Muted videos: a current an urgent challenge for sound producers
Those who work in sound production know that producing the sound of a video is quite a complex task which requires both knowledge, patience, and a tremendous amount of creativity. So, it is quite frustrating when we realize that a large percentage of the videos viewed on social media platforms like Facebook are viewed in mute. Yes: Sometimes people prefer to listen to music while scrolling down their feeds, or they are simply checking their phones late at night when they should not be making any noise. Or, simply, if they have the chance of not listening to anything, they prefer, for whatever reason, not to do so while watching such content online. What’s more, not a few people turn down the volume on their televisions at night and watch their screens while falling asleep.
Without a doubt, it is frustrating both for many producers and sound editors, as well as for those who invest in the successful production of their ads. However, this can be seen as a challenge — not necessarily as a problem. Let’s see why.
Read also: Why are TV ads so loud?
Let us start by saying that the fact that millions of users prefer muted videos does not mean that sound production is no longer important for social media advertising. Of course, not. If we take into account that there are always people watching videos of all kinds with sound (and, many of them, while using headphones,) then this aspect of audiovisual communication can never be put aside. It is vital to work on the continuous improvement of sound quality, as well as investing in the best equipment to bring the best results. Now, several users prefer to watch videos without sound, and, although you should not stop producing excellent sound, you must be able to create videos that can produce the effects you are looking for, even if they are muted by meeting the entertainment needs of those who listen and those who don’t.
The challenge here starts from the very foundations of the video you plan to release. From writing the script, even. It is crucial, for example, to review some references of the old silent cinema of a century ago to understand why some films were successful, and, thus learn some basic principles that can lead you to produce functional videos both in their sound and silent modes. Let us take a look at some of those basic principles.
On the one hand, it is key to consider each video as two videos at the same time: one with sound, and a silent one. That is to say: while the scriptwriter is designing the script, he or she should think about how the video will turn out in both forms and what it takes for both modalities to fulfill their communicative functions. It is not a simple task, for sure, but it will be worth it in the long run. It is important to consider that putting this principle into practice is in no way a guarantee that the video will be successful but keep in mind that if you do not implement it, failure may be a certain possibility.
Second, do your best for captioning your videos. Do not trust YouTube’s automatic subtitles. These are never entirely successful, and, in case you want to upload your video on other social networks, such as Facebook, these will not be there. Do the work yourself, and caption all the videos. With this, you achieve three fundamental objectives. The first one is that users who watch the video on mute will be able to understand it without difficulties; also, deaf people will have the same possibility, and non-English speakers from hundreds of countries will not skip it and watch it instead.
This task can be done through free applications, such as Hootsuite, or you can hire qualified people on freelance work platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, or Fiverr (among many others) at quite reasonable prices.
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Third, the power of videos should not rely on the soundtrack. Music is important, indeed, since the mood and atmosphere you try to produce depends largely on it but things are different in a silent video: image is essential, as well as the way the subtitles complement it. This also applies to voice-over narrations, which, in silent mode, will be reduced to a series of subtitles in the lower part of the frame. So, when writing the script, make sure that the amount of subtitles is as low as possible. This will give more prominence to the image, which, ultimately, will capture the attention of users.
This will also force you to plan things differently: how to capture the attention of users from mere images, without resorting to sound effects? Again, it is not an easy task, but you have no choice but to consider it.