In May, at the peak of COVID making Google Meets recordings acceptable as a form of content, we sat down with Jason Hamborg to talk bad ads.
The goal? To tap into Jason’s expertise as Creative Director of 6ix Sigma, a video production company in Northern BC, and learn how someone with his skills would improve those bad ads.
We scoured the internet for ads that made all kinds of ‘worst of’ lists, then picked three to talk about. Instead of leaving the conversation too open-ended, we asked Jason about one specific aspect of the bad ad in question and really dove into that topic.
In part three, we discuss how bad audio can ruin even the best of attempts, and how Jason gives us tips for better audio.
What We Can Learn From Christopher Knight:
"People will sit through a video with bad visuals and great audio, but they won't ever sit through bad audio."
Let's address the audio elephant in the room: in a post about getting great audio, we had mediocre audio. COVID made it hard to leave the house to grab the gear we needed. We're playing the COVID card. Thank you.
With that out of the way, let's dive into some of the more important learnings from this chat with Jason!
Lapel Mic vs. Boom Mic - What's Better?
When it comes to capturing professional audio for any video ad or content piece, the camera microphone will never do. Speaking from experience, even a shotgun-mount microphone live a Rode VideoMic is susceptible to a ton of extra noise. When asked which is better, lapel or boom, Jason gave a pretty badass answer: both, recording into different devices. This creates an extra layer of protection against failure. That's why Jason is the pro and 6ix Sigma does the level of work they do.
Prepare the Space You're Recording In
Jason and I have a theory that Christopher night recorded this in his garage. Generally speaking, garages are some of the worst types of spaces for audio: they tend to have thin exteriors, concrete floors, and walls that are parallel to each other. All of these elements are a recipe for echo-y audio that's susceptible to outside noises creeping in. If you have a choice of rooms in a home to record in, a bedroom or living room are often some of the better spots. Carpet, furniture, pictures on the walls, and objects placed throughout the room help to reduce echo. These rooms will also have more insulation than a garage or shed, reducing noise. If noise is still a problem, it may be coming from windows. You can help ease this problem by hanging a blanket over the windows that are the biggest problems. (If that's what you have to do, make sure to account for lighting).
Make-Your-Own Interview Audio Booths
I had personally never heard of this technique, but as someone who likes guerilla productions, I loved it. When Jason's team needs interview audio (but not video of the subject to accompany it), they'll use a sound-dampening booth to remove reverb and reflections from the room. If they're out of town, as they often are, they'll create one out of things found in a hotel room - pillows, cushions, blankets, and the like. This gives clean, reverb-free audio that's also more free of outside noise like planes, cars, or hallway vacuums.
Don't Count on ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement)
In audio-only mediums like podcasting, you have the leeway to re-record audio after. Those mediums are easier because the audio doesn't need to match a speaker's mouth. With video, it's significantly harder. The person replacing audio would have to nail the exact phrasing, feel, and energy of the original take without error. If any of those are missed, the audio can be visibly out-of-sync and confuse the audience, or not match what's happening on screen. Think 'bad foreign film overdub'. It's not very fun to watch.
A better technique might be to rely on b-roll footage and dub those parts over, but that's only viable if parts of the audio are messy (say road noise, hitting the mic), and not the entire shoot. As Jason notes, Christopher Knight overdubbing this piece properly in a different space would be a long, difficult, and nearly impossible task.
Thanks for reading!
Reach out to chat with the Goat team to let us know what you think of the video, or if you have more suggestions for bad ads to learn from - there are more to come! And one last thanks to Jason from 6ix Sigma, check them out.
Goat Team — June 16th