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Better Recording Quality pt. 3 - Don't Rely on "Fix it in post"

We've all probably heard the phrase, "I'll fix it in post," meaning when something doesn't go right in the moment, especially in a recording situation, you decide to fix the problem in post-production editing instead of adjusting in the moment.

Maybe the framing in your camera doesn't look quite right, or your mics aren't in the optimal placement, but you are in such a hurry to get these recordings done (you've only rented this space for 90 minutes, after all, and you need to churn out some arias), that you decide your time would be better spent fixing those issues later in digital edits rather than spending the time on easy tweaks now. While fixing it in post is an option, it is never the best option. Pause, assess, and do things right in the moment to save yourself the headache later.

A few personal anecdotes:

1) OOPS was recently filming at Studio Z in Lowertown St. Paul. We had 3 camera angles for this shoot, and the Camera B framing happened to include a large gong in the background. Siena asked me if I wanted to move the gong out of the frame, and I, thinking that would be a hassle, said no. Why go through the effort of moving a gong and its accessories, when I could just crop it out of the frame in post?

After a few takes, I agreed that we should move the gong, and I am glad we did for 2 major reasons:

1) Cropping in post actually lowers the resolution, because you are using a smaller portion of your image, which still has to fill the full screen. That usually isn't terribly noticeable by itself, but when switching between camera angles in editing, the difference in resolution becomes visible, and that significantly increases your editing time to make sure your angles match.

I know most of you won't be filming audition videos in multicam shoots, but consider the equipment you are using; if you are capturing the video on your phone, your video quality is already compromised. Why compromise it further by cropping the frame in post. Just move the gong out of the way when you have the chance.

2) We later found out that the gong vibrates on an A. How did we find out? Because at the end of one of the pieces, the singer held a lovely high A, which caused the gong to start vibrating audibly in the space. Thank goodness we moved it out of the path of the directional microphones, or the sound would have picked up and ruined that lovely audio take.

2) Podcasting audio can be difficult to dial in when recording in a home studio, especially when you don't have the means to record in-person with your podcasting partner (hello pandemic) or to turn your office in to an isolation box. It is tempting to just spend the time in post-production adding noise gates and adjusting the EQ, but you are so much better off adjusting for those things in pre-production. Amanda Carlson and I were recently recording an episode of our podcast, for which we spent months adjusting to dial in our best audio options for the equipment and spaces that we have to work with. On that recording day, we ran through our pre-flight audio checklist and everything seemed to be going as smoothly as usual. However, something went terribly wrong when Zoom saved the audio at the end of the recording session. For some reason, Amanda's audio was saved at variable speeds, and her audio track was twice as long as mine. No matter what I tried, couldn't fix her individual track speed to line up with mine, so I had to use the compiled audio track of both of our voices that zoom saves by default, meaning I wouldn't have control of the sound in individual tracks; whatever adjustment I wanted to make to one voice would have to be made to the other.

THANK GOODNESS we had corrected for all of our audio issues ahead of time. If you go back and listen through our episodes, I bet you wouldn't be able to pick out which one had a technology glitch. If we hadn't gone through our pre-flight audio checklist that day, the episode would have taken me several days to edit to just a listenable quality.

Human error is inevitable. Technological error is inevitable. If you take the time to control for every variable you have control over in the moment, fixing in post will be saved for the variables you couldn't control. It will save you time, save you a huge headache, and it will significantly increase the quality of audio or video you put out. Don't rely on fixing it in post if you don't have to.

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