If the audio in your video sucks, so does your video.

If the audio in your video sucks, so does your video.

by Kevin Endres, October 3, 2016

You’ve spent anywhere from $5,000 to infinity on it. And it looks pretty good. But if your sound sucks, you might as well not even shot anything.

Sound is that important.

Great sound can bring up the level of a low-budget video exponentially. And it’s the icing on the cake that makes a higher budget video really stand out.

A great mix can make your $5,000 video look like you spent $10,000. And your $10,000 video look like you spent $20,000.

You might think I’m kidding when I say that sound will improve your picture. I’m not. Sound is an element that gets a viewer’s attention, but they can’t figure out what it is. If it’s a so-so mix a viewer doesn’t miss it. But if your sound is stellar, your viewer always comments on how great the video is.

I’ve seen this happen repeatedly time after time throughout my 25-plus years working on videos with budgets of a few thousand dollars to productions that cost over $300,000.

In a few instances, I even showed my client the rough cut which they thought was good and then the exact same cut with final mixed sound and they always ask what I changed in the picture to make it so much better.

And if you look at programs on TV and films, there is almost as much investment put into sound as there is in picture. Hollywood has to know what it’s doing when it comes to producing video.

And when I say put some time into your sound, it means more than having clean audio from your on-camera and voiceover and some nice music mixed in. I’m talking about investing in a dedicated audio session outside of the video editor.

Now, a video editor can do a good job with your audio—but not as good as a dedicated audio engineer.

First of all, a video editor doesn’t have the software (probably) to manipulate sound like an audio engineer (in a recording studio) does. Secondly, an audio engineer is focused solely on sound. If they’re good, he or she will bring up new ideas for your audio track that will really enhance the overall video.

Here’s what you need to do to produce the track that turns heads and grabs attention for your video:

•First, have a line item in your budget just for audio.

•Find a recording studio that focuses on “audio for picture.” Have a look at a few of their samples—not just a music video with only voiceover and music [that’s a subject for another blog]—but one that mixes dialog, sound effects, music, voiceover. Also, talk with the studio/engineer. See if they “get” your project. If you like what you hear (and see), engage them for your production. NOTE: If you’re located someplace where you can’t find a studio that focuses on sound for picture, then any recording studio (worth its salt) can still do more, given they have a good engineer.

•Have a professional do your voiceover, not the client or anybody else someone thinks “sounds really good.” (People tell me I have a great voice and should be a talent. I’ve tried it. Even after the hundreds of productions I’ve done, I suck at it.) A pro voice talent will immediately add professionalism to your finished production. Many times when I have a small budget project, I allocate a large percentage to getting a “name” VO talent. This improves the level of your project immensely.

•Ask your video editor for an OMF (Open Media Framework) file of all the audio tracks (including voiceover, on-camera, music, sound effects) and take that to your audio session. NOTE AGAIN: It’s best to ask your audio engineer what kind of file he/she actually needs from your video editor. But OMF is the standard.

•In your audio session, have your engineer clean up all the voices. Go sentence by sentence to touch-up minor fluffs and soft pronunciations. Equalize the voices (against the music track) so that they stand out and have presence. Smooth out the levels between takes and voices. Add sound effects. Effects can give your video a sense of place. ATTENTION: Sound effects can really add a nice gloss to your video. But use them appropriately and sparingly. Too much and your video will sound like a cartoon.

I hope these sound ideas help you produce better looking video.

Kevin Endres is Owner/Creative Director of The International Offices, Nashville. A branding/advertising firm. Find him at @realendres or Kevin@TheInternationalOffices.com.

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