Want to make your video seem unprofessional in the quickest, easiest way possible? No matter how fancy your camera, lights, rigs, and other gear, bad sound is the surest way to ruin a film or video.
As George Lucas famously said, “The sound and music are 50% of the entertainment in a movie.” While George was referring to the field of narrative feature films, the concept applies to all videos. In fact, Academy Award winning director, Danny Boyle, takes this theory a step further saying, “The truth is, for me, it’s obvious that 70, 80 percent of a movie is sound. You don’t realize because you can’t see it.”
Are these guys crazy? Obviously, sound isn’t that big of a deal…especially when you are talking marketing and advertising related videos. Right?
Wrong. And here’s why.
Sound creates reality.
Try listening to your surroundings. For real. Pause your music, unplug your headphones, and really listen. You might be in a loud location where it is easy to hear all the commotion and noise around you or you might be in a perfectly quiet room. But, that room isn’t perfectly quiet. If you focus, you will start to hear more and more things – a watch ticking, a computer whirring, your stomach growling. Real life is full of sounds upon sounds and that’s what makes it feel real.
Now, a video is not real life…but it is a simulation or even an extension of real life.In order for it to feel real, or more than real, it needs good sound. This simulation of reality brings us to the first layer of good sound. Sounds like people talking, cars driving by, birds chirping, footsteps, and much more are all necessary components to making your scene feel real.
Fun fact: the process of adding these types of real-life sounds to a movie is called “Foley” and there are foley artists who do that for a living. Google it – it’s pretty fascinating.
Sound creates an experience.
Beyond the first layer of recreating reality, sound can create an experience for a viewer. There are lots of sounds in movies that don’t sound like real life. Think of everytime someone gets punched in an action movie – not realistic. Punching someone doesn’t have the bassy, explosive, bone-crunching sound in real life. However, that exaggerated sound is powerful and it communicates the feeling of the punch to the audience.
One of my favorite examples of unrealistic sounds that create an experience is turning on or off lights. In real life, shutting off a light doesnt have much of a sound beyond the light switch. In a movie, we hear the loud mechanical clunk as the lights of the warehouse turn off one-by-one (also not realistic). This creates an experience.
In one of our recent projects, an animated explainer video for a company called Piestar, this type of sound design played a vital role. In this video we wanted to show the viewer the frustration and overwhelming nature of the way research projects were usually handled. The experience starts out nice and smooth and then it builds up quickly as stress increases. Sound effects keep getting layered and the feeling becomes more and more chaotic until it all the sudden stops. In this moment of release, we introduce the solution – Piestar. The sound is vital to communicating the message to the audience – that Piestar will take away all this stress and make the viewer’s job easier. Check out the video for yourself!
Sound creates an emotional response.
Remember the last time you cried in a movie? I am willing to bet that if it wasn’t for the sound, you would not have cried.
The opening of Pixar’s Up (the movie that made tough guys everywhere pretend their eyes were just watering), created such a powerful emotional response through music. In horror movies, it’s the the eerie music that gets you creeped out and on edge – and then the unexpected, loud, jarring sound effect that makes the jump-scares work. Just watch a horror movie with the sound on mute…not so scary anymore, is it? It actually makes the movie seem pretty silly.
Sound, especially music, is what creates the emotional connection with the audience. From the epic score of Lord of the Rings, to John Williams’ classic themes, to the space organs of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, Hollywood filmmakers understand how to make an audience feel something with the power of sound and music.
But does this apply to marketing videos? Absolutely.
In our projects, we spend a great deal of time trying to find the perfect music track and create the perfect sound mix. Even though we aren’t making feature films, we work to evoke a response from the audience. We want the videos to feel real. We want to create an experience for the viewer. We want to make them laugh, cry, get pumped up – inspire them to take action. This can be done through the power of sound.
So, the next time you are wondering why some videos seem to tug on the heartstrings or seem generally more professional than others, pay close attention to the sound.
I know we do.