Why Sound is the Hardest Medium to Conquer

On February  9th, 6.5 million people tuned to watch the hotly anticipated season 2 premiere of Happy Valley, the award winning BBC drama. Despite the gripping narrative, the opening episode of the series was hard to follow. The reason for this? Sound.

Happy Valley

Programme Name: Happy Valley – TX: n/a – Episode: n/a (No. 1) – Picture Shows: Catherine (SARAH LANCASHIRE) – (C) Red Productions – Photographer: Ben Blackall

 

Overnight complaints grew among frustrated fans of the crime drama who took to Twitter to express their views. While the majority hailed the first episode of the latest series, comments like ‘sort the sound levels out please…’ were common. Another viewer wrote: ‘Again a good show spoilt by the sound, too much whispering and mumbling.’ The sound was poor with many lines being mumbled. Overall the dialogue was incredibly  hard to hear unless the television was turned up to at least half volume.

Other Complaints

Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn

 

It is not the first time the BBC has received complaints about sound on their programmes. Costume drama Jamaica Inn, aired in 2014, had almost 2,200 complaints about mumbled dialogue from the first episode. Audience figures dropped by 2 million from the first to the third and final episode. Even the Screenwriter for the show said that it was like listening through mud.’ The BBC was forced to apologise saying the sound levels would be adjusted before the remaining two episodes were aired.

The BBC did not learn from their mistakes and a few weeks later in May 2014 saw them receive complaints about sound on their crime drama Quirke. This was a year after Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, said that the BBC will look into how to prevent actors from ‘muttering’ in its dramas.

Quirke

 

The writer of Quirke admitted that he and his wife were also forced to watch the show with the aid of subtitles. Andrew Davies explained that he could hear because he knew what the words were. His wife did not however and asked for the subtitles to be turned on.

Why is Sound the Most Complained About Issue Among TV Shows?

Sound is just as, if not more, important as visuals in the media industry. Dialogue is often the most important method of telling the narrative of the programme. Without clear sound, people will quickly lose interest in what they are watching because they are struggling to follow the narrative. Sound enhances the viewer’s experience and enables them to suspend their disbelief and lose themselves in fiction.

Solution

To help prevent sound issues it is vital that just as much planning and consideration goes into sound design as to how the production will look.

For instance, the choice of location has a huge influence on sound. Filming indoors pose the issues of room noise commonly formed from electrical appliances such as air-conditioning units, lights, and radiators. As well as noise, the sound engineer will also have to adapt depending on the size of the room. Large venues often result in sounds bouncing off walls to generate echoes.

Outdoor sound recording is often trickier with background noise, or ambience such as traffic, people, and wind. It is important to have the ambience noise recorded to make the production realistic. On the other hand, you have to be careful that the background noise does not drown out the important dialogue. The volume levels can be edited in post-production but it is better if it can be effectively caught at source.

Therefore, for each location a decision has to be made on which microphone to use.

Ultra-directional microphones are excellent for capturing dialogue in outdoor locations thanks to its selectivity at picking up sounds that are directly in front of it. From this you will be able to attach an ultra-directional shotgun microphone onto a boom pole with a wind shield, or dead cat, shielding the microphone from wind noise.

Audio Technica BP4073

Audio Technica BP4073

In order to prevent unwanted noise being recorded, it is always useful if the microphone can be positioned as close to the actor’s mouth as possible. The actor’s voice will be louder with the dialogue being crisp and clear. The microphone should ideally be positioned overhead, pointing downwards towards the actor’s mouth. Alternatively a lapel microphone, a small mic that can be attached to the actor, can be used as long as it is hidden from view and is not rubbing against the clothing.

Ambient sound should be recorded separately so that the levels can be adjusted in Post Production and so that it does not overpower the dialogue. It can also help shot transitions to introduce the next scene.

 

The audience may forgive an error on camerawork but they will never accept poor sound. The dialogue is not only the most effective way of telling the story, but it also informs and creates emotions that the audience will be able to share with the characters. Careful consideration and planning is crucial for clear, legible audio.

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The Rise of Branded and Personalised Video

2015 was widely regarded as the year that video marketing really took off. As we head into 2016, marketers will be looking into how they can use technology to further build on the huge potential of video marketing.

Increased Value of Branded Video Content

The power of YouTube will come to the fore again this year resulting in more companies making an extra effort to produce branded video content. Marketers are recognising the fact that YouTube is now the third most visited website in the world with more than four billion views per day.

‘The play button has become the most compelling call to action on the Web’ (Lessard, T).

