Why I Make Such a Big Damn Deal about Audio for Video
I Speak from Experience.
I've said it before: the most important component of a high quality video story is the audio. Note the use of the word story: YouTube ramblings, addresses from the marketing director, and explainers don't count-- their audio is the person speaking or explaining and music may be a distraction.
I didn't come to this conclusion without practical experience. I first started in the business doing "twin dissolve slide shows" for business and arts groups. a twin dissolve slide show is compressed of two Kodak Carousel slide projectors, a "dissolver box" connected to the two projectors, and a tape recorder with the soundtrack and a cable to the dissolve box telling it when to advance slides. Going from one slide to the next involved a special effect: a dissolve or fade from one slide to the next, so there was never a blank screen. The net effect was cohesive, whole sight and sound show, the less expensive version of an industrial film.
The cable between the dissolver box and tape recorder was used to record "pulses" on a separate audio rack which triggered the slide advance and dissolve effect.
Script-> Shooting-> Soundtrack-> Editing.
This was our production path, and any video producer will tell you this is wrong. Editing is a dance between audio and video, and the editor needs to play with both elements to create a well-paced, engaging end result.
But our challenge was the slides part. Slides and audio were necessarily edited separately, usually by two different people. You could lay out the show on light tables as per the script, but you wouldn't know exactly how to time and pace the show until there was a soundtrack to tell you how long a sequence would be, whether the pace was slow or fast, emotional or humorous, etc. So the soundtrack preceded the final edit, placing the slides in the slide trays, and "pulsing" the show. In other words, it was providing the majority of the editing decisions simply by being first.
Even when we moved into video, we kept this as our editing model. Budget video editing in the early days was cuts only from one 3/4" deck to another. The soundtrack was created first and then laid onto the audio tracks on the videotape to act as an editing guide. It wasn't until "non-linear editing" on a computer appeared that a single individual could edit both audio and video with an array of both audio and video transitions and effects. (Large video "post production houses" had this capability somewhat earlier).
Lesson Learned: Audio Drives the Pace and Emotion of the Project
A weak soundtrack will bore audiences, causing them to disengage, start coughing, shimmy in their seats, and slow the perceived passage of time. Which means you will have failed your client. Which means you've put your job or your company in peril. And you've made your direct client look bad.
Our books The VideoBiz and How to Create Tribute Videos both have extensive sections on audio production and may be a help to you. They're available in Kindle and Paperback. Check out this blog's past entries for more thoughts on audio as well.
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