Basic sound editing terms: You should know


Video creation is equal parts visuals and sound. When you are just starting, you have a lot to learn about the audio side and the visual side.

Audio doesn’t need to be boring or overwhelming. When done correctly, with the right software and insight, it can actually be rewarding and fun. This is a great tool to help your videos stand out. Your audience may not even be aware of the reason why they are more interested in your message and content.

While many film and video professionals still consider audio to be an afterthought when compared with cinematography and video editing, we’ll explore the audacious realm of sound editing. We’ll cover sound terms, fundamentals, and how to select the best sound editing software for your next video project.

What is sound editing?

Let’s begin with some definitions before diving deeper into software and techniques. Sound editing is the term we use for any audio or sound editing. It’s not just a term for video, as many professionals and sound editors work with audio outside of video.

Although they may be done at first, it is common to separate video and audio editing.

Sound editors are responsible for more than just editing. They may also be tasked to create sounds themselves or record audio or dialogue in order to aid the video-editing process.

Sound editing vs. sound mixing

When one is first starting in video and audio editing, a question often arises about the differences between sound mixing and sound editing. While these terms may seem similar, and they do share some similarities, the roles are different.

Sound editing is the process of editing, recording, and recreating audio clips and sound effects. Sound mixing is more about audio levels and balancing out everything for the final “mix.”

In the modern world of DIY video production, these roles and terms are often combined. While on most big-budget professional and high-end video projects, they are performed by separate professionals and companies. For many video editors today, having the ability to do both of these things is expected.

There are some great resources and tools available for aspiring video and audio editors. Digital technology has made it possible to do what was once a very archaic job with a few clicks.

You need to know about sound editing

Here are some common audio terms all video creators should know. This is not an exhaustive list, as there are many audio-related words! This is a good primer for some of the most common terms.

Cardioid mics are easily explained by their shape, which is a heart. This pickup pattern is shaped like a heart. Cardioid mics pick up the majority of their audio in one direction. They reject most noise from the other direction but still pick up ambient sound around the scene. These microphones are perfect for any speech-related use, such as voice-overs and — the most popular — podcasts.

Diegetic Sounds are created by the objects or subjects that appear in your film or are implied to be there. They can be actors’ voices, footsteps, or a tinkling keyboard.

Dual system recording refers to sound that is not recorded directly in the camera. For example, you could use a separate sound recorder to capture audio apart from the visual shots. This means that you will have to sync the sound in post-production, either manually with a slate or using software like Red Giant’s PluralEyes.

Foleyis synchronized sound effects. Foley sounds can be created from objects in the film or completely from scratch. You can record sounds like footsteps in the snow by rustling a cornstarch bag in your hands.

Lavalier mics are tiny microphones that are placed on your body. For example, they can be attached to the jacket lapel, the hair of the talent, or under clothing. Lav microphones, when paired with a wireless receiver and transmitter, can be used for wireless audio recording while remaining mostly or completely concealed if needed.

Microphone Polar (Pickup) Patterns are how different microphones capture sounds around their central axis. This is how the microphone captures audio in relation to the direction you point it. There are many different patterns. Three common ones are shotgun, omnidirectional, and cardioid (in order of most focused to least). It might be useful to review these terms.

Natural Sound (also known as ‘nat sound’) is a sound that occurs in its natural environment. Think of sounds such as wind, trees, insects, cars, and animals. Natural sounds can be a great way to give your film more depth and realism. Your stories will come to life in a way your visuals cannot.

Diegetic Sounds are the tones emitted by subjects or objects that do not appear in your film, nor are they implied to be there. This can be done with a voice-over or by using a soundtrack.

Omnidirectional Microphones are microphones that capture sounds in all directions. These are great if you don’t need to charge a highly focused sound or are recording audio in an unpredictably changing environment. Most lavalier mics (also called “lav mics”) are omnidirectional, which means that they can be clipped on the lapel of your talent to record their voice even if they turn their heads and their mouths are not pointed at it.

Clipped/peaking audio is, in short, not good! Clipped audio works the same way as cut highlights on your video. Once they are gone, they are gone. It will cause distorted audio that is virtually unusable. Turn down the volume (usually starting at -10db to give yourself a buffer in case of an unexpected event) or use a limiter built into your audio-capturing device.

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