Sound is another area that has a lot of opportunities to spend money.
If you're a professional podcaster and this is a major source of revenue for you, then it's worth doing a professional setup with expensive microphones, mixers, and soundproofing.
If you're on a tight budget or aren't ready for a major investment, don't worry.
All it takes is a little creativitiy and attention to detail to get pro-worthy audio with very little cost.
When it comes to sound, there are only three things you need to think about.
Input is how you capture audio.
Do you use your camera or laptop's built-in mic? Or do you use a freestanding mic, clip-on (lavalier) mic, or a headphones with a microphone?
In most cases you can get by with your device's built-in mic if you're the only person in the video or doing a 1-on-1 conversation on a Zoom type video.
These type of microphones capture a broad range of sound and you're more likely to pick up background sounds than you will get with a lavalier or headphones, but they're okay.
Lavalier and headphones are designed to isolate the speaker's voice and do a decent job of blocking stray background noises. -- Nothing is going to help if your dog is standing next to you barking, but lav mics and headphones give a good effort.
Freestanding mics are podcaster favorites because they provide a depth of sound and isolate the speaker. They also tend to be a little more expensive. You can get a decent gaming mic for around $50 and an entry level Blue Yeti podcaster mic around $125.
Depending on what we're filming, Lisa usually uses her device's built-in mic and Pat uses headphones or a stand alone mic.
Output is how you hear your video's sound.
Before Zoom, using your device's speakers to hear someone while you were taping a video call was a challenge. More often than not, the video would pick up the echos and render much of the audio useless.
Technology has improved quite a bit in the last couple years. Many online video platforms are now able to clean up a lot of the echos and background noises automatically. It's not going to help much if someone is using a jackhammer or a leaf blower outside your window, but if it's just general street noise you should be okay.
Our best tip for this is to err on the side of caution. If it sounds a little loud, or if there are a lot of people in the room with you, just use headphones.
We've used more brands and models than we can remember. Our best advice is avoid bluetooth for long videos as they can cut out. Also be cautious of some of the less expensive usb headphones as they can pick up computer noise like fans or spinning discs if you're using an old style hard drive.
Noise reduction is a lot easier (and cheaper) than you think.
As we said above, start by using headphones. This will cut down on most outside sounds.
Once you deal with the external noises, you need to think about how your recording space affects your sound quality.
It's surprising how loudly sound echos off of bare walls and hardwood floors. If you're using a device or stand alone mic rather than headphones, you might want to take an extra step to minimize some of the sound bouncing off of hard surfaces like floors, walls, and desks.
Things like adding drapes or a small area rug beneath a desk will help reduce some of the sound, but laying a towel on the desktop will give you a noticeable reduction in hard surface echos with no cost. (Everyone has a towel in their closet, right?)
We did this in our old office, and we still do this in the conference room when we host hybrid Zoom/in person meetings.
Along a similar line, you can also hang blankets or quilts on the walls to dampen sound.
Tip: Using a green screen as your background can do double duty as light soundproofing. Most aren't thick enough to provide total silence, but they will aid in dampening background noise.