The importance of good sound in your video

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So you think the visuals are the most important part of video making? Think again, says Video Culture’s audio engineer and post-production mixer Richard Webb.

Most people when they start considering producing a video are concerned with how it will look – it’s all about the visuals right?

It’s got to be beautifully shot and have an appropriate and compelling visual theme while clearly delivering your message and reflecting what you do as a business, or at least how you want the viewer to perceive what you do.

Nothing wrong with that – it’s a perfectly valid starting point.

But I would like you to do one thing for me: go to the last video you made and watch it with the sound turned off. Or just choose an appropriate video from YouTube and do the same.

How much information did you get out of your video now? How was the experience different from what you expected? Did you even get the message you were looking for?

I’m a sound engineer, so will get any perceived conflict of interest into the open from the off, but I think the level of thought given to the sound content and sound quality in your video should be at least level pegging with that given to the image content and quality.

For what it’s worth, most books on the subject indicate it probably should be even more emphasis on sound for certain types of videos. They say that on average around 80 per cent of the information in a video is delivered via the audio and 20 per cent through the visuals.

I’m always wary of numbers that seem a little too precise but I think what we can take from these finding is this – yes, the visuals should be knockout, no arguing with that, just give the sound some thought and budget too.

You are going to be amazed what a difference some time and money spent on your audio will make to your end video product.

Audio is a massive subject but here are a few sound bites to get us started:

Have you ever watched the six o’clock news and listened to air conditioner hum while the newsreader speaks?

It doesn’t happen, so choose your filming locations carefully, and think about the ambient sounds and how you can control them during filming. The Visual Culture team are experts at this and are more than happy to assist in choosing locations. After filming, we can go much further for you using the latest audio post production tools to reduce noises and unwanted sounds in your audio feed, to mix it effectively and creatively and to ensure the end audio result is truly outstanding.

When you play a corporate video it should sound as good on your phone as it does in your office presentation, as it does on your business rival’s laptop or even on your surround sound cinema system at home (if you are lucky enough to have one), right?

Many don’t and this is entirely an audio post-production issue. A good sound engineer working on your audio will have the skills and technology to ensure it is exceptional on any system or speakers you play it on.

Maybe you’ve got some great video footage from the last business offsite but the sound from the camera microphone was pretty dodgy so you can’t use it?

In general, dodgy sound quality has a bigger impact on the impression your video makes than if the visuals aren’t up to scratch. Pretty much any sound issue can be corrected with the right skills, time and technology and it’s not an overly expensive thing to do to deliver an exceptional result. I would go further though, and state that audio repair is essential at all times in the video production process as it adds an extra layer of quality to the finished product – even good can be made better.

Can you imagine the Qantas adverts without the stirring warmth of Peter Allen’s ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ song as part of them?

I don’t think anyone can. Without that gorgeous song they are a collection of lovely images that don’t tug the heartstrings with anything like the passion and belonging this long-running series of adverts has – these ads are a great example of the sort of videos you should try muting the sound on to gauge their impact without audio. Audio can carry so much emotion, and the attachment of the right audio to your visuals as Qantas do here is unquantifiably compelling. The right background music can also enhance the mood you wish to project in your video in a way that is so much more effective – and less intrusive – than simply telling someone that’s how you want them to feel.

Isn’t it great when companies and brands get inventive in their videos and try something a little different?

We think it is – and you can get just as creative with audio as you can with visuals. We have a collection of videos we’ve done recently where we’ve either created a soundtrack for a customer, sometimes completely from scratch, or had some fun with the mix. This approach doesn’t suit every video for sure but when it does there’s nothing stopping you doing something a little different on the audio side to make your video stand out from the crowd.

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