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Media Lab Basics: Audio 101

Media Lab Basic Series

Welcome to the Media Lab

The HelpDesk+ Media Lab provides equipment and expertise to help get you started on your audio project. Whether borrowing recording equipment, editing in Audacity, or helping with a podcast project, this guide should serve as a hub for informational resources and useful contacts.

Academic Consultant, Digital Media

Profile Photo
Terry Raper
Contact:
Moody Library
Garden Level - G27f
254-710-2862

Media Lab Basics: AUDIO 101

Planning to Record?

Once you’ve planned out your project, you can begin recording audio.

Audio recording can be done with a cell phone with a built-in microphone, but you will produce a much higher quality recording if you use better recording equipment.

One option is to record in an audio studio, like the one located in The Media Lab. Studios are generally well sound-proofed and the audio booth in The Media Lab has the equipment for a professional quality recording. To use the audio booth, reserve the audio studio in advance through Libcal.

Another option is to borrow equipment from The Media Lab. This is a good option if you want to record interviews at an event or record sounds that you can’t get in the studio. Equipment is available first come, first served basis. Click here to view and reserve audio equipment from The Media Lab.

Get help from The Media Lab

The Media Lab, located in Moody Library, has staff available to help for all aspects of multimedia projects. Faculty, staff, and students who need help during project creation should schedule an appointment and visit Moody Library to get assistance from our experienced Creative Labs staff.

Recording in Studio

The Media Lab contains two audio booths equipped with sophisticated microphones and software.

Click here to reserve the audio studio in advance.

For help setting up and using the equipment in the audio studio, schedule a consultation with Media Lab Staff. 

The Audio Booths are sound isolation studios designed for professional audio capture. We provide all the gear you need, but you can easily plug in your own instruments or laptop.

Studio equipment includes:

 

Electro-Voice RE20 microphone - The classic radio broadcast microphone. It provides a reliable, warm sound that flatters most voices. 

 

Focusrite Scarlett 6i6  USB audiointerface - A high-end audio interface to connect to the computer. Two microphones can be plugged in at once.

 

Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones - Wear good headphones to monitor what’s coming in through your microphone. You need to hear that you’re close enough but not too close, that you’re not popping your P’s, bumping the stand, or in need of a drink of water.
 
 
Boom arm microphone mount - Mount the RE20 onto the boom arm with its shock mount to position the microphone and protect it from sounds when it's bumped.

 

Pop filter - The RE20 works best when positioned close to the speaker’s mouth, but that can cause the microphone to pick up breath noises and “pops” from words with P’s. A pop filter helps reduce this problem.
 

Mobile Recording​

The Media Lab has a variety of microphones and recorders available to help record an audio project on the go. Equipment is available to anyone in the Baylor community and is checked out from the Garden Level of the Moody library. 

You can browse all Media Lab equipment here. 

Recommended setup is an USB Blue Snowball microphone plugged into a laptop due to its simplicity in setup.

 

Zoom H5 audio recorder - A multipurpose portable recording device with two XLR inputs and two built-in stereo microphones. Plug one or two microphones into its XLR inputs and record onto a memory card, and then later transfer the sound files to a computer. 

 

Shure SM48 microphone - A classic microphone designed for vocals, with low handling noise and a sturdy construction. Connects to a recorder with a XLR cable. If interviewing - you want one for the interviewer and one for the interviewee.

 

Sennheiser EW 112P G4 - A lavalier wireless microphone system.

 

Blue Snowball microphone - An USB plug and play microphone for a quick and easy setup.

 

General Recording Tips

Choose a quiet setting
Ideally you want to be in a quiet, secluded, and sound-proof room. If you have to be outside, stay away from roads, dogs, mowers, etc. Record all audio in the same room - elements in rooms like carpet, ceiling height, and windows will make each room sound unique.
Wear headphones
Headphones help isolate the audio, helping you catch any problems in your narration or audio.
Place your microphone strategically
Don't be too close or too far away from the microphone. The appropriate distance between your mouth and the microphone is 6 to 12 inches. This prevents "popping" noises and heavy breathing in your recording. If you sound thin and distant, get closer to the microphone.
Check your levels
Your microphone levels should never peak into the red during your test. The optimal point for your microphone levels is just below the red.

Speak clearly and articulate your words
Remember to speak conversationally, as if speaking to a friend. Sit in a chair and sit up straight. Sound confident!

Listen to the audio playback
Always listen to the audio you recorded to make sure that the audio levels are okay. If you find yourself lowering or raising the volume on your speakers, you will probably need to start over. 

Record high audio quality
When you're recording, always record .WAV files at 16-bit, 48 kHz. Do not record .mp3s or other compressed audio.

General Editing

You've written your scripts, done your recording and you're ready to put it all together. But exactly how do you do that? This process of cutting and assembling your final project from all your components is called editing.

You should start by compiling your assets, which are all of the components of your audio project like music and sound effects. Then you'll bring your assets into an editing program. When you've completed your project, export it as a .wav and upload to a sharing platform.

