The audio playback quality on Spy Cameras can be lower quality than you would like. If you have bought a spy camera, or are still in the research phase, this is a real problem!
Fortunately there is a solution to improve the audio on your spy camera footage which is not that difficult. You have to use Audacity (audio recording software) and take basic steps to ensure the best quality audio when you record.
Get The Best Audio Input When You Record
Note: I’ve used a watch camera for this example, but you can use the post production stages on any spy camera recordings to improve the audio quality.
Before we get to post production improvement though, we need to get the best audio input. To do that, you have to think where the microphone is when you use the device to record.
As you can see, the microphone is small and unobtrusive, sitting on the side of the camera. Whilst this is great for covert spy footage, it does mean you’ll need to tweak your spy watch camera videos to get the best possible audio.
Step 1: Ensure the microphone is in a good position.
The best compromise of stealth, video and audio is to stand in the positions I demonstrate below. Before you improve the sound post production, you want to get the best possible sound as an input.
Use a rucksack as a prop
Here you will note that the rucksack is a prop, but the watch camera will still record the subject and get the head and shoulders in. However, you may need to do some test runs and try angling your wrist to get the best footage.
In this position the microphone is about 2-2.5 feet away.
In this position the microphone is about 1.5 – 2 feet away. I’ve recorded an example to show you what the sound and video quality is like. Please note : This example is post production with the sound cleaned up and tweaked. I’ll show you exactly how to do this, and show you a before and after.
As you can hear, the audio is decent quality after post production editing (I will show you how after the final optimum position for recording!)
Seated At Table
This is probably the best position for sound quality. The mic will be approximately equal distance between the subject (person you are filming) and you.
I’d estimate 1-1.5 feet.
Post Production Sound Editing
This is the stage where you “clean up” your sound and sync it with the video from your Spy Camera.
Note: If you’re familiar with video editing software already, use whichever program you choose, but you will need to export the audio file only for improvement with Audacity.
So install those programs first.
Now before you continue, you will also need to install a DLL file for Audacity. This is because the program is missing a library file which allows you export the audio. The reason is it’s a 3rd party file which cannot be bundled up with the program.
If you do not, it will throw up this error when you try and export your cleaned up audio file! Very annoying, I know.
I have hightlighted on the page where you need to install the file. And don’t worry, it is perfectly safe!
Explode (unzip) the zip file where you will remember it. Take a note of it – you will need this later.
You will see 1 file is unzipped (lamedll).
Improving Sound On Spy Footage : Post Production Part 2
So you should have Audacity and VSDC video editor (or equivavlent) installed and working.
Now it’s time so separate the audio from the video on your footage, and export it for cleaning:
Separating Audio Files From Spy Cam Footage
Load up VSDC and import your spy cam footage video file.
Now, you need to split video and audio. Highlight the footage on the timeline, then go to the properties window on the right hand side, scroll to the bottom and click “split video and audio”. See picture below.
Then export it – as shown below:
Now you need to load up Audacity. When you do, open the audio file you have just exported from VSDC.
Then you need to remove the annoying background noise. Follow this video below to do just that:
This is a very helpful video. Unfortunately, the guy neglected to mention how to actually export the file! So, export the file to a location you can remember and note it down.
You will need to export as MP3 (an audio file), which your video editing software will recognise.
Now load up VSDC. Find the project where you exported the audio, and delete the original audio.
Right click to get the delete option once you have highlighted the audio on the timeline.
Then load the cleaned up audio instead in the same position
(Note – it gets very tricky if you insert the audio at any position other than 0.00 seconds – because it needs to match the video perfectly. If it does not, the sound will be out of sync)
The best way to do this is to create a scene specifically for that part of the video you are making. Each scene has it’s own separate timeline, making it much easier to amend as a discrete entity. Usually, you will only be making 1 scene anyway, so this is not an issue for most people.
Tweaking the sound levels on the Spy Camera Footage
Now you should have you spy camera video footage with cleaned up and perfectly synched audio.
You can now edit the sound levels of the audio file to get the best levels for your video.
Simply highlight the audio file again, and use the up / down audio volume arrows to get the desired level.
Before you think of exporting the file however, it’s best to preview how it looks and sounds and check all is working OK.
Use the preview button and a window pops up which shows how the footage would look if you were to render it as is.
Here is where you asses what the sound is like, and adjust the volume levels accordingly.
Once you’ve got it right, simply export the video file as I showed you earlier, but this time export as an MP4 (or equivalent), with high quality to a file location of your choosing.
Although this might look complicated, it really is not once you’ve done it a couple of times.
When you want the get the best possible audio from your Spy Camera recordings, you need to consider both the input sound quality, and then tweak it to get the best quality after you have finished filming.
For this reason, I’ve found it is worth investing in a good quality body worn spy camera. Typically, the slightly more expensive models have better quality microphone and video recording.
I’ve had some disasters with tat from China that fell apart the minute you try and put a memory card in.
One even caved in when I pressed the on button too hard (though I admit I have fat thumbs!)
Whatever you choose, follow the guidelines above to get the best possible sound. Body worn cams are much harder to get perfect sound by their nature, because of background noise, wind and an uncertain distance of the subject from the microphone.
By following the guidelines above you’ll make the absolute best of your footage!