Sound is important because it engages audiences: it helps deliver information, it increases the production value, it evokes emotional responses, it emphasises what’s on the screen and is used to indicate mood. When put to good use, language, sound effects, music, and even silence, can elevate your video dramatically. Bad sound, however, can ruin your video. And yet, audio is often left as an after-thought for post-production, which is crazy because no amount of editing magic can fix bad sound.

Neither can sound fix shoddy animation, slipshod editing or amateur camera work. However, when it comes to creating a complete audience experience – audio is arguably more crucial than video quality. Sound adds emotion and connects people to what they’re seeing. It supports each visual and every cut, and defines the overall mood and tone of your narrative.

Who needs a boom operator?

A corporate video is a serious investment. By all means, spend your entire budget on cool special effects and fancy locations but, unless sound is made a technical priority from day one, you’re wasting your time and money.

When choosing a video production company to work with, make sure they push the need for a sound technician from your first meeting. What sound kit do they use? If their standard approach is to just let the camera microphone do all the work, then walk away – fast. If budget is an issue, rather cut down on catering (nobody likes a stale muffin anyway) or content (look for any repetition and compress a couple of scenes into one).

Not only does assigning sound to an engineer mean that there is one dedicated person looking after audio, it means less stress for the rest of the crew!

Audio checklist

At TopLine Comms, our video team understands the importance of sound in video production. Our production process is thorough, creative, and makes sure that our client’s message is both seen and heard. Here are some of our tips and tricks for getting the audio right:

  1. Invest in good audio equipment, and a talented soundie
  2. Monitor the audio while recording
  3. Choose a location carefully to minimise background noise (turn off computers, ACs and chatty people!)
  4. Check frequencies and levels – some people speak louder than others
  5. Triple check that the audio is fully synched with the video during the edit
  6. Make sure all audio points are marked for an easy edit
  7. Pump some iron (biceps are good for holding booms out of shot)
  8. Work with an editor who understands audio

This is where all your hard work then starts to come together. The next step is to take those carefully and decidedly precious recorded sounds, back them up onto several hard drives, hand them to an editor who will match them to the visuals and then think about the best way of combining them into a top notch sounding final product.

The good news is that we can help you get your audio ducks in a row, to ensure that your production isn’t let down by a lack of attention to those rather important sonic details.

Sound, music and effects

Here are the things you need to think about when pulling all these various elements together.

Sound

We have detailed above the best ways to ensure your sound recording is top notch, and ready to be brought into the edit process. once the files are imported into your edit suite of choice and linked to the video, there are a number of ways of processing the sound to make it more impactful, but, if it is recorded correctly in the first place, then it should only need a small amount of tweaking in post-production. It’s the mix where these things really come alive – read this piece on mixing sound for film for more detail.

Music

It cannot be overstated just how important the right piece of music is to the finished production. Pick the right track, and you’ll have the audience in tears, pick the wrong one and you’ll have them reaching for their ear plugs. The rule of thumb is to think about the tone of the script and match accordingly, e.g. a sombre, tech-based story would more likely benefit from a moody slice of gentle electronica, but add a polka and hilarity will ensue. Popular royalty free music libraries include: Audio Network, AudioJungle and Music Vine. All have competitively priced tracks to download.

Sound effects

It’s possible to really elevate a production – particularly animation – with a few carefully selected sound effects: a ‘ding’ of an elevator, typing on a keyboard, a tap filling a vase – imagine all these activities in silence, but with visuals. Now imagine them with the correct sound effect. That’s a big difference huh? Sometimes the sound effect can be more abstract, such as a ‘swoosh’ as the camera moves from one scene to another. That gives the action weight and heft and leaves the viewer in no doubt as to what is going on.

When done properly, these three sound elements will make the finished product really come alive, to engage, delight and entertain your audience.

Remember, when it comes to creating a memorable, immersive audience experience – sound is just as responsible, if not more so, than the quality of your video’s picture.

If you’re about to embark on your own video adventure and want a team that understands the importance of sound in video production, speak to Jamie, our head of production, to find out how we can help.

Editors note: This blog post was originally posted on 6 September 2016. It has been rewritten to ensure accuracy and relevance.

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