Why sound design matters

When I started making videos I cared a lot about developing my craft. Specifically, I wanted to get better at set dressing, framing and lighting my scenes. I wanted to understand ISO, aperture, frame rates and focal lengths so that in any situation I could capture the most beautiful images. And these things are undoubtedly fundamental to the craft, so it was right to focus on them! But there was one area that I neglected for quite some time, and that may be especially surprising given my parallel career in music! The area I neglected was sound design.

I wouldn’t say it was wilful neglect! I was just focusing on the things I considered to be most important at the time. But as I have progressed as a videographer and an editor I have come to value sound design as equal to video quality in terms of importance.

Good sound design turns a good video into a great video, and yet often your clients won’t even notice it, let alone comment on it! But a video that utilises the stereo field with a variety of cleverly placed sound effects will feel more dramatic than a video that just offers you a soundtrack.

The sound design allows you to introduce ideas audibly before you introduce them visually. It allows you to smooth transitions between shots or add impact when you want to slap the viewer! The sound design allows you to immerse your audience in the scene and engage them on another sensory level.

Here is a good example. We recently created this short commercial for Silly Moo, a small Sussex-based brewery that makes delicious cider! Click play to hear the difference that the sound design makes. This experience will be best if you watch with headphones!

I haven’t done a survey, but I would put money on ten out of ten people saying that the version with the sound design was head and shoulders better than the version without. So my advice to my younger self would be; to put a significant amount of thought and effort into your sound design. It may not be explicitly noticed by clients and lay people, but your videos will undoubtedly hit harder. And if your videos hit hard then you will get more clients calling.