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Creating Videos and Editing

Programs, equipment, and advice to support video creation and editing. Development for UNIV 2115, but helpful to anyone.

Sound is more important than you think

Most people can sit through shaky or poor video quality, as long as the sound quality is good. Most people immediately become distracted, or irritated, by wind noise, crackle, unclear dialog, or other sound problems. Treat your sound as if it is the most important thing. Control the sound in the areas that you film in as much as possible.

Copyright issues for Soundtracks

Owning a copy of a single song in iTunes is not the same as having distribution or use rights. When you use a song without permission, you must be able to make a case for Fair Usage. Consider the purpose and character of the use. Will you make money from your use? Consider the amount used. Do you use the entire work or a short clip? What is the effect of your use on the marketplace? This Best Practices Guide can help you make decisions. 

Quick Tips

  • Fair Use usually protects educational (and non-profit) use of sound clips that are of short duration, and are also a very small percentage of a whole work. Please check with your instructor if you are unsure.
  • Incidental music is permitted. That means if short sections of music happens to be playing in the background of a location, such as in the Tate Center Plaza, or in a coffee shop, there is no copyright issue. You do not need to try to cut out the sound.
  • Never use an entire song without permission
  • How short is short? Very short! - 10 seconds doesn't sound like much, but it can be enough to provide energy in transition from one video segment to another. You don't really need minutes of music in a video.
  • Content matters -- specific, clearly audible lyrics, which provide a quick critique or parody, are often interpreted as transformative fair use.
  • Consider using original music
    • You can create quick loops in GarageBand
    • You and your friends may be talented musicians!

Another good reason to be careful about copyright -- YouTube and other online video sharing platforms will sometimes block or lock videos that have long durations of popular music!

Tips for using sound

Less is more! A common mistake is to find soundtrack music that you like and use it far too loud, and far too long. Tips:

  • Many videos benefit from a short natural sound break. This is a moment when you can hear what's really happening in the background: crowd noise, incidental music, laughter. Natural sound breaks are an important part of most types of video; however, your natural sound breaks should never have static, excessive wind noise, or crackling. These are often used in openings, closings, or to switch a topic, or location.
  • Music should provide energy or tone.
  • Music should not distract.
  • Consider omitting music from the background of interviews. It can sound melodramatic, or manipulative of emotions.
  • Consider omitting music from segments with a natural sound break.
  • When filming, leave several seconds of silence before and after interviews. Having those extra seconds will help when you get to the editing stage.
    • It's also helpful to encourage people to pause a bit between answers.
    • Some people like to have the person being interviewed repeat each question. You'll need to gauge if that fits your purpose, and if your interviewee will be able to remember the question and not get flustered. Some interviewees like it, and feel that it helps give them time to think. Others get tongue-tied or self-conscious.


GarageBand is a digital audio program that can record and play back multiple tracks of audio, and includes many pre-made audio loops. These audio loops can be imported into iMovie to use as a soundtrack.