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The Importance of Audio

Lesson 18 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

The Importance of Audio

Lesson 18 from: Filming Families: The Modern Family Video

Courtney Holmes

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Lesson Info

18. The Importance of Audio


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


The Spark That Inspired Me


What Are Family Films?


Gear for Family Films


Camera Settings for Video


Frame Rates & Slow Motion


Picture Profiles & Color Grading


Settings for Audio Capture


Lesson Info

The Importance of Audio

So, audio. The importance of audio. We've talked already about how to capture the audio, and the technical side of it, but now I'm gonna talk to you about why it's important. I said before, sound design is something that I'm really, I'm always still working towards. I don't think I've nailed it, I'm trying to get there. But, I definitely believe that it's important to incorporate audio as much as you can. The hard thing about it is, that, like I've done a session before, where the, they were playing, what were they playing? A Trolls soundtrack the whole time that we, they were jumping on the trampoline outside, and it was the Trolls soundtrack. And I mean the kids had a great time, they loved it. It was a massive dance party, but it lasted like half the session. I can't use any of that, 'cause it's all music over the top, right? Then the second half of the session, the washing machine was beeping, and nobody went and did anything about it. (laughing) And I didn't say anything, because ...

I don't typically interject. In that instance I probably should have, but I didn't, and I let it go. And then, it was, I heard it at first, and then it kind of, I must've gotten used to it, (laughs) and when I went to edit the footage, there was nothing, no audio that I could use from it, right? So, you know, there are, and then there's times where, you're working with a family, and there's just, not anything great being said. Like, I don't know, there's, they, you can still make it look great, but there's just not anything that works. (audience member coughs) And, I just think that that's just part of the challenge of this whole thing. Is that sometimes you're gonna get amazing audio, and its gonna be wonderful. And, you should be prepared to be able to capture it when you can. But, there's gonna be times when you don't, as well. And that's just kinda part of it. So, I do wanna say, that it's extremely important, and if you can do it, you should know how to do it, and you should try to incorporate it as much as you can, right? "Half of the storytelling ability is sound." Joe Harrington. I believe 100% in this quote. Whether it's sound from the ambient noise during the session, or the things the people are saying, or the music that I choose to put with it. Lot of times I'll choose a track that's got a lot of lyrics, if I know I don't have a lot of audio. 'Cause that's gonna help tell that story for the family. I know that those lyrics resonate with them. So I'm really really conscious about the songs that I choose for that reason. Things to capture audio of. Time sensitive voices. Anything that's gonna change later, so children's voices specifically. Parents' as well, but you know, babies, if they're saying anything that is really adorable. Especially if they repeat it a lot, then that's helpful. Meaningful conversation. If the parents are helping their child with homework, or if the, the parents are telling a story to the child about their childhood, or something like that. Meaningful conversation is something to look ut for, and something important that you could include. And then, ambient sound. So, you know, that could be just the noises of, or the sounds of them making breakfast in the morning. The things that you wake up to in the morning. In Australia, we have these crazy birds that, I wouldn't say crazy, but that, there're so many bird noises there, it's insane. So, you, that's something I love to capture in the morning especially, because you hear these, like morning bird sounds. And I love opening films with that, if I've started that. If I've started in the morning. So, I'm gonna show you an example of a film that I did, for my son, which was shot at the beach. And this is more of a portrait, so this is different to how I would normally shoot, like a family session. This was done pretty quickly, it was just at the beach, and it's really just him. So I call this a portrait of him. It's like a moving portrait, right? And, when I first did it, 'cause we're at the beach, it was really windy, there was no chance, and plus he wasn't really saying much at the beach for there to be much audio. But, later, I got out my Zoom. We were talking about the Zoom H5, and the external recorder. And I recorded some audio of him, and I just asked him about his trip to the beach. So I got some audio of him, and I overlaid that afterwards, okay? I'm gonna show you the difference between the two, and what that, what adding that extra audio makes. (light acoustic music) 'Kay. So, that's without audio. (light acoustic music) I love the ocean. (gentle waves hitting shore) The waves. Sometimes very big and then they fall down to little waves, and then I can ride them. The ones that I can ride, I just ride them. My binoculars, they let me see a school of fish in the very far deep end, where the, where the big waves come out. (light acoustic music) (gentle waves hitting shore) See what a big difference that makes? Right? It really adds so much. And he totally made up that part where he could see the fish and the, from his binoculars. I'm like, no you couldn't. (audience laughing) But that's okay 'cause it's adorable. So, (laughs) yeah, I mean, what do you think? Yeah? It adds a lot. So, it could be something, I mean I've thought before about, you know, getting the parents to write letters to the children, and having, recording that, and then having that over the footage of the children. And, I've thought about before, doing interviews of the children, and having audio of the children's voices, and specifically making the time to record their voices, and adding that in. And incorporating that in some way. So, I mean, the sky's the limit, in terms of the creativity and the options that you have. It is up to you, as an artist, to decide how you want these to look. You know? It's entirely up to you. Any questions on any of that? When you are recording the sounds, do you have the microphone on the whole time? When you're doing close-ups, in case they say something? Or, how do you figure out when to turn the microphone on and off? Yeah, it's just recording the audio, while ever I'm shooting. So it's always there, and I can use it. And sometimes, I'll pull audio from a clip, and use it somewhere else, that doesn't match the footage. So I can pull the audio from wherever, so long as I'm filming. Also, I wanna just say, I added waves. You could hear that? (laughs) So I, I actually downloaded a track of the wave sound, the ocean, and added that as well, as a layer, underneath. I kept it low, but I wanted to, again it's back to that quote about, it's believing where you are, believing in where you are, it just makes you feel like you're there. That ambient noise, yeah. Is there a, yeah? Just kind of adding to that, this is a question from Craig Bryant. And I'm not sure if we're gonna cover this when we're editing, but, "When mixing "music and dialogue in the videos, "do you keep the music at a constant level "and then add the dialogue, to go over the music? "Or are you kind of shifting within?" That's a really good question. I will, I look for specific places in the music where the music naturally is lower. So like a decrescendo somewhere, where it's naturally lower, and try and slot in wherever my audio is there. If it fits, that's what I look for. It's rare that I'll pull the music down specifically. Because I don't love the dropping away of the music to hear the audio. So, I keep it a pretty consistent level throughout, and then increase the audio, and just try to slot that in, in the places where it works the best in the music.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Shot List Worksheet Template
Shot List Worksheet Example
Ideas for Your First Film
Discount Code