Videos are becoming more popular among online users than traditional text-based pages. More and more marketers will move towards moving images, creating branded videos such as key interviews, behind-the-scenes insights and product promos to engage their target audience.

digital-video

 

More Videos Will Appear on Websites

Jayson DeMers (Forbes) suggested that there are two areas where video content is likely to show up:

  • Home pages – As this page is likely to be the first page seen on the website, it is vital that it is attractive for the viewer. If your homepage is engaging, the visitor will be more likely to spend more time exploring the website.
  • Product pages – To make sure that your product or service is sold effectively, videos are a great method of explaining what you offer. Using just text and still images can be difficult to understand if your product or service is complex or new to the market. With the use of short videos, customers will better understand the product and the purchasing process which can boost conversions.
The Revenant: 200 Miles website includes an interactive video in the background.

The Revenant: 200 Miles website includes an interactive video in the background.

Videos Will Play a Larger Role in Driving Sales

The inclusion of videos on websites brings us onto the next prediction that videos will play a larger role throughout the customer journey. From a recent survey by research firm Demand Metric, 74% of businesses reported that video content drove conversions more than any other content type.

With increased video content, customers will be guided through the purchase process. According to a recent study, customer testimonials, demos and explainer/tutorial videos were found to be the most effective at helping convert sales.

The Potential Rise of Personalised Video Content

 

Interactive, one-to-one, video content is forecasted to emerge in 2016 which will create a more conversational experience. New technologies will allow the viewers to fully engage with the video content to form a more immersed experience to potentially gain more customers. Features to look out for will be mid-roll surveys and questionnaires inserted into the videos as well as multiple choice options that the viewer can select to direct how the video content will continue.

Video personalisation will also enter the mainstream in 2016. The concept will involve the viewer’s name, company logo, or an image posted on social media placed into the video to bring the viewer into the story. Marketers will be hungry to create a more engaging, immersive experience by creating stories that are personally directed by the viewer.

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Super Bowl 50: A Marketer’s Paradise

Sunday 7th February will see the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers compete at Super Bowl 50, one of the most watched events in the world. With 114.4 million U.S. viewers watching it alone last year, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest marketing opportunities of the calendar year. It does come at a price however, and it is a big one. Broadcaster CBS will charge a record $5 million (£3.5m) for a 30-second advertising slot this year. The huge global audience attracted to Super Bowl allows the broadcaster to demand such high costs.

hashtag-bowl-2015-generic-1920-800x450

Digital marketing expert Joanne Bradford explained that the Super Bowl could not be beaten for the “impact of that moment” and the “brand awareness that it offers”.

 

The Super Bowl television adverts are a popular talking point, extending a brand’s awareness span beyond just a day. In fact, talk of the advertising campaigns begin weeks in advance. MarketingLand.com have their own feature called the ‘Hashtag Bowl’, where they cover all of the latest news and developments on which companies are taking part and how the productions are going.

Among the many brands participating, Doritos have launched their final ‘Crash the Super Bowl’ campaign. The contest invited fans to produce their own Super Bowl adverts to be in with the chance of having their production aired live on game day. This year Doritos have received nearly 4,500 entries which they have whittled down to three finalists. The winner is determined by the public, who can vote for their favourite entry up until 31st January. The campaign by Doritos is an effective marketing tool as it builds interaction goodwill with it’s fans and runs many weeks in advance of the Super Bowl event itself.

At the time of writing, 35 brands have announced their participation in the Super Bowl ad battle. To showcase their brands, some ad campaigns feature well known stars such as Alec Baldwin (Amazon), Christopher Walken (Kia) and Liam Neeson (LG Electronics) to name but a few. This highlights just how important the Super Bowl event is for companies. It is the US version of the UK’s Christmas advert. See our earlier blog post on the battle of the Christmas ad.

amazon-super-bowl-50-ad.

 

Global Brand Exposure

Major sporting events offer a rare occasion for companies to be market their brand to vast live audiences. But it’s just the Super Bowl that attracts people from around the globe – The FIFA World Cup final in 2014 has been estimated by many broadcasters to have been watched by a global audience of at least 909 million. The peak audience in the UK reached 21 million.

As a result of the high audience figures, broadcasters were again able to put an expensive price tag on a 30-second advert slot on their channel. ITV for example were charging between £275,000 and £300,000 for adverts in matches that featured England and between £40,000 and £100,000 for other matches.

2016 promises to be, yet again, a year for major sporting events. Football’s Euro 2016 is being contested in France this June, while athletics’ main event, the Olympic Games, is coming up in Rio in August.

How can your business tap into this?

We’re realists, so we know unless you’re Coca Cola or Amazon you’re highly unlikely to fork out £3.5 million of your great British pounds for a 30 second tv ad slot. But this doesn’t stop your brand from tapping into the audience that will be taking part in such large events. A well planned and relevant marketing video, released on or around the event can do wonders for audience response and brand exposure. Why not produce a corporate drama film that intelligently and creatively advertises your brand? The best example we’ve ever seen is Reebok’s Terry Tate: Office Linebacker.

Telling stories is what we do. If you’re interested in exploring corporate drama for your brand, or just want some friendly advice, get in touch with us and we’ll have a coffee.

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