You only get one chance to make a first impression. An old cliche, but a true one. New research suggests that first impressions are so important, that they can even override what we later know to be true! Pretty scary, huh! So when your first impression involves audio, i.e., radio/TV commercials, explainer videos, etc...you better sound as professional as possible!
These days, you can figure out how to do almost anything with a quick Google search. And that includes recording your own audio. Which is great for fun, personal projects, but not always the best for business-related ones. You may think you're saving a few bucks by doing it yourself, but in the long run, it's best to hire a professional.
The easiest way to explain the difference between a professional-sounding audio production and a not-so-professional-sounding one, is to actually let you hear it. So below are two examples of a radio commercial we wrote and fully produced for Bailey Place Insurance. Both versions have the exact same voice over read but overall sound very different.
Example A is a basic "read over a music bed" spot.
Example B is a much better produced version of the spot.
Hear the difference?
The music choice in Example A doesn't quite mesh with the spot. Although upbeat and positive, it just work. Example B's music choice fits much better and gives more of a "National Ad" feel to it. It's also edited in a way that there is a brief stop in the music at the first mention of Bailey Place Insurance. Obviously, the name of the company being advertised is very important, and creating this break in the music helps bring attention to that name. This also helps make a clear transition from the intro to the main body of the spot.
Sound effects are also important for this spot. Example A doesn't have any while Example B has several in the intro. These sound effects help make the spot more interesting and fun to listen to. You only have a few seconds to grab the listeners' attention, so adding a few sound effects at the beginning of a spot to help bring a story to life, is a very effective way of doing this.
"...don't be fooled, adding audio effects to a VO can only enhance a good read, not improve a poor one."
The final difference is a little more subtle than the music and sound effects but equally as important: the addition of EQ, compression and reverb to the mix. Example A has no effects added to it whatsoever. It's really a bare bones mix. The only adjustments made in Example A were with the volume levels of the music and voice over. Example B has all three effects added to give a nice finish to the overall sound of the spot. Play the first 10 seconds of Example A, and then the first 10 seconds of Example B to hear the difference. Example B sounds full, where as Example A sounds pretty thin.
The only consistent part of both spots is the voice over. While the read and interpretation of the script is the exact same for both, the overall sound quality is better in Example B because of the audio effects mentioned above. But don't be fooled, adding audio effects to a VO can only enhance a good read, not improve a poor one. You still need the necessary skills to give life to a script, and that takes time and practice.
Adding video to the mix doesn't diminish the need for professional audio. If you have a great looking explainer video or TV spot for your company, but the audio is poor, you have a good chance of turning off a potential customer.
So the next time you're tempted to venture into the unknown and produce your own voice overs or audio for your company, think about the character in a scary movie who decides to investigate that weird sound in attic. It's probably best not to go there...you probably should call in an expert.
Scott & Susan Spaulding of Decorated Air Studios provide voice overs and audio production for various media projects including explainer videos, TV & radio spots, eLearning and more! Contact them today to see what they can do for you at firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free at 888-450-9119.