Everyone has probably had the same experience. You visit a cool interactive website or watch a video on YouTube and as interesting as the project or storyline may be the audio quality leaves much to be desired. In fact when you listen to the audio it is so bad that it sends your brain into overdrive. Neurones fire in every direction as you slowly start to experience what can only be described as complete mental shutdown. After you finally reach the point of meltdown you quickly need to force what is left of your fried braincells to hunt for the mute button, which never seems to be in an obvious place. The audio quality completely ruined your experience and you will probably not want to share the project with anyone. You really don’t want this scenario to ever happen.
It may not seem that important but, believe it or not, good quality audio is the most important aspect, bar none, to any online project. Whether you’re making a video, recording a podcast, or even creating an interactive multimedia experience it is vitally important that you spend a significant amount of your production time making sure that your sound is perfect.
Why Is Audio So Important?
As humans much of our everyday life and the responses we make to our surrounding environment are measured or detected through our hearing. Our ability to hear is vital in even the simplest of activities like crossing the street.
When we cross the street, not only do we look in both directions, but we are constantly listening for approaching vehicles. We can tell, without even turning our heads, that a threat is immanent. Our bodies are fine-tuned to pick up on auditory signals and relay them back to our brain alerting us to what is happening in our environment. Even distance is something which our auditory senses can relay back to us without having to look. There has also been suggestions that hybrid and electric cars are in fact dangerous to pedestrians because they are too quiet for people to hear. Some experts have said that they should replicate the sounds made by other vehicles so that people, especially the blind and young children, can hear them coming. And if you needed more proof there has even been research which suggests that our skin plays a role in delivering sound to our brain. Humans are therefore wired for good sound.
Now the previous examples might be very simple and possibly even crude examples of what I’m talking about but take 5 minutes right now to think about everything you do in your day that relies on having good audio. If you then apply the same thinking to your project you will quickly realise that having poor quality audio can quickly ruin your audiences experience of your project.
Think of it like standing on a really busy street corner with trucks rolling past while you’re trying to carry on an in depth conversation with one of your friends. You can carry on the conversation but you will probably miss some really important information and have to get your friend to repeat themselves; it just makes the experience horrible.
We need to have good quality sound so that we can focus on what we are doing and it’s the same when we view or listen to a project. The absence of good audio can cause your audience to become distracted because their brains have to focus on trying to concentrate on sifting through the audio before they can focus on your content. Any experience where the audience has to do this is simply painful.
By focusing your efforts on creating good quality audio you can make sure that your viewers are not distracted and that they feel drawn into your story. The quality of your visual content is not really that important. It is easy to skip over bad visuals if the audio is great but great visuals with poor audio will not work.
Audio is the MOST important aspect of your project. Period.
What Makes Audio Sound Good?
Generally when people talk about audio quality they tend to instantly think of the technical aspects of the sound. These technical aspects can include everything from how loud the sound actually is, to what device you use to record it with, to whether it crackles like a radio when you’re driving through a tunnel. But good quality sound is much more then just the technical aspects, it’s about the entire experience.
While all of the technicalities are vitally important to the success of your project (for instance you need to know how to record and produce crystal clear sound), they are not the only important things. You also need to think about how the audio can affect the flow of your story. Audio for projects needs to take your audience on a journey. They need to feel as if everything is happening in the same room as themselves, as if they could shut their eyes and still be driven by the powerful audio story through their mind. If you do it right then you can use your audio to affect your audiences emotions. Your overall audio track can be happy or sad, peaceful or angry, slow or urgent. It can take your audience anywhere you want to take them.
To create this experience you need to start thinking carefully about the overall audio structure by asking yourself some questions. These questions include: What is your talent saying and what emotion are they conveying? Do you need to explain some of the story with a voiceover? How can you use silence effectively to draw out emotion? Where is it appropriate to use music or background tracks and can you use this music to propel the story? What sort of music suits the story you are trying to tell? How can you use your sound to cue different scenes? Does your audio match up with the visuals? What emotions do you want to convey throughout your project?… and most importantly…. Do you have a continuous flow of suitable audio which pulls your audience through your story creating an immersive experience?
If you start to think carefully about making your audio the best part of your project then you can really begin to make incredibly powerful experiences for your audience. So what are you waiting for??… Go make some great audio!