Conversely, a great image with terrible audio creates an unpleasant experience for your audience.

Filmmakers will go as far as to say sound design is half the film.

Our brains are wired to process audio as context; the environmental noise allows us to place, and consequently trust, the sound. When you hear birdsong in someone’s background does your mind begin to visualise birds, to put yourself in their environment?

When we are seeking to communicate with others using our voice, we want more of our voice in the transmission and less noise. There are times when that birdsong can add to the experience and times when it will distract from your voice, try to pay attention to these moments for your audience.

To get more of your voice, and less noise, into the transmission there is a range of things we can do, many of them won’t cost you a dollar. In this video, we outline some of the environmental factors and compare a range of microphones if you’re considering investing.

Links to all of the microphones used in this video can be found at the bottom of this page.

Before you invest any money, there are environmental factors that affect your audio.

Let’s deep dive into them, starting with…

Remove Noise from Your Signal

Background noise generated by anything from fans to children to lawnmowers can make it difficult to hear you. And as much as we love our noise canceling headphones most of our microphones don’t yet have the power to determine which sound is your voice and which sound is the noise. In a perfect world you would remove the noise but in a less-than-perfect world try isolating your microphone from the noise, you can do this by positioning yourself so that something sound absorbing, like a bookshelf, a heavy curtain or even a sofa or bed on it’s side, is between you and the noise source.

Here’s an example of a desktop ‘Hoodie’ made of acoustic fabric which creates your own little sound cave – try recreating something like this.

Close Proximity of Your Microphone

Getting more of your voice, and less noise, into the microphone can be achieved through proximity too. The further away your microphone is the harder it has to work to get your voice and consequently the more other sounds it will pick up.

This is demonstrated in the video above at 2:50 with headphones and at 7:40 with a microphone.

If you’re using a laptop for your video and audio source then consider lifting up the laptop and bringing it closer to you. And if you’re using an external microphone try to also get this as close to your mouth as possible. Be mindful of how your movements will impact audio quality.

Remove Reverb and Echo

desk against hard surfaces
Two hard surfaces will reflect sound
Low position of computer will mean more of your voice will hit the wall at the same time as the computer
improvised standup desk with better acoustic treatement
Elevated computer will assist voice to microphone pickup
Improvised acoustic treatment using foam from packaging
Plants will provide some assistance to noise absorption and they’re nice!

Reverb is conceptually the same as echo with the only difference being the timing in which it impacts the sound; reverb is on a shorter timescale than echo. Both of these can be caused by your computer or by your physical environment.

Computers can create echo when sound coming from your speaker is being picked up by your microphone, causing a loop that sounds like echo. The easiest way to address this is by using headphones.

Your physical environment can cause echo and reverb and is typically caused by hard surfaces being in close proximity to your microphone, for example if your desk is hard against a corner with solid walls the soundwaves will reflect off that surface and come back to your microphone. To address this, consider flipping your desk so that you’re speaking into an open room rather than a wall, or alternatively, you can put something soft on the wall that will absorb rather than reflect the sound.

There are three things you can address right away to improve your sound quality, now let’s look at where you can invest if you’d like to take your audio quality up another notch.

Curated Resources

Improve Your Video

Improve Your Desk Setup

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