Using nat sound online

In TV news, natural sound is the other part of every picture–even if the sound is silence. You have to capture it by getting a mic close enough to pick up good quality ambient sound. Then you have to use it, up full or under narration and sound bites.  It’s important, because while video can show what happened, it takes natural sound to help viewers experience what happened.

How you edit with audio makes a huge difference to the viewer’s experience. TV editors often use a technique that’s sometimes called an “L-cut” to sneak audio from the scene that’s coming up next into the scene that’s just ending. The audio foreshadows where the story is going and draws the viewer along, making the edit seem less jarring.

That same technique can be used effectively online when using full screen text in lieu of narration.  When text graphics pop up with no audio, the viewer may feel like the story has come to a dead stop. So try adding some natural sound from the video that’s coming up right after the graphic to keep your online stories moving.

Want an example? Check this video at the Washington Post.



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  2. Thanks for the post! To embed the video, simply click “share” in the lower-right corner of the video player, and paste the embed code onto your site.

    Amanda Zamora

  3. Thanks for the suggestions about Brightcove, but (as opposed to the self-hosted variety) doesn’t support that kind of embed code yet. We keep asking…

  4. Pingback: Reasons natural sound is so important | News Videographer

  5. I think you mean to say that a J-cut is a split-edit that allows audio from the next scene to begin to be heard before seeing the related pictures.

    An L-cut is a split-edit that allows pictures from the next scene to be seen before hearing the audio from that scene.

    Happy editing!

  6. Thanks, Robb. The editors I worked with may have used those terms in reverse. Either way, it’s a helpful reminder that introducing sound before video or video before sound can help make stories feel seamless, which is one of the keys to keeping the viewer’s attention.

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