The art of audio editing takes time and practice to improve. Some general tips to get started include:

Know your audio: Listen to what you've recorded, take notes, and know how you're going to shape the story
Making cuts: Don't worry too much about cutting out filler words (uhms and ahs). Do pay attention to where breaths lie between sentences. It can be easy to cut breaths in unnatural ways and cause a "hiccup" or double-breath effect. Don't cut off the beginning of a word (words starting with soft beginnings - "F", "H", "S" - are especially easy to accidentally cut)
Use fades and crossfades: Abrupt starts and stops sound unnatural. Use crossfades between sections of audio or use room tone to mask the edits.
Add music and sound effects: Find music that fits your tone and sound effects that enhance your sense of location.

Background noise: steady, constant background noises like fans and hums can be taken out in Adobe Audition. It is much harder to take out random noises like other people talking or sirens.

NPR created an ear training guide for audio producers with examples of common editing and recording problems.

Adding Music

Many podcasts include music at the beginning and end, as well as during transitions. Music can also be added into the background of a noisy interview clip to mask the noise.

Royalty free music allows you to purchase a license for a piece of music that entitles you to use it for the duration of the license.

For free music, search for creative commons licensed music, which generally allow you to use a piece of music for free and without permission, as long as you credit the artist. Some creative commons licensed music is restricted to non-commercial uses. Always make sure you have permission to use a piece of music. You can also search for music that is in the public domain, in which the copyright has expired. Websites to browse through include:


Sound Effects
Free Sound A collaborative database of CC-licensed sound. Freesound focusses on sound and sound effects, not music
Archive.org Non-profit digital library with collections of digitized free movies, music, images, websites and more
Music
Free Music Archive CC-licensed music grouped by genre  | 
ccMixter CC-licensed music for film, video and games  | 
CCTrax CC-licensed music grouped by genre  | 
Incompetech CC-licensed and royalty-free music from one composer  | 
Soundcloud Audio-sharing site with a decent amount of CC-licensed music  | 
mobygratis Electronic musician Moby has released many of his songs to use for free in educational projects  | 

If you have a musical friend, consider asking them if you can use their music or if they’d like to partner with you to create sounds specifically for your project.

Audio Mixing Tips

Audio mixing generally refers to the processes that make your audio sound better. The most important points below are fixing your levels and exporting properly. The other mixing tips are a higher difficulty level, but they are common processes run on most high-quality podcasts, which will make your podcast sound more professional.

Fix your levels: Try to get the gain of each of your clips around the same loudness - try -6dB. Use normalization or amplify.
Equalizer: Boost or cut the level of specific frequency bands. Parametric equalizers allow precise adjustments for a range of frequencies. High-pass filters let through only high frequencies and reduce signal beneath a certain frequency range. This can be good for reducing rumble or hum. Low-pass filters reduce high frequencies, which can be good for a reducing a hiss.
Compression: Reduces the overall dynamic range of your audio, meaning the difference between the quiet and loud sounds will not be as great. Voices generally benefit from some small compression, which makes it easier to listen to. For compressing a vocal track, try starting with a 3:1 ratio and adjust the threshold so that 4-5 dB of gain-reduction occurs between peaks, then tweak.
Limiter: a limiter is like a wall that won't let you audio go past a certain loudness point. It's good practice to put a limiter on at -3dB.
Export: Export your project as a .wav and as a .mp3 file. .wav files are not compressed so they are higher quality but you might need to submit .mp3, as they are smaller.

Recording & Editing Software

The Media Lab computers are equipped with audio recording and editing software. Feel free to visit Moody Library to use any workstation to complete your audio project. 

 

Recommended software includes:

 

Audacity - Free audio recording and editing program for both Mac and PC. The easiest program to use, but the most limited in capabilities.

 

GarageBand - Free audio recording and editing program for Mac only. Fairly easy to use, slightly more features than Audacity.

 

Adobe Audition - Paid audio recording and editing program for both Mac and PC. Comes equipped in all Baylor lab computers, but could be costly when purchasing a personal license. Advance capabilities gives a higher audio quality, but has a steeper learning curve.

 

Sharing & Embedding

 

html 5Web Embedding

For web designers, HTML5 includes an <audio> element, a method of standardizing how audio files can be embedded on a web page. Web design tools such as Dreamweaver or Wordpress also allow for audio uploading and sharing, though audio sharing necessitates a space upgrade within Wordpress.

 

 

 

SoundCloudSocial Sharing

Social audio sharing sites provide an increasingly popular forum for uploading and distributing original audio content. SoundCloud offers a way to upload music and share via popular social networks such as Twitter or Facebook, as well as within the SoundCloud system. A SoundCloud widget enables users to create their own embeddable audio player for use on websites as well.

 

 

 

DropboxCloud Sharing

For sending original audio files privately to specific people, consider using a cloud-based service such as Dropbox or Google Drive. With these services, control exactly which collaborators receive the files.

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