Making Your Animated Explainer Video: Audio Considerations

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With animated video production, it’s not uncommon to assume that the audio phase is much more straightforward than the processes in, for example, the storyboarding and animating phases. Oh, how naive!

From the importance music has on psychological influence in buyer conversions, to how certain styles of sound effects can enchant [or repulse] a viewer/listener – the audio phase in animated production is a beautiful and complex beast.

Allow Flikli’s own Audio Guy to walk you through the most important considerations we make when adding sound to visuals. What do we consider? Read on to find out.

We consider the intended target market for the video.

What’s their age again?!
Pre-school toddlers? Pre-teen kids? Young adults? 40+? 60+? A video can have an entirely different effect if using twinkly, quirky sfx and music – as opposed to professional, mature sounds. Make sure the targeted age group will appreciate and identify with the audio you choose.

M or F?
If you’re specifically targeting one gender over the other with a video, it can be tempting to really amplify the stereotypical preference. e.g. Lovey-dovey, soft music with bubblegum sfx for the girls; intense, hard music with explosive sfx for the guys. On rare occasions this can be great [if producing a satirical, comedic video for example], however in most cases it’s best to stay neutral, keeping any hat-tips to either gender both subtle and tasteful.

Think about cultures! Not the kind that you make yogurt from.
This can be a lot of fun. The audio considerations between a Western and Eastern geographically targeted production can really throw you out your comfort zone and into interesting new realms of music and sfx. Much like gender considerations though – make sure not to stereotype distastefully when focusing on a particular cultural demographic.

We consider the intended function of the video.

Purely informative
Subtlety is often key, here. in all video it’s important to get the main message across, but in particular if a production’s sole purpose is providing information [and not so intent on a narrative or following the traditional story-telling path] then you want to have the music rest more politely in the background and approach the sfx with the “less is more” ethos.

Persuasion, persuasion, persuasion. You want the product or service being pushed to not just been shown in its best light, but equally *heard* as such. Therefore it’s important to research and pin-point the most enticing tone that will emphasis and encourage viewers/listeners to have as positive a response to the video [and thus the product/service] as possible. Some fantastic examples of this, that have since been emulated across multiple industries, are the Apple commercials with that now instantly recognisable “quirky, light-hearted, optimistic” music.

Hybrids: A little bit of column ‘A’, a little bit of column ‘B’ a.k.a ‘Show and Sell’
When presented with a hybrid that must incorporate both a lot of information while also acting as an effective sales asset, don’t shy away from the challenge. see it as an opportunity to produce a well-balanced masterpiece of audio. by simply erring on the side of “less is more” while allowing what little music+sfx therein to really illuminate the awesomeness of what’s being offered, you won’t go wrong.

We consider the visual style of the video.

These are so much fun as far as sfx go. you can get really creative when dealing with visuals that are devoid of human-resemblance. get quirky, inventive and don’t be afraid to try a few different sounds [or combinations of sounds!] on each action or transition. in such abstract animated videos, the audio can be so influential that they may even drive the creative direction. consider as well that the music will have a heightened effect on influencing the viewer/listeners emotional response to the video, especially when having no faces to reference empathy with.

High-octane/fast transitions/ action-packed. ZOOM! BAM! POP!
Arguably the most straightforward productions to provide audio for, the biggest consideration within this visual style is to ensure you don’t over-do the volume [both in level and amount] of sfx and musical tracks.

Minimalistic/calm [insert the sound of one hand clapping]
Don’t assume that this style is effectively audibly supported by simply doing the opposite as the aforementioned *loud* style. although this is true for the most part, a lot more thought should be put into the audio you decide to include. remember – the more silence between audio hits; the more noticeable and thus easily scrutinised such audio will be. attention to detail is always important, but it’s absolutely paramount within this visual style.

Hybrid Audio (no, not the sound system in your Prius)
See video function ‘hybrid’ considerations – the same theory applies, except your focus is on how to balance the high-octane scenes against the calm/quiet scenes. not as easy as you might think! tip: it’s all in the transition, so have most attention reserved for such sections.

Constant Considerations

Ensure all audio is of the highest quality.
If recording any audio in-house, whether it be individual instruments, sound fx, or a voice over, make sure you minimise all factors that can lower the quality of the audio recording. Having an acoustically treated room available for such instances is ideal.

The Mix. The all-important Mix.
Mix it well, young padawan. you don’t want to have gone pedantically through all these considerations, only to lapse in judgement and attention to detail in the mixing stage. Be fair to the audio, your own efforts, and the ears of your peers/audience – balance all audio sections as best you can – then revel in a job well done!

If you enjoyed this article and are interested in more audio-related pieces, check out Chris’s previous posts here. You can find plenty of examples of what’s been discussed above in our very own portfolio of videos — watch a few, and see if you can spot the approach we’ve taken based on the considerations in this article. Finally, if you’re interested in a video of your own, check this page out for more info, or drop us a line! –The Editors