Plan for imperfection.
After all, that’s where the humanity lies.
The most effective audio, the kind of audio that touches the hearts and minds of its audience, is never perfect. In fact, it’s most likely intentionally imperfect.
You see, we humans aren’t perfect. So when we spot imperfections, we recognise there’s a real human behind what we’re hearing. And that makes it sound authentic.
The same can be said for music. If the vocals are flawless it loses its soul.
Our ears are highly tuned to what’s real and what’s not. Everyone is basically walking around with two bullshit detectors on their head.
So, to ensure your audio sounds as authentic as possible, there are three areas we should seek imperfections — the performance, the recording, and the script.
If you pay close attention to how people speak, you’ll quickly notice the imperfections. Not only that, people don’t speak the same way they read and write.
We ‘um’ and ‘ah’, stop and start, ramble, our voice breaks, we breathe in the middle of sentences, have f-false starts, mispronounce words, occasionally sound a little husky from a cold (re: hangover)… the list goes on.
A performance containing imperfections separates it from sounding mechanical and untrustworthy. Which is why we should try as hard as we can to capture this humanity, in all its imperfect glory, in every performance.
HBF — Sounds of Nothing
For the same reasons as above, we also want the quality of our recording to be imperfect. This takes the listeners out of the perfect studio environment and into the “real world”. This is why we add reverb, room tone, and fridge buzzes to the recording.
Another more effective — yet often overlooked — technique is to simply record in the environment relevant to the story you’re telling. This ensures you capture movement in the voices you’re recording, realistic background sounds, and unique and authentic sound effects.
For example, if your script was a conversation between two people in a car, instead of recording a crystal-clear conversation in a studio and adding car SFX after, you could actually record it in a car. Who would’ve thought! It will sound 100 times more authentic than faking it because of the indirect traffic sounds, car reverb, sounds of the car, seat creaks, and clothe movement from the actors inside the car.
Listeners can always tell when something’s been done for real — and spending a little more time on the craft makes your audio (and message) stand out.
McDonald’s — McCafe
McDonald’s — Grand Angus
By the time your script reaches the studio, it’s been through a lot.
It’s been written… rewritten… shown to the creative director… rewritten… shown to the client… rewritten… creative director… rewritten… client… and… eventually… approved!
Any sane, rational human being would want to ensure that this script is recorded exactly as scripted. Word for word. You know the pain and suffering you’ve been through to get this far.
Believe me, we hear you. We absolutely get it.
But you should continue to embrace imperfections by being open to the script changing during the record.
Sometimes the script just isn’t working as well as imagined. Sometimes you (or someone else in the room) will have a suggestion that improves the idea. But the Holy Grail, is to give the actors the freedom to improvise the script during their performance. To not only tweak the script into their own authentic language (or that of the character they’re portraying) but to come up with ideas in the spur of the moment.
Snowy Mountain Brewery
Now, not everyone plans to create imperfect audio. Which is perfect for us. Because it means there’s one final and obvious benefit — our ads will stand out.
The marketplace has never been more cluttered. So creating ads that feel real, authentic, human, and trustworthy is the best way to ensure people pay attention to them amongst the sea of flawless but obnoxiously phoney-sounding messages out there.