Updated: Feb 11
Over complicating audio productions is becoming an increasing problem. A few years back the majority of us would listen to sounds through a radio, HiFi speakers or television. All these mediums offer a relatively clear and wide sound.
Now more than half the audio we listen to is from a smart device or phone. When you are considering producing audio, for whatever project, make sure that you and the producer know the audience and what your key platform for delivery will be.
All the way through the 80’s the big trend was to highlight stereo in everything that was produced. More and more people were getting access to high quality ghetto blasters and hifis and every content producer wanted to show how their stereo was the best stereo on the dial, in the air – everywhere.
Now in 2020 if your main platform is a phone speaker being listened to on a bus, scooter or on a table in Starbucks, concentrating on left to right extreme stereo will only result in loss and a cloudy and muddy sound. If your target market is a phone listener keep the audio classy, not too many layers and minimal stereo sound effects.
In the 90‘s we discovered audio processing, make something, flatten it, make it louder and everything sounds more impressive. If you listen to many 80’s songs there was a lot of room and depth in the sound, loud and quiet parts too. By the late 90’s everything was much louder and flatter – great for radio and television.
Processing has moved on now and just about all audio producers will work to their compressor. By this I mean lay a compressor over the session you are about to create and then as you add layers’drive’ the audio level as hard as you can into that compressor to give the loudest sound possible. This is fine, if carried out properly, just be careful to not process the vocals on a promo or presentation into the ground so you can’t hear them over the music. It probably sounded great in the studio but back in your boardroom it all just feels a mess.
When you commission your project make sure one of the first questions you are asked is ‘who is the audience for this and where will they be listening’ As a general rule for smart device or office listening look for well made but simpler creations. For radio, TV or film you can go for a more complex sound, more layers, more subtleties and more audio ‘sweets’.
On average it takes the listener three times to hear your message before fully engaging, understanding and deciding if they have an interest. So make sure the first time they hear it you don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a clumsy, fluffy production, with lots of noise as sounds that just makes it impossible to understand. The audio world has become more and more unforgiving, be clear, concise and simple to be ahead and score a win with a project you have probably been working on for weeks.