The thrill of driving a sports car undoubtedly comes from the adrenaline of switching gears, pushing the pedal to the floor, and feeling the rumble of the engine. But just for a second imagine that the engine didn’t roar and bark back as you increased speed. Imagine that the tires didn’t squeal as you accelerated through a tight corner. Imagine that the exhaust didn’t grumble and pop as you geared up. What would the experience be like? Would the pulsating adrenaline from driving a Lamborghini Gallardo fade into a complacent calmness of driving a Dodge Caravan?
Okay maybe not quite, but the point is that audio continues to be overlooked within modern media as a driver of storytelling.
When thinking about storytelling, the audio component of a video is usually superseded by its visual counterpart, however both elements must work in tandem to create a compelling story. Not only that, but audio is more than capable of providing unique and enticing storytelling completely on its own.
Take a look at this video Rose by Carte Noire and pay attention to the incredible sound design. Imagine how the storytelling would be impacted without the satisfying sound of sprinkles landing on a pastry or the mixing, spreading, and blending of all the ingredients. Not only do the sound effects blend seamlessly with the cinematography to enhance the quality of the visuals, they also appear to interact and play off the music. This type of complex sound design effectively simulates the blending of ingredients by mixing the cinematography, music, and sound effects together. The result is a short video that is as delicious as the coffee and dessert it is documenting. In this day and age where our attention is constantly being jousted over by all forms of media, the type of impact from the small details cannot be understated.
Different audio techniques can help convey different tones and messages within a story. For example – this video for the Travel Alberta campaign highlights the beautiful outdoors of Alberta and the array of different landscapes that the province houses while encouraging the viewer to get outside and “remember to breathe.” The video achieves a down-to-earth tone through impressive visuals paired with simple and minimal sound design. There is a clear lack of sound effects in the video until the finish which allows the music to really control the pace and structure of the video. The producer’s put their full trust in local musician WiL and his song There Is to completely capture the desired mood and atmosphere of the ad. The song is a perfect choice and compliments the rustic nature of Alberta, while also keeping up with the energy of an urban lifestyle.
Audio and video go hand in hand with storytelling, but that doesn’t mean that a purely audio based story cannot steal the show and stand on its own. Take for example the episodic podcast Serial. Serial is hosted by Sarah Koenig and uses investigative journalism to narrate a nonfiction story on a weekly basis. Serial combines the best elements of strategically timed narrative and quality production to pull the listener in and stands as strong evidence that audio based storytelling is alive and well as the podcast has been downloaded over a record number five million times.
The fact of the matter is that our brains are programmed to recognize a great story no matter the medium it is told in. A report from Edison Research estimated that 64% of 12-24 year olds and 37% of 25-54 year olds had listened to online radio weekly in 2014. These growing numbers can be attributed to the convenience of accessing content through mobile devices and listening while “on the go.”
So next time you’re heading out on a long road trip, maybe pause before turning to that old, all too familiar radio station and consider accessing some audio stories. You might be surprised at just how exhilarating your trip will be.