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Making Marketing Videos – Sound Is More Important Than You Think

Sound. In a visual medium like video it’s often forgotten. But the sound on a video can destroy it if it’s bad. There’s an old adage amongst film makers that bad footage and good sound is fine but good footage and bad sound is unwatchable. When we make our marketing videos it’s imperative that we get the basic technical aspects of the production right so that our message is clear for the viewer. In my blog today I’m going to cover some good practice for getting sound right when making your video and I’m going to offer up some tips for using sound to actually enhance your message.

Great sound will enhance your video but bad sound will destroy it. Click To Tweet

Getting Things Right When Recording Sound

When making your marketing video there will be many instances where you won’t need the sound on your footage. You’ll be using music and the shot is just an exterior establishing shot or just some raw footage of a factory process, but there are occasions where it will be vital to accurately record what’s happening. I’m thinking of when I make videos for musicians or performers. I’m thinking of interviews and introductions and pieces to camera. In these circumstances the audio recording has to be accurate and clear.

Woman holding a microphone boom against a plain background. Selective focus on the microphone and microphone mount.

If you can afford one, hire a sound recordist. A professional is always the best bet for getting great results. When I’m making a video I often hire a professional because their expertise in dealing with ambient sound, echo and noise artifacts (which can be created by mic positioning and many other factors) is invaluable. A professional will make your life so much easier and ensure you get great results.

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If you can’t get a professional, get the best mic you possibly can and connect it to an external, dedicated audio recorder. If using a shotgun mic make sure you point it directly at your subject. Position it as close possible without getting into shot. Make a test recording and listen back. Don’t be afraid to take your time to position the mic for best effect.

Close-up of a hand holding a tie-clip microphone with a plain background

For interviews it is better to use a lavalier mic if you have to plug your mic directly into your camera. A lavalier mic is also known as a lapel or clip-on mic. Decent ones aren’t that expensive and if you have to you can plug one directly into your camera and still get reasonable results. Watch out for clothing scratching against the mic and for your subject fidgeting and creating sound artifacts. Don’t place the mic too close to the subject’s face or the sound will start to distort. If you are plugging the mic directly into your camera get the subject to talk before you ask your questions so that the automatic levels on the camera have a chance to set before they say the important bit. This will cut down on any distortion that may occur because of the camera’s automatic gain.

Enhancing Your Message With Sound

In post production it’s possible to add whatever sounds you want to. This means that you can replace the sound that was captured alongside your footage and that you can enhance it. If you have footage of a beautiful woodland with birds flying between the trees and blue sky shining through the tree branches you probably don’t want to spoil that with the noise of the traffic on the A128 that was five metres behind you when you shot it. In this example I would remove the sound and add in stock sound files. I would add two or three different birdsongs, some light wind through the branches and perhaps some insect sound, depending on the location. This recreation of the soundscape enhances the image where the actual live recorded sound would have destroyed it.

The web is full of audio libraries where you can source sound files. Many are reasonably priced, some are free (but the quality of the files is often questionable) and some are excellent and you just have to bite the bullet and pay for them.

Various microphones aligned at press conference isolated over a white background

You can add audio to a scene to change it as in the example above but you can also add audio to enhance your scene. If your scene involves two people chatting at a bar why not add the sound of other people who may be in the bar (perhaps behind the camera) to make the bar seem busy and fun and full of life. If your scene is the Halloween section of a costume shop with people trying costumes why not alter your narration with echo and creepy sound effects (bats, howls, ghostly screams) just to add a bit more fun? If you are shooting a band playing live, why not add the sound of the crowd?

When you play with sound, remember that the point is to enhance your relationship with the customer via their viewing experience. That means good quality sound that won’t offend or be off-putting and enhancements that add to the mood of the images.

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