Mixing it up – tips for your video biography audio mix.

You’ve just completed combining all the visual elements of your first video biography. Everything is in place – the interviews, narration, photos, text, etc. But don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet – the audio mix is next! Maybe you have only two tracks of audio (interview and music) or perhaps you have three, four or more tracks holding various interviews, music cuts and sound effects. No matter how few or how many tracks you need to combine, the prospect can be a bit daunting. Here are some tips that may help.

Take it one layer at a time.
Think of the audio portion of your project as a layer cake. Instead of trying to mix together everything at once, concentrate on adding to the mix one layer at a time.

Voice first.
The voice track is the most important audio element of your piece. So start by turning off or disabling all the audio tracks except for the track that has the interview. You’re not deleting these other tracks, mind you, just temporarily turning them off so you hear only your interview. After you’ve done this, play your video from beginning to end, adjusting the voice levels along the way. Your editing software should have a visible VU meter that shows the audio levels as you go. Your aim is to keep your voice levels sounding natural, consistent and, most important, out of the red! If they peak into the red area of your VU meter, go back and adjust the levels so they stay in the green. Red levels will result in unpleasant snaps, crackles and pops when you convert your video to a DVD.

Music next.
Once you have the level of your voice track where you want it, turn on the track containing your music. Remember, the music’s purpose is to set a tone (historic and/or emotional) that supports the interview. So don’t blast your levels or make them too faint. Aim for a balance that enhances the interview and doesn’t drown it out. And continue to keep an eye on your levels. The combined level of the voice and sound will be higher than the level of the voice alone. You may have a mix that sounds great but peaks into the red. If that happens, go back and lower the voice and music until they’re in the green.

Sound effects last.
The time to mix in your sound effects is after you’ve mixed your music and voice. By now you should have the hang of this audio mixing routine and are keeping an eagle eye on your audio levels.

One final note: A successful mix actually begins when you start editing your video. Be logical about how you lay out your audio tracks as you edit. For example, if you have one interview put the audio for that interview on one track only. Assign one track (or two or more as needed) as your music track and put your sound effects on another track. If your editing software allows you to name your tracks, do so. Having your tracks clearly labeled and organized will make it easier for you to layer them when mixing time comes.