Get perfect sound in your videos with $5 DIY sound absorbing panels

Aug 9, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Get perfect sound in your videos with $5 DIY sound absorbing panels

Aug 9, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Getting quality sound in your video can be tricky. Even when you have a great microphone and field recorder, you’re hindered by the environment. Outside we have traffic, birds and other noises to deal with. Indoors, the walls echo, and our voices can sound hollow.

Outdoors, you’re on your own, but indoors, Matt from DIY Perks has a great and inexpensive solution. In his new video, he shows us how to make some sound absorbing panels using old towels and a wooden frame.

YouTube video

Interestingly, but probably not surprisingly, the towels absorb more sound than even the expensive foam acoustic panels. This can be a little misleading, though.

Professional acoustic panels aren’t really designed to block sound. Instead, they diffuse sound reflecting off them. This scatters the sound, and most of the its energy dissipates before it gets back to the microphone. Then the microphone only hears your voice, with no echo.

It’s a bit like putting up a black cloth to prevent light bouncing off white walls and lighting up the shadow side of your subject in the studio. This cloth can be very thin, so thin that you can see through it. It will still absorb enough light under many conditions to prevent reflected light hitting your subject.

The light that hits it is scattered and diffused, the same as with acoustic panels. So, for blocking reflection, acoustic panels are fantastic. This is why all the fancy studios use them. For the rest of us, though, the towels should work just as well.

If you don’t have any old towels laying around, you can always hit up the local charity shops that may have many available cheap. If you want to splash out, and make your panels a little more decorative, you can always get creative. It’s an ideal solution for vloggers or game streamers who are looking to improve their sound on a low budget.

I was actually just about to buy some acoustic panels this week for some home recording I want to do. I think I’ll hold off and give this DIY panel technique a try first. It sure beats waiting for the rain to stop to go and record sound. I’m sure my wife won’t mind me stealing all the towels.

What do you do to try and enhance your sound as much as possible while recording? Or do you not worry about it, normalise in post and call it done? What other audio recording tips do you have? Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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4 responses to “Get perfect sound in your videos with $5 DIY sound absorbing panels”

  1. Mr Bose Avatar
    Mr Bose

    One note, acoustic foam is NOT designed to absorb sound waves but to ‘break-up’ sound wave reflections…

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Yes, I did clarify that right after the video. :)

    2. Aethenosity Avatar
      Aethenosity

      “Professional acoustic panels aren’t really designed to block sound. Instead, they diffuse sound reflecting off them. This scatters the sound, and most of the its energy dissipates before it gets back to the microphone.”

  2. Doug Birling Avatar
    Doug Birling

    I’ve also read that mounting them on a standoff with some sort of spacer (about an inch) helps even more with the base. And I think what is helping with the towels is mass.