Sound Advice: Audio, Video, and Your Story

When it comes to most video, sound is often overlooked, tacked on as an afterthought, or hastily arranged due to time, money, or talent constraints. Although video is a highly visual medium, audio is a make or break element when it comes to effective storytelling via video. In fact, studies have shown that low-quality audio is more likely to affect a viewer’s perception of a video than subpar visuals. And sound has a proven palpable effect on brainwaves– meaning the right auditory addition can alter someone’s mood, mindset, or memory, further amplifying your video’s effectiveness.

Read on for our tips on adding audio to your video wisely!

Choose sound effects wisely- be judicious and specific.

Much like a video produced with a carefully planned storyboard creates a better viewing experience than a video packed with way too many extraneous visual details or distracting motion, sound effects should pack just enough punch to help you get your point across without detracting from the tone or intent of your video.

Sprinkle sound effects into your video like you’d salt your food—just a pinch here and there to enhance.

Too many sound effects can have a cartoonish effect.

Too few can sound erroneous or unintentional.

Stick with one or two every 30 seconds, and only if you think it’s completely necessary—for instance, a car honking off-screen to indicate oncoming unseen traffic, or a knock at the door to drive suspense.

Use music to create a mood or set a scene

Jaws minus the “dun duuun, dun duuun” or Grease without the squeal of greased lightning? Jurassic Park with no velociraptor howls? We’re often instructed to imagine favorite movies minus their legendary soundtracks because, when expertly included, music can alter the entire feel of what’s seen on screen to truly create a scene in concert with the visuals.

If you think of your video as a movie on a much smaller scale, music activates large areas of the brain to evoke powerful emotions prompting a viewer to feel a certain way- a peppy jingle at the beginning of your video can put the audience in an optimistic and upbeat mood, while an ominous orchestral underpinning might inspire fear or curiosity.

If your video is telling a complex story, one that potentially requires more emotional response than the typical voiceover might draw out, add a musical track or two to build momentum and place the viewer inside the story. 

The sound of silence can be a successful soundtrack

Yes- you’re still reading about the importance of sound- but much like in life, there are occasions where silence (or in this case, video without an audio track) is more impactful or appropriate. These days, it’s particularly key to tell a powerful story sans sound on platforms like Facebook, Instagram stories, or LinkedIn, where the majority of videos are watched with the sound off. 

One marketing consultant recommends trying silent video to stand out from a video landscape that’s getting more crowded by the day; watch some classic silent films for inspiration and focus all of your energy on telling a powerful story through moving pictures alone.

Be sure you have permission to use your audio track

If you want to use your favorite Beatles tune or the latest Billboard Hot 100 hit as a backing track for your video, you may be in for a surprise- most songs require you to pay royalties when included in a video for commercial or promotional use. Even some sound effects can be pricey.

Luckily, there are several places to find royalty-free or perpetual-use licensed music –thanks to these marketplaces you can get creative while being economical with sound in your videos.

You could also go the DIY route, and hire a composer to set the tone with custom intro music, build the mood with an overall background composition, or hold interest with an awesome audible outro. Some companies have a few go-to composers that carry a consistent theme throughout their videos, much like a color scheme- if music is a key differentiator for you, and if you feel you may need a memorable jingle or two that can be utilized in multiple ways (think radio ads or TV commercials) a composer might be the best route.

Consider several versions to maximize your video’s purpose

Not sure where your video will ultimately end up? It’s worthwhile to create several versions to serve different purposes:

  • A visual-only video, perhaps with baked-in subtitles, captions, or additional graphics that can tell a standalone story for social media platforms or loud spaces like trade shows or exhibitions
  • A video with a backing track, sound effects, and voiceover for high-stakes meetings or dynamic presentations
  • A video with minimal music, sparse sound effects, and voiceover as its main auditory attraction to live on your website or YouTube channel.

You can even run A/B testing to see which version your audience prefers. Whatever you decide, remember that quality is crucial- always keep your audio professional, clear, and purposeful for best results! 

TruScribe visualizes words, ideas, and stories to change how people see, think, and act. If you have a project in mind or want to learn more, get in touch.