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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Five Brilliant British TV Ads

Following on from our Creative Producers article about the ‘The Power of Online Video for Advertising’ post for Business2Community.com we have compiled a little shortlist of five adverts broadcast in the UK that we really like. These adverts are for big brands, produced by agencies handed big budgets, but it is interesting to explore the different methods of storytelling used to effectively represent the brand and engage their respected target audiences.

Lynx Excite Deodorant – Fallen Angels

All the elements comer together to make this advert effortlessly cool and shooting in eastern Europe offers a beautiful rustic backdrop for the film to play out. Even the tag line is cool ‘Even Angels Will Fall’.

 

Honda – Cog

Simply genius design and a long thought out ninth-month process went into putting it together. Six months of planning followed by short segments filmed over fours days and you have one heck of an advert. Honda estimates that worldwide sales rose by nearly £400m on the back of the ad.

 

Sony BRAVIA – Balls

Much was made about the production team behind ‘Balls’ actually doing this for real and indeed they did. A quarter of a million rubber balls were bounced down Filbert and Leavenworth streets in San Francisco. Accompanied by the haunting vocals of Jose Gonzalez and you have a truly beautiful advert.

 

T-Mobile –  Dance

T-Mobile – Welcome Back

It’s impossible not to feel good after viewing both of these excellent T-Mobile adverts. The message here is ‘Life is for Sharing’ so get out your phone. Adverts that make you feel good, make you laugh and smile are definitely ones that will live long in the memory.

 

If you like what you see here get in touch below and see what our team can do for you. If you have a story to tell but don’t know how to tell it, we can help.