Good Audio Can Make or Break Your Video Production
When you are doing professional level videography the quality of your audio is often the make-or-break aspect of your production. Unfortunately, audio is often the least understood part of a video project, and critical audio mistakes can sink an entire production.
In this article series I'll detail the specific ways that audio is going to impact your project as well as what you can do to put yourself in the best position for success. Whether your project is a digital short, a training video, or a web or TV ad, if you have people talking on screen you are going to have to get the audio right.
A general overview of the impact of audio for video:
Depending on the complexity of your project, your sound track will have a wide range of effects ranging from basic intelligibility of speech to subtle emotional shifts based on music and sound effects cues. Since much of the audio process doesn't happen until after the cast and crew have gone home, the sound usually isn't addressed seriously until that point - which can be a big mistake. If you prioritize your audio well and plan for it from early on, you'll reap all of the rewards of a completed and marketable project. If you underestimate your audio needs you may find that your project never seems to end.
Good audio is essential to any project that hopes to earn or recoup money:
Financially viable projects don't necessarily need spectacular audio, but they do need to reach a baseline level of quality in order to be presentable to the public at large. This is the most common lesson that beginning videographers learn the hard way. Every year I run across 3-4 first time videographers with the same story: "I've put everything I have into this project, now I'm out of money and out of time and I can't release this because it sounds horrible. Help!"
The bottom line is that if your production relies on the audience being able to hear what the people on screen are saying then your production isn't going anywhere until that little detail comes to pass. You'll have to take steps at every stage of production to make sure that you or your team can record and maintain good quality audio. Fortunately, good sound isn't rocket science - it just takes a little thought and effort. The idea that you have to actively participate in your project's sound in order for it to meet an acceptable standard is one of the most important lessons a budding digital video creator can learn.
Here's a fun exercise:
Name a successful film that absolutely fails at one of the following:
- Casting (There are several here, but many of the early Batman films come to mind)
- Cinematography (The Blair Witch Project)
- Acting (Clerks - and I love that movie)
Directing (I could go back to Clerks, but I'm sure that there are plenty on anyone's list. Catwoman maybe?)
- Script (There's an excuse to start a whole new list. Start with The Fast and The Furious)
- Audio (I can't think of one. Can you?)
The lesson is that your production will be able to survive many shortcomings if the rest of it is strong enough - with the notable exception of bad audio.