Hey, where’d my audio go?

The little Flip video cameras by PureDigital are useful for busy reporters who want to capture live video but don’t want the hassle of carrying around a mini DV camcorder and going through video capture hell.

But there’s a big downside — the audio is a real problem. There is no external mic, so if a reporter is interviewing someone who doesn’t speak loudly, or if the interview is being conducted amid a lot of background noise, the video can turn out to be useless.

Don’t panic, though, if you dump the AVI file on your desktop and you don’t hear any audio in your Windows Media Player. (They are .AVI files and thus are much easier to work with on a PC.)

We had a case like that last week, where a reporter at one of our weekly papers had shot an interview with a soft-spoken boxer. He couldn’t hear any audio on playback and worried that he had lost the interview.

Turns out the audio was there, but it was so faint that it wouldn’t play back. He was using Adobe Premiere Elements (for cost reasons), which only allows you to boost the audio by 6 db. Still wasn’t enough.

I pulled the avi file into Final Cut Pro and boosted the audio by another 12 db. It wasn’t a perfect solution because, of course, the background hissing and humming got too hot. But at least he’s able to use the footage.

Of course, I could have tried other alternatives, such as exporting the audio track into Goldwave or another audio editing program, but then I would have had to line up the video and the audio again. I also could have used Soundtrack Pro, which comes in the Final Cut Studio bundle, but I was able to do enough boosting in FCP to make it work.

Just another one of those workarounds required when you work in a print industry and have to fight for every dollar spent on multimedia equipment and software.

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