Ratings and Reviews

Adam Nicholls

Worth a watch! Courtney provides a clear and organised class, she is also very passionate about what she does which is always nice to see. She has a great back story which is fantastic. This course is good for beginners who have some knowledge in photography and want to learn more about video. I would recommend that people do not refer this class to the bible of filmmaking as I feel you can expand further on what Courtney teaches. Some useful tips for beginners but some methods I personally feel can be taught differently. I feel a gimbal is a useful bit of kit if used correctly. You can still use a gimbal when in manual mode providing you follow the basics rules! Obviously if Courtney prefers not to use a gimbal then that's also fine but I wouldn't discourage students from exploring useful filmmaking tools. Slow motion can be achieved with 50/60fps however I feel other frame rates should have been discussed like 120fps. I liked that Courtney engaged with the students as it gets them involved and will help them remember what they have learned during the class. Thank you for taking the time to share some of your knowledge

a Creativelive Student

Courtney's work is absolutely amazing and inspiring. I feel lucky that she has chosen to share her process and that this class is available! After watching all the videos and trying my hand at this video thing, I am feeling really encouraged and inspired to do more- both personally and professionally. I appreciate the way that she breaks things down in the video and that she shares her thought process. A really great course!


Courtney’s course completes me! I have storytelling “holes” in my film previously, but this course helped fill those holes to create a flow and a film with emotion. Not only is the course wonderful (and well worth every penny) but Courtney is wonderful as well! I had such an amazing experience at Creative Live!!!!

Student Work