This browser does not support the video element.

Sound Design for TV Commercials : The Creative Process

Sound is powerful. It can evoke real emotion - and when coupled with equally powerful visuals, the human senses of sight and sound work together to engage hearts and minds.

Often the sound design (or audio post production) for a TV commercial is left until late in the production process before it’s considered, but done well, it can really make a TVC ‘pop’. From sweetening and improving to-camera dialogue audio to adding Foley and situational sound effects - the audio engineering component is a small investment that makes a big difference.

For example, below are examples of just two TV commercials we’ve worked on.

In the first, the production is quite simple; there’s talent speaking to-camera in a studio, some animated text & effects and B-roll footage.

Take a look at the original commercial BEFORE any audio sound design:

Here’s the final AFTER sound design.

Here’s the final cut of another, more complex TVC with many audio sound design elements.

Breaking The Audio Engineering Steps Down

We asked one of our audio engineers about the creative process when working on the audio post production for a TV commercial, and he broke it into 4 main parts.

1. The Brief

Understanding the brief is crucial to knowing how ‘subtle’ or ‘obvious’ to be. For example, if the commercial has a strong retail focus and is made up of lots of animated text and images, the sound design and effects should probably be louder and more ‘obvious’. However, if the commercial has live-action footage and is a branding-focussed piece, ensuring the sound effects are more ‘subtle’ and realistic - that you’re hearing the sound of what you’re seeing - is important.

2. The Tech

Next, we’ll listen to any supplied audio to get an idea of technically what needs to be done. If there are to-camera pieces, the source quality can vary depending on how they were recorded and the environment where they were recorded. For example, if the talent was shot in a room with lots of hard, reflective surfaces, it’s likely we’ll need to remove lots of echo and reverb. If there was much background noise recorded, it’s likely we’ll have to do some restoration and noise removal to clean up the audio. More ‘audio post production’ then ‘sound design’ - this is often the most time consuming and technical part. If you’re shooting the footage, it’s best to ensure the source audio is recorded as clearly as possible rather than to think “we’ll just fix it in post!”

3. The Creative

This is the sound ‘design’ part where the fun really begins! Working with the initial brief and your supplied video, we’ll source music and sound effects from our extensive libraries - even recording additional sound effects if necessary - and begin to layer them against the visuals. Many decisions at this creative stage are made instinctively and are almost second nature, drawing on our expertise of producing audio for tens of thousands of commercials over the years. This enables us to work fast and efficiently, keeping your audio engineering costs costs low.

4. The Final

We’ll go back and review the brief again, and look/listen to the commercial from a objective perspective. Does the sound design meet the brief? Does it enhance the visuals and strengthen the message? Is the audio engineering ‘invisible’ - but audible? The final product should look and sound like one connected and coherent piece, regardless of style or artistic direction.

Here’s a commercial that relies heavily on the sound design to add emotion and atmosphere.

For more examples of how audio post production can bring your commercials and visuals to life, take a look at the examples in our sound design portfolio. We’d love to speak with you about your project - just contact us when you have a finalised brief.

Abe Udy

Abe is the founder of Abe's Audio and started the business in 1998 from his bedroom with an old computer, fax machine, dial-up internet, and a microphone in his wardrobe. Today, he leads a team that provides audio production and voice overs to media, agency, eLearning, video & creative clients around Australia and beyond.

Similar posts you might like