Even the most beautiful footage can’t sustain a film or video project if your sound is terrible. Here are some affordable tips to solve the problem.

Top image via kaptainkristian.

One of the surest signs of a student film (or low-budget film) or amateur project is bad sound. Smaller films and projects can get away with (and sometime can use to their advantage) lower-quality picture. Sometimes, using consumer-level DSLRs can be an endearing and even sensible course of action for that gritty, guerrilla-style shoot. However, nothing takes your audience out of the moment faster than bad sound. It’s an unfortunate and unappealing weakness in a project, and it will guarantee a rejection letter from any festival.

One of the earliest examples of how good audio and creative sound design can improve a film is none other than Star Wars: Episode IV.

Though Star Wars is anything but a micro-budget indie film, the lessons one can take from the original production should not go overlooked. Take the extremely cringe-worthy behind-the-scenes take of the lightsaber fights — or Darth Vader’s dialogue pre-ADR. Without good sound design, the film would never have become a smash success. The video essay goes on to explain the importance of these sound effects and audio tricks you’ve come to know and love from the Star Wars universe:

Every sound has its roots in organic recordings, rather than artificial ones.

So how can you possibly re-create (or create) original sound effects and audio while working on a micro-micro-budget feature or short film? Get creative. There are resources available online that will inevitably save you time and money on the road to picture lock. If you want to create sound effects and scores that are completely and totally your own original work, don’t be afraid to play with the form — whether it’s in Audition, Premiere, FCPX, or even Garage Band.

For situations when you might find it virtually impossible to record good sound, shoot your subjects in a way that post-production ADR won’t be too obvious. If your actors and subjects face away from the audience when they speak, no one can tell if the audio syncs. Capture long shots, over the shoulders, and consider wardrobe.

Hiding lavalier microphones is an art form in itself, but it can save you from wind and unwanted room tone. Diegetic sounds in the background can mask the poor quality of a microphone. All this is to say that you should consider your possibilities and limitations in post-production before you start shooting so that you can properly create a soundscape that’s both believable and enjoyable.

For all kinds of sound effects, check out PremiumBeat’s absolutely stacked collection here.

For your film’s score, PremiumBeat offers a dense selection of soundtracks ranging from ’80s synth pop to sweeping cinematic epics.

For more on audio and sound effects, check out our past coverage: