As filmmakers we’re always excited about new gear. Typically, we spend our money on the latest and greatest cameras and lenses to get cinematic footage. In our relentless search for image quality we often overlook the importance of sound in our films. Here’s a quick ramble explaining why audio quality may play a more important role than image quality for your next video production project.
It can reasonably be argued that sound is more important than image in creating captivating films. In their MIT study, Television Sound and Viewer Perceptions, researchers W. Russell Neuman, Ann Crigler, and V. Michael Bove determined that, “Respondents consistently evaluated television images presented with stereo or high fidelity sound as more interesting, more involving and better liked than the same images presented with mono or low fidelity sound.” They further write that, “As an interesting sidelight, we discovered that video with better quality and stereo sound were consistently rated as more likeable, interesting and involving. Viewers also rated programming with better audio as having higher picture quality.”
When footage is a bit shaky, or the color is off, or the angle is bad our brain compensates for it. Our eyes and brain are constantly correcting for head and body movements. Changes in lighting color, intensity, shadow and highlights are also processed and equalized in our brains. We have a lot of practice naturally dealing with many of the things that make video bad.
If detail is missing from video, it’s pretty easy for our brains to adjust and fill in information for detail loss from compression artifacts and low resolution because we are good at matching patterns of what we see and filling in the details. Persistence of vision and our ability to move our eyes around without it being jarring experience fills in this visual information all the time. It also hides the giant blind spots where our nerves enter the back of our eyes.
On the other hand, for audio, we have much better ability to perceive and hear sound than we have to play it back. We have excellent positional noise filtering capability, with which we can normally make decent sense of a noisy situation such as a conversation in a bar. However, when the same cacophony is recorded and then played back through a speakers or headphones recorded on a single microphone, the background noise and the audio we are interested in hearing are coming from a single source. Our normal tricks for filtering don’t work and so we struggle.
Additionally, our senses don’t work completely independently of each other. We are very good at combining what we see and what we hear and thus it is jarring if sound doesn’t match up with what we are seeing.
Many of the issues that can plague audio simply are things we are either not well adapted for or are actually outright adapted against. For video, it is the other way around. Our natural adaptations aid us rather than work against us.
So, what does all this rambling mean? Audio recording in video production shouldn’t be secondary to image capture. We use the best microphones, preamps and recording devices we can to capture great audio to help tell your story.
Recently, a company named Sound Devices introduced a new audio recorder which we purchased and tested yesterday. Sound Devices is the de facto mixer/recorder used on movies from the Revenant and Mad Max to television shows such as Game of Thrones and Planet Earth II.
Needless to say, Sound Devices makes good recording equipment, which is why we decided to add a piece of their gear to our story telling arsenal.
If you’d like us to help tell your brand’s story with great audio (and video) quality give us a call.
In the mean time, enjoy this video of Taylor and I playing with our new gear.