Will The Sky Fall In On Your Online Videos?

I wrote about a problem of poor audio quality a few weeks ago.  Whether it’s a webinar, a hangout or a corporate video too many videos suffer from poor audio – and it’s killing the value they have as a way to increase inbound leads.  It’s never made sense that companies make huge time and effort and, often financial, investments in online videos [both live and recorded] and then fail to make sure the audio quality matches that of the pictures.

I was listening to a few YouTube videos online this week and a couple illustrate the problem perfectly.  The performers, in my opinion, are equally talented – but the difference in the audio quality is night and day.

First, an example of a produced cover of the latest Bond theme, ‘SkyFall’.  The audio and video have been recorded separately and mixed in post production.

Then there’s this version produced in, what looks like, a lounge or bedroom.  I don’t know whether the tracks were recorded on separate channels and then edited together [pretty easy to do], but it’s clear that both were recorded at the same time.

Then there’s a version of the same song that’s recorded ‘as live’ with a bit of production.  You can’t see a mic in this version and, even if you weren’t watching the video, you would know that the main track was recorded on a mic some distance away from the singer.

And, finally, there’s this version that – I suspect – was recorded using the built-in microphone of the PC or Mac the video is being recorded on.  Either that, or it’s on a stereo microphone – perhaps the onboard mic of a camcorder.  You can hear some white noise at the start of the recording and the richness of the audio is not the same as the first two you heard.  


If the albums released by your favourite bands sounded like the last example, would you buy it?

Oh, and then there’s 95% of podcasts, webinars, hangouts and corporate videos.  If they were as good – or even close – to the final of these examples then they’d likely be far more effective than they are.  So, next time you are putting together a webinar, webcast, hangout or online video remember which version[s] of the covers you most enjoyed listening to – and make sure your audio rocks.  Your listeners will thank you for it.


I was asked earlier this week what the PSY – GANGNAM STYLE videos were all about and why they are getting so many hits right now.  I have to confess I don’t get it, but I do understand why they, and the spoof videos, are getting so many views on YouTube.  It’s the perfect marketing storm of having the right product in the right place, at the right time, and targeted at the right audience.  The video above has been viewed more than 230 million times and has introduced the Korean rapper PSY [real name Park Jae-sang], and his music, to millions of people who wouldn’t already have known anything about his work.  As a result, I’m guessing he’s probably going to sell a few more albums – many of them outside of his traditional markets in Asia.

It’s also a perfect example of how things can go viral.  Why are the videos so popular in North America and Europe?  Because they were hot in Asia, were spotted by taste-makers in North America and Europe… the videos were then shared with their peer group, spoofs started to emerge [relevant to audiences unlikely to see the original videos], which prompted viewers to watch the videos that inspired the spoofs.  Repeat this a few times and you get to 230 million views.  If you want an example of the power of social media communications, I can’t think of a better one right now!

While I can’t guarantee that following this model will deliver hundreds of millions of viewers for your viral video, getting the marketing mix right will give you the best chance of attracting new customers.

Other posts you might like:

The Rules of Viral Success

Is Your PR Company Taking The P Out of Marketing?

How To Avoid Audio Killing Your Video Star

I’ve been working on a few video projects for clients recently.  One thing I’ve seen time and time again as part of my research is companies that have spent thousands on creating videos with television-quality video production values… but with audio that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to watch.

With video an increasingly important part of  modern communications strategies [and growing evidence that online videos are listened to, rather than watched] it is vital that you don’t let valuable content go to waste because of a poor audio track.  Here are a few tips to ensuring that the sound on your video does the rest of the content justice:

  • Invest in a decent microphone.  Spending a few hundred dollars on a professional-grade piece of kit will return your investment within a few weeks.  One of the most common problems is indistinct audio [echo, background noise, ‘popping’] and investing in a lip mic like the the Coles 4104 will solve these problems.  It was created for use by BBC Radio sports commentators to minimize the amount of background noise so that listeners could  focus on what was being described.
  • Listen to your own voice.  Investing in a decent pair of headphones will make a real difference to an audio recording.  It blocks out unnecessary distractions and provides an accurate experience of the audio track your audience will hear.
  • Create the right environment. Too often web audio sounds like it was recorded in the bathroom.  This is because most buildings aren’t designed for audio recording, so sound bounces off walls, glass windows, fixtures and fittings and wood flooring.  If you don’t have an audio studio to record in [how many companies do?!] then find a space that has as few of the things mentioned above to record in.  One tip is to stand in the corner of a room, where your voice will only ‘bounce’ off of two, solid, surfaces.
  • Script it.  Too often web video is not scripted – webinar presenters are particularly frequent offenders.  I’m not suggesting that all web video should be scripted, having a framework for a webinar presenter to work from will help to make the whole thing sound a little more professional.
  • Turn off all electrical devices.  Yes, I mean EVERYTHING, and I mean OFF.  One of the most common background sounds on B2B web videos is electromagnetic   [it’s the whirring sound you hear].  Obviously, in some cases, like live broadcasts, it’s not practical to turn everything off, but if you’re recording a track to accompany a produced video then you’ll hear a dramatic improvement to the audio by following this tip.  Even if you put your cell phone on to silent you’ll still hear it ring when you play back the recording.
  • Practice.  One of the most over-looked parts of most audio tracks.  People think that if they can read it, they can record it.  It’s a much used adage, but true… practice DOES make perfect.  Practice will also iron out the most common unwanted additions to an audio track… the ‘err’ and the ‘umm’.
  • Slow down.  In broadcasting there’s what is know as ‘reading to time’ – a pace at which it is easy for the listener to take in what is being said.  Broadcast journalists write to time to ensure that they have just enough words to fill a particular slot, and not too few,working to a three words per second rule.
  • Stand up. Standing up changes the way your voice sounds [try it now and you’ll hear the difference].  Want to sound authoritative, knowledgeable, full of energy?  Standing up helps convince your listeners that you are all of these things.
  • Scream and shout.  Before you start recording… not while you are recording.  Having a good old shout releases the tension from your voice, making it sound much more authoritative, calm and collected – its especially good if you’re nervous too.
  • Use silence as a tool.  Dead air scares people… but it shouldn’t.  In the same way that a dramatic pause in a presentation can add real value, so stopping and letting your viewers/listeners think about what you’ve said can be a very effective tool in communicating your message.  Very few firms use it – by doing so, you’ll stand out from the crowd.
  • Understand your audience.  This is, perhaps, the most important piece of advice I can offer.  If you know your audience it’ll help guide the content, tone, language and length of your audio/video.  It’s also the most overlooked part of any audio/video recording.

What other things do you do to improve the quality of your audio and video presentations?