In the middle ages, theology was referred to as the “Queen of the Sciences”. Today, I’d call video the queen of the presentation technologies. If you’ve been to YouTube you might notice that some, but not all videos are professional quality. It takes a lot to rise above the level of people doing amateur work.

To create pre-recorded video, a videographer will generally need to have good lighting, have good audio, shoot good video, edit it, and master it. In a live environment, a videographer often must insure good audio, lighting, use a computer, keep an eye to shots and know when to switch them using what transition. Often, the equipment itself must be set-up in such a way as to avoid distraction, only to be moved to another location at a later time.

Video with no sound is a silent movie (effective if that’s your aim, but lousy if it’s not). Without lighting, it’s radio, not video. Poorly shot or edited video is nearly impossible to watch. Without text or still image overlays (almost always sent from or edited with a computer of some sort), it’s effectiveness will be drastically limited.

Without audio it’s a silent movie

There was a time when the moving image wasn’t accompanied by sound. Al Jolson’s, “The Jazz Singer” ended that. Now, sound is so important to the visuals that it’s absense is disturbing. In “Noise” from pastor Rob Bell’s video series “Nooma”, the videographers create a period of extended silence with only text on the screen. The effect is uncomfortable (on purpose), meant to illustrate how uncomfortable American’s are with silence.

The same video also illustrates the power of sound to pull the viewer into a moment. It opens with Bell slouched on a couch channel surfing. We hear the natural sounds of the room and see the backward numbers on the screen indicating our point of view which is inside his television. What really makes this work, though is the sound. We hear the channels changing, going from commercial to commercial, show to show. All the sounds are blended beautifull so as not to distract. Bell’s microphone is invisible, yet he sounds like he’s in the room with the viewer, speaking in a normal tone. That’s the power of good audio.

It’s harder than it seems. I was watching what I believe to be the pilot of a children’s show from a few years ago. Scenes shot in the title character’s house were often echoey. Did this mean that the budget was too low? Did the videographer’s not have adequate equipment? Maybe. The fact remains that echoes happen–even in a show shown on a major children’s cable network.

In Hollywood, when bad audio places an otherwise excellent shot in jeopardy, the director will often opt to re-record it. I saw this first hand when carefully examining a clip for a class while in grad school. I watched the same clip over and over again not knowing (at first) what felt wrong about it. Eventually, I saw it. The leading actress must have mumbled, or otherwise messed up, a line in an otherwise wonderful take. Her lips weren’t matching the final dialogue. It was only a word, but I saw where they’d placed audio from either another take or a later recording session over her dialogue from this one.

Audio can also move a story along. In the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Psycho”, the sound of the music during the famous shower scene, the scream, the sound of the water, the sound of the knife entering the victim’s body (which was actually knives cutting melons–cassaba, according to imdb), and the sound of the shower curtain ripping from it’s rings combine to form one of the most errie moments in movie history. The final scene where we hear Norman Bates’ mother’s voice brings a conclusion to this masterpiece.

To create a powerful and compelling video, the videographer must take audio into account or have poor results.

More to come in part 2.