Mini-lessons for advisers when news cycles are slow: Natural Sound

The audio in a video is just as important, if not more, than the actual video itself. Without sound, you don’t have video. You may have heard that from me before.

Sound brings the visual images and action on the screen to life. It’s very important to plan for sound, and use the natural sound in the environment of your surroundings to be a character in your stories.

There are a few forms of audio we can incorporate in a visual story, but the kind we will talk about in this mini lesson, are natural sounds or NATS. 

Natural sounds (NATS) are the ambient or environmental sounds the microphone captures during a recording. The NATS bring the story to life for the viewer and creates a feeling that the audience is actually at the scene of the story.

For example, if you are filming a train, you may hear the whistle blowing, the chugging of the engine, and the wheels on the track screeching to a halt.

Or if you are at a sporting event, you will hear the reaction of the crowd cheering for their team, who just won their district playoff game.


Students will learn about natural sound, plan for capturing the natural sounds of their subjects for their stories, and finally go out to practice on their own.

The mini-lesson

1. Begin by having students read the article Using NAT Sound online.

2. Next, watch the following video, which demos the use and power of natural sound in a news package.

3. Now, watch Natural Sound Story Examples produced by Doug Legore, to observe how an entire news story can be told by ONLY using natural sound and no formal interviews on camera.

4. Finally, watch how a student at the Media Now STL summer journalism camp put these NAT sound lessons into practice after studying with me for just one morning.


Now it’s time for your students to plan and practice on their own.

1. Create a class Google Doc and share with the students in the class.

2. Each student should write down one area or location of his or her school they would like to go out and record.

3. Under each area of the school, students should make a list of the possible sounds associated with that area.

For example, the hallway could include students talking during passing period, lockers slamming, the bell ringing, laughter, arguments, etc. The gymnasium could include instructions yelled from the PE teacher, screaming for goals scored in a floor hockey game, or swooshes of the basket during a basketball game.

*Note: ONLY use the on-camera microphone. This will force/encourage students to get CLOSE to the sounds as they are recording. The closer you are to the sound, the more authentic it is.

4. Divide and conquer the list. Have students visit the locations listed on the Google Doc and capture :20-:30 of NAT sounds at each location, of AT LEAST TWO natural sounds, in that environment.

5. Return to the class, play back the NAT sounds each student recorded, and discuss how these sounds could be used:

  • at the beginning of their story to get the audience’s attention
  • sprinkled throughout the story as transitions, punctuation, or attention-getter’s
  • at the end of the story to bring closure to the story


By practicing and planning for a capturing natural sound for your visual stories, students will begin to learn the importance of sound to their video, and hopefully start incorporating more of these NATS to tell a better story.

Future video mini-lessons

Be on the lookout for mini-lessons on planning for microphone techniques, practicing interviews, and editing footage.

Up next

Planning and using light


Don Goble

Don Goble is an award-winning Broadcast, Technology, Multimedia and Film Instructor at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis. Journalism Education Association's National Broadcast Adviser of the Year in 2015, Don is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, PBS Lead Digital Innovator and author who advocates for media and digital literacy for all learners. Don masterfully engages students to author and craft media messages to build their voice and share their story.

Don Goble has 52 posts and counting. See all posts by Don Goble

6 thoughts on “Mini-lessons for advisers when news cycles are slow: Natural Sound

  • March 8, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Another great one, Don. Keep ’em coming!

  • March 8, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Thanks for reading Michelle! More mini lessons are on the way soon.

  • August 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm

    Never thought of some of these! More great ideas from Don to start the year. Thanks as always! You are the MAN!

  • January 5, 2022 at 10:50 am

    This is so amzingingly awesomely awesome

  • January 5, 2022 at 10:53 am

    Nav better

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