In the visual media industries, the term “storytelling” gets thrown around a lot. No doubt it’s a good marketing approach, everyone loves a good story. Science has shown that humans are hardwired to love stories that evoke their imaginations and create emotional connections. It helps bring life and value to inanimate objects like artwork, statues and corporate brands. Stories also inspires us in many unimaginable ways: it can lead to us developing new ideas of our own and pass them down.
Let’s explore the concept of “story” and how can we differentiate good stories from the bland and mediocre ones. We’ll be looking at what are the key ingredients to being a good storyteller, and how does storytelling gets translated into the realm of audio. Most importantly what makes a good sonic storytelling experience in visual media.
What Is A Story?
The definition of a story is best defined by Mark W. Travis in his article for TheWrap:
“A story is a means of transferring information, experience, attitude or point of view. Every story has a teller and a listener”
This one perfectly captures the essence of storytelling with two key points: “...means of transferring...” and “...Every story has a teller and a listener”.
In an article I wrote titled “The Brief History of Music Storytelling”, we explored the origins of storytelling from our primitive ancestors with the invention of cave art, and discovered how our ability to think beyond the here and now gave rise to us developing complex imaginative and communication faculties. Simply put, storytelling is a process of imparting information from a source to a destination.
Telling A Story
Each of us have innately unique storyteller qualities, whether we know it or not. Our rich reservoir of experiences gives us a gold mine of source materials from which we can organize and deliver as stories. The only difference is how we deliver and if we can do it well.
A story has to be delivered in a way that can establish a strong connection with the receiver. The more interesting the content and the more effective the delivery, the better the connection will be. The delivery of a story can come through many different ways. It can come in the form of verbal, facial expressions, gestures and a combination of all. It can also come in art, sculpture, multimedia and audio - Which includes the entire post-production line: Music, Sound Design, Editing, Recording, Mixing/Mastering.
So, how does audio post-production play the part of a storyteller in the visual media business? As cliche as it sounds and just in case you haven’t been told….we’re in the business of storytelling.
Sonic Storytelling In Visual Media
Just think of all the films, tv series, video games and advertising content you’ve seen(Yes, even the 5 second ones that you won’t even get the chance to skip on youtube), all of them were designed and produced in such a way to engage your emotions to achieve an end goal - It could be selling products, spreading propaganda or promoting a cause. The better the job it does in engaging the audience, the better it will be rewarded.
Visuals are the backbone of media content as it captures our attention and provides us with information to make sense of the story. Audio on the other hand provides us with sonic information to make sense of the visuals by way of perceiving proximity, depth, scale and emotion. Without audio it would be impossible to make sense of half the content. An inadequate audio experience would fare no better as there will be a mismatch between the aural and visual sensories - Imagine watching a lion roar with the sound of a cat’s meow, or Godzilla stomping around but with the sound of penguins feet?
Every aspect of the visuals like casting, movement, camera angles and set location are designed for a reason. Even the props and extras are in for a specific reason - All that is to tell a story. Nothing is left to chance and It’s the same with audio.
Some examples: The violin theme from Schindler’s List. It was not by random design. The instrument and melodic composition were carefully chosen and designed as musical storytelling corresponding to the visuals. The deliberate silences in Gravity and ambiences in horror films like Annabelle were also not by chance. They were all designed to evoke a very specific response, and even a process as unimaginably technical as recording is crucial in the storytelling. Recording techniques, locations and equipments are carefully selected to capture a performance to emanate something very specific.
That’s why great visual media content that can stand the test of time are ones that expertly utilizes every component to tell its story, with nothing underperforming and not used to its highest potential. Therefore it’s able to successfully engage the audience and create a deep and lasting connection.
Let me know if you have any comments or thoughts regarding this and I’ll be happy to discuss. If you need help professionally, feel free to get in touch with me and I’d be more than happy to help with a FREE first time consultation. Do get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org and you may learn more about me and my services over at my website www.kianhow.com. Thank you for reading, I’ll see you in the next one.