According to George Lucas, sound is 50% of the moviegoing experience. Really think about that. Imagine your favorite films without audio – and I mean all audio; no soundtrack, no sound effects, and no dialogue. Much less immersive, huh?

Audio is essential to any and every video project. Most people, however, don’t understand how audio professionals think nor what tasks matter to them. As video professionals, we think it’s important that you grasp what it is we actually do. To help you better understand all the facets of video production, we’re doing a brief blog series on some of its core tenets.

We hope this will enable you to (1) know what goes into video production and (2) communicate well with those who make videos. Keep in mind, however, that this is an overview. We’ll be skipping over many things – even entire roles that are crucial to the production process.

Without further ado, however, let’s discuss the work of an audio professional.

The Broad Scope of Sound Work

There are so many different roles within the field of “sound work” that it’s nearly impossible to explain them all in this article.  Although this is the case, every role is important to creating a great video.

Some studios may be so large that different people can specialize in various parts of the audio sphere. Other small agencies may have 1 person that handles the entirety of sound for them. Either way (or somewhere in between), audio is critical for effective video making.

For demonstration, it is possible to work as either a sound designer, foley artist, production sound mixer, dialogue editor, or composer and do separate, substantial work, different than any other role in this list. It is also possible for one person to perform all of these roles on their own.

For those of you who are curious, I’ve listed some rapid-fire definitions of each role below:

Sound Design (as a verb): Using sound to create an atmosphere or environment in which a person will be enraptured. This usually means creating sounds that don’t exist (like the T-Rex in Jurassic Park) or “painting” with sound.

Foley Artist: A person who creates sound effects by combining or manipulating sounds that already exist. This role also tends to add their SFX into a movie or video.

Production Sound Mixer: The person who is responsible for recording all on-set sound during production. This is one role in the branch of sound mixing.

Dialogue Editor: Someone who assembles, synchronizes, and edits all the dialogue in a given video or movie. This is one role in the branch of sound editing.

Composer: A musician who writes music for a film or video.

What’s Sound All About?

All this said, the main point of audio production (and post-production) is to create an immersive audio environment, such that viewers or listeners are pulled into the story. Story is, after all, the point of video.

Excellent sound work greatly enhances the visual medium, even obsolescing it in some cases. As a large portion of the video, sound makes up the entire basis and background with which we understand the visual. In short, sound is more important than picture, although there’s a long standing debate on that statement.

How Audio Designers Think

Audio professionals are always looking to create an impactful yet realistic aural experience. They want to create something so good that it won’t be noticed. Really.

Someone skilled in the work of audio wants a viewer to be pulled into the video. If they succeed at doing so, their reward is that nobody will comment on the sound. Even in the rare cases where audio is inventive enough to be noticed, you’ll see that the goal of the sound work was to support the story (i.e. the ultimate outcome of the video).

As long as audio designers have a clear picture of what the ultimate goal is, they’ll be able to use their skills to bring it to life. Whether it’s a simple advertisement for a family product or a story about your good or service, audio professionals are very versatile.

In summary, audio is essential to any and every video project. Audio designers think in terms of what sounds good and what best supports the ultimate outcome of the video. Given free reign, they will often come up with brilliant solutions to problems that will go unnoticed.

Be sure to show your appreciation for your sound person. We need the encouragement!