How to Sync Audio and Video Sources

Nothing turns off viewers faster than a video with bad audio.

If you are recording with mobile devices or lower end cameras, they will most likely have very poor built-in mics that are designed to pick up a wide pattern of sound.

Unless you have a higher end camera that has a built-in shotgun mic, you are going to want consider recording audio separately from your video.

This means that you’ll need to learn how to sync audio files and video clips in your video editing process.

You may think you need complex programs like Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated.

A little bit of knowledge and a simple video editor will go a long way.

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Free Video Course: Learn everything you need to know with our free TechSmith Academy course, Basics: Syncing Audio and Video.

Choose the right microphone

The first thing you’re going to want to do is select the best microphone. Each mic has a different pick-up pattern and connection type so you’re going to want to determine what’s best for your situation.

Lavalier microphone

For one person interviews, I recommend a lavalier or “lav” mic.

These are great for clipping on your subjects shirt and are easily hidden. They do a great job of picking up only the audio that is close by.

Lavalier mic

Shotgun microphone

For capturing location sounds, or dialog between 2 or more people, I recommend a shotgun mic.

Caution though, shotgun mics are very directional, so you need to make sure you’re pointing the mic directly at the sound you want to pick up.

Shotgun mic

Cardioid microphone

And finally you have your traditional hypercardioid mic which is great for your TV journalistic style shoots or stage performances.

Cardioid mic

Select an audio recorder

So you picked out your microphone and now you need a recorder to capture the audio. Here are a few options that I recommend.

Audio recorders

How to sync audio and video sources

microphone in front of computer screen

Step 1: Get good audio

This can be tough. There are so many things that could potentially affect your audio recording. On top of making sure you select the right microphone, you will also need to make sure you select the right location. Here’s a short list of factors you’ll need to watch out for:

Weather

Nothing will make a terrible audio experience like wind. Filming an interview outside? Did you bring some wind blocking gear? You will, at the very least need a windscreen, however, the best case scenario would be to find an interview location where the weather is not a factor.

Location

Ambient noise can be terrible to try and eliminate in post production. Some video editors have advanced sound mixing tools, but try to fix as control as possible before the edit. Find a location that is quiet and has low foot traffic to mitigate unwanted sounds.

Animals

Yes, this is a real thing! Unless you intend to hear dogs barking or birds chirping during your video, try to find a location where ambient animal sounds are a non-issue. Nothing is worse than having a dog bark when your interviewee gives you a perfect one-liner!

After you have found the right location, you absolutely must do a “sound check”. This means setting up all of your audio recording equipment, recording some test audio and playing that back to assess the quality of the sound. Never jump into your interview without doing a sound check!

Step 2: Import audio

So you’ve just recorded your audio separate from your video?

Congratulations!

There are so many video editing software options on the market it can sometimes be hard to choose the best one for your project. If you’re the type of producer who is recording interviews and b-roll, Camtasia may be the best product for you.

With Camtasia, you can import your audio and video tracks independently. If you need to trim a portion of your recording, it’s often easier when the tracks are separate.Then, simply drag each clip onto your timeline.

screenshot of camtasia how to insert media

Step 3: Sync audio with video

The most difficult part of syncing audio with video is actually lining up your audio and video tracks in the timeline. Use the timeline zoom function in Camtasia to begin lining up your audio and video.

You’ll want to make sure that you can scrub through the timeline at frame by frame basis. To do this, zoom all the way in!


Now that you can see each frame and audio spike, it’s time to line up the “Clap Sync”. This is an old school method of syncing your audio to video. You may have even seen this method used in big Hollywood production (see below for the clapboard).

image of a clapboard

The clapboard is used to give editors the visual marker, while the sound produced by the clap provides the audio marker.

On your timeline, you will see an audio spike and in the video you should see your clapboard or hands clapping. This will allow you to sync the video with the audio!

screenshot of Camtasia

If you forgot to include a clap or cue, you’re left trying to find an obvious cough, or louder moment in the audio spike, that you can cue to their mouths movement.

Step 4: Celebrate!

person jumping in celebration

You did it! You synced your audio and video on the timeline. Sometimes it’s just a matter of trimming the ends and exporting, other times you have a lot more editing still to do.

Either way, you are now through the syncing process and ready for what’s next.

Syncing audio and video can seem like a tough and terrible task, but it doesn’t have to be. Use the tried and true method of the clapboard, along with easy to use post production software like Camtasia to get your desired audio and video. This will get you on track to produce great interview footage.

Want to learn more? Our free TechSmith Academy course, Basics: Syncing Audio and Video, will walk you through the process.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2017 and has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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