Audio Sweetening and Mixing

It’s a conundrum. You want a killer video, but one of the most important elements is something you can’t even see. It can enlighten the viewers, alter their emotions, make them take action.

It’s the audio on your project, and this is one area where no one can afford to cut corners. Your video may look perfect to the eye, but if the audio is flat, uneven, tinny, buzzy or even the least bit unnatural, the audience just won’t buy it, or anything you’re trying to sell with it.

In some videos, much or all of the initial audio may come from the actual shoot. But that’s not the only audio that will be used. This is where the idea of sweetening comes in. Sweetening is a general term for adding a little something extra.

audio sweetening control board

What does that mean for your video? Well, it can mean adding music to help set the tone. Listen to some commercials. Really listen. You’ll find that most have music. You may be so used to it that you don’t consciously pay attention to it anymore. The next time a commercial comes on, try imagining what it would sound like with just people talking, without any music at all. For example, imagine this GMC commercial without The Who’s “Eminence Front”. Kinda dull, isn’t it? We take the music underneath commercials for granted so much now that if one were to be produced without any music or any audio tweaking whatsoever, we would immediately sense something was amiss.

Audio sweetening can also involve manipulating a person’s voice to enrich it and give it depth, but it’s easy to go overboard. We’ve all played with the settings on our car stereos. You know what it sounds like when you kill the bass and leave only the treble, right? Imagine doing that to a human voice. When watching the resulting video, you’d be looking at a three-dimensional person with a one-dimensional voice. Disconcerting, to say the least.

When the original audio is less than perfect, it’s possible to use sweetening to add extra depth and contrast so that the people speaking sound more natural. The key word here is “natural”, which is why a skilled hand is needed. Just as no amount of makeup will make John Goodman look like Jude Law, no amount of audio sweetening is going to make someone with a Tiny Tim voice sound like Pavarotti.

audio sweetening for open-air crowds
An open-air crowd setting can be a nightmare in terms of getting realistic audio. It’s almost impossible to get a natural feel no matter how many microphones you use. With audio sweetening, you’ll get the precise effect you want.

Mixing simply refers to bringing multiple audio elements together effectively. For example, music has to be added at a level that emphasizes rather than overwhelms the scene, especially if dialogue is involved. There may be a need to put in sound effects (wind blowing, rain falling, birds singing) or to put one person’s dialogue through special filters (for example, to give the impression of a ghost speaking to living people from another realm of existence).

The key to both audio sweetening and mixing is to remember that every sound, no matter its volume on the final track, will have some influence on how the viewers feel. This is why nothing but the best will do. That’s the Hencar approach to this vital component of your project.

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