From silence to sound: Bring your video to life

Abigail Beardsley – Hug Media

Silence to sound: Bring your video to life

Whether you’re creating a corporate video for your website, a TV advertisement or a feature-length film, sound is extremely important and highly underrated.

As you scroll through your newsfeed on social media, you may have noticed a surge of videos with subtitles. The is a trend that’s indicative of increased video consumption on phones and tablets. But does this mean that adding sound to your video is redundant? Have we reverted to the era of silent film? 

In short, no. We suggest adding sound to your video and pairing it with subtitles to accommodate all viewing experiences. Although vital to adapt to the new playing field, it’s also important not to overlook the power of sound.

Make your mark with music

While music is only a sub-section of sound, the track you choose is central to the harmony of your content. Music can move audiences into transient states of emotion and transform videos to masterpieces. In fact, many films are celebrated largely for their soundtracks; think Pulp Fiction and Marie Antoinette.

We suggest choosing your soundtrack before the editing process to ensure your video moves with the music. Great films, whatever the genre, shine because of their consistent tone and energy. Their soundtrack is an important part of this. When your music feels like colour and reflects the lighting in the frame, it will sit tightly together like a shoe matching a belt and hat combo.

It’s also important to cut your footage with the music. Some styles just won’t match, and you can’t assume you can simply change your tune after the fact. 

Understand the complexity of sound

A common misconception with video is that sound is defined exclusively by audio and music. Not to be forgotten, are the layers of effects, atmos and Foley that create a sense of reality.

Whether its birds tweeting, the subtle crunch of footsteps or the beeping of a life machine, sounds are discreet cues that allow your audience to interpret what’s happening on screen. They can situate your viewer in a specific location, draw their attention to significant action and stimulate emotion.

When we produced the UTS Motorsports case study for Lenovo, sound played a huge part in setting the scene. Building a textured soundscape, we were able to create a fully immersive racecourse experience. We curated a dynamic audio bed of motor vehicle movement, acceleration and crowd noise – supported by suspenseful music – to build anticipation.

Understand the influence of sound

Whether it’s showstopping music or great effects, sound can influence audiences, and even be used as a call to action. Fast food companies often use the sound of meat sizzling in their content to entice audiences to purchase their produce.

And they’re not the only ones. Many companies rely on sound repetition and memory to trigger emotional responses and increase audience retention. Popular tunes are often used in advertising to achieve this. One of the most famous examples of this is Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’, accompanied by Phil Collins In the Air Tonight. Paired with dramatic visuals, this iconic confectionary brand created an epic advertisement that went viral and increased sales by 10 per cent.

And this is the beauty of sound; it works in the background. Sometimes so subtly you don’t even realise the impact it’s having and sometimes with such a bang you can’t ignore it.

Master the basics

Whether you decide to go with a simple audio/ music combo or a more complex soundscape, it’s important to do it right.

When it comes to audio, the most telling symptom of a home-job is reverb. To remedy this, fill your room with soft items that absorb bounce. Avoid facing your talent in front of flat surfaces that will reflect sound back into the microphone. Position your mic as close as you can to your talent and avoid movement (especially if using a lab mic).

Capturing ambient sound with no dialogue is a good idea to smooth out cuts and add continuity to your video. Record 60 seconds of ambience in the same room you captured the dialogue, ensuring you’re in silence. While the odd passing car may not be a deal-breaker if your on-screen visuals match, be cautious not to disorientate your viewer. Continuity is key.

While an interesting soundscape can add to the mood of your video, it can also cover up any unclean audio you might have. As with anything in film, sound is a game of direction and misdirection – an art form that is difficult to master. It’s a matter of knowing what your audio beds look like, designing a soundscape and carefully mixing.

Although visuals and clear subtitles can be effective, sound has the ability to add meaning, emotion, and those ‘yes’ moments that make all the difference to an advertisement, video or film. Most importantly: the best sound is that which not only supports your visuals but tells its own story.