grade video cameras will NOT give you high quality audio.

A simple solution is to purchase an external microphone and attach it to your video camera. There are a wide range of external microphones to choose from -- lavaliers, shotgun mics, handheld, wireless and wired, for example. The good news is that you can purchase a microphone that will enhance your audio without spending a whole lotta dough.

For example, we recently purchased a $7 lavalier microphone and used it for a video. Interested in hearing for yourself the difference this inexpensive purchase made to our video? See our article and the accompanying video, "Built-In Microphone Versus External Microphone: Which is Better for Your Video Project?"

Audio Editing Tip #2: Use Editing Software to Enhance Your Video's Sound

Even with a good microphone attached to your camcorder, it's likely you still need to edit your audio once you load your project into your video editing software. Depending on what software you use, you might have a dizzying array of features to choose from to edit your audio.

In addition to the basics like trimming your audio and adding extra tracks, your software might include some of the following features: 

  • ability to boost volume
  • add fade-ins and fade-outs 
  • change pitch and speed
  • noise reduction
  • add special effects, like an "old time radio" sound to your audio

TIP: You can also edit your audio files in dedicated audio editing software and then import that file into your video editing program. Audacity is my favorite FREE, open source software for recording and editing sounds. Check it out the Audacity website for their free download.

Audio Editing Tip #3: Add a Music Track to Your Video

I love adding just the right background music to my videos. The right music adds emotion and helps keep your audience entertained and watching throughout the whole video. A good video editing package will allow you to add multiple audio tracks to your video for music, voice-over or sound effect files.

I recently created a short video where the entire audio was comprised of one song. Check it out: "Sequoia Park Zoo: A Gem in the Redwoods." It's a fun and easy video -- one of the "stars" is pictured to the right! Plus, it's a good example of how the right music can set the tone for your film and keep your audience engaged.

"I'm all ears when it comes to good audio!"

TIPS: 

  • If the music track is background to narration or dialogue, use your video (or audio) editing software to lower the volume of the music track. You don't want your background music to overwhelm your primary audio track. 

  • Use your editing software to create "fade ins" and "fade outs" to your music tracks. This allows the music to slowly build at the beginning or decrease at the end of the track. This prevents the jarring effect that music sometimes has when it begins or ends unexpectedly.

  • Make sure you have the legal rights to use music before you add it to your videos. There are legal and financial penalties for violating copyright laws, so be careful.

    There are many sites online where you can purchase the rights to use music in your videos. Just search for "royalty free music." 

    If you have a YouTube account, you can use the free music from the YouTube Audio Library. You can use this royalty-free music both in your YouTube videos and in any other video you create.

  • Another fabulous and FREE option is to use music that musicians have released under a Creative Commons' license. Be sure you abide by the specific license agreement outlined by the musician and give the musician appropriate credit in your video.

    Want more info on Creative Commons' licenses and a list of sites with free music for your videos? Check out: Creative Commons Legal Music for Videos.

Audio Editing Tip #4: Add Voice-Overs or Narration

You may decide your video would benefit from a voice-over or additional narration. Voice-overs are audio tracks that are usually recorded off-camera and added to the video in post production. You'll frequently hear voice-overs in documentaries or how-to videos where explanation is needed.

TIP: While you can use a separate recording device for your voice-overs, I frequently use my wireless mic attached to my video camera to record voice-overs. This works well if I'm out in the field shooting some video and I don't want to lug an additional piece of equipment with me to record the voice-over. 

I load the voice-over file onto the timeline in my video editing software and remove the video portion of the file. I then manipulate and edit the audio portion like I would any other audio track.

Audio Editing Tip #5: Add Sound Effects

Similar to adding music to your video, adding the right sound effects can increase your video's entertainment value and keep your audience engaged. You can add a variety of sound effects in post-production just by adding them to an audio track in your video editing program. 

These sounds effects can include background noises, birds chirping, restaurant sounds, car noises, squeaky doors opening -- pretty much any sound you can imagine has been captured in a format you can add to your video project. 

TIPS:

  • An obvious tip is to not go overboard in adding sound effects to your videos. These sounds can be fun to play with, but a little can go a long way. You don't want your audio to sound like a cacophony of odd noises (unless that's the effect you're going for!).

    Also, for a realistic effect, be careful to synch the sound effect to the action going on in your video.

  • Just as with music, you need to have the legal rights to use sound effects before you add them to your videos.

    You can either purchase those rights or search online for free sound effects released under a Creative Commons' license. Follow the license agreement and be sure to give the sound effects' creator appropriate acknowledgment in your video's end credits.

    I like using the Freesound website for my sound effects. They have a large database of Creative Commons licensed sounds covering pretty much any sound you might need. 

OK, Now I Know a Few Basics About Audio Editing, What's Next?

Audio editing is a great start, but there's still a lot more you can do to enhance your video -- such as video editing, adding transitions and adding visual effects, for example. 

Check out these Groovy Videos articles to learn more about these topics:

Return from Audio Editing to Video Editing: Easy Tips to Make Your Videos Shine!

Return from Audio Editing to Groovy Videos: YouTube Channel and YouTube Video Tips

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