The power of audio in your presentation!

Written by

Mark Heaps

What was your favorite movie?  What made it so memorable?  Recently I was asking a few Duartians at work what sound in a movie was most memorable to them?  I got a great response from the crew.  The variety was interesting because some people most remembered the orchestral sound score of a film.   Audio pieces like the Superman theme, or Star Wars, came up in the list.  There was even a mention of Harry Potter and the Pink Panther.  This was one distinct element of audio enhancing a film as musical interlude.

Another aspect of audio being a great additive was as an effect.  This isn’t new, theater performances have used sandboxes, breaking twigs, banging cups together and more since before Shakespeare era.  I always think to classic BBC films because they did so much soundstage work that enhanced their films.

Some Duartians recalled sounds like the Jaws theme, “da duh da duh”!  There was mention of classics like the shrieking sound during Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Psycho and the more modern “Transform” sound in Transformers.  These sounds become synonymous with the movie, or even a particular character within the movie.  Think of R2D2 in Star Wars for a moment.  He never says a word, only blips and bleeps, but the Sound Artist conveyed emotions like excitement and disappointment through a few simple electronic tones.  Over time, that memorable quality makes it brand worthy, and now is an extremely valuable commodity to the franchise and it’s licensing.

What were a few of the sounds that you remember most from a film, story, commercial, or anything?

Walter Murch, award winning Sound Designer and Editor for Hollywood, has worked on films like Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, The Godfather II, and many others.  When working on sound for Apocalypse Now, he said “We started with the script,” meaning they thought about sounds as they directed the visuals.  This collaborative effort allowed them to create environments around the characters that didn’t necessarily need to be displayed visually.

Audio shouldn’t be a slave to the visuals but instead should be thought of while all parts are in development, allow them to be collaborative as an element.   Randy Thom, another brilliant Sound Designer and Editor from major motion pictures like Forest Gump built this list in an article he wrote in 1999 titled

“Designing a Movie for Sound”.
Sounds Talents
Music, dialogue, and sound effects can each do any of the following jobs, and many more:
•    Suggest a mood, evoke a feeling
•    Set a pace
•    Indicate a geographical locale
•    Indicate a historical period
•    Clarify the plot
•    Define a character
•    Connect otherwise unconnected ideas, characters, places,  images, or moments
•    Heighten realism or diminish it
•    Heighten ambiguity or diminish it
•    Draw attention to a detail, or away from it
•    Indicate changes in time
•    Smooth otherwise abrupt changes between shots or scenes
•    Emphasize a transition for dramatic effect
•    Describe an acoustic space
•    Startle or soothe
•    Exaggerate action or mediate it

Of course like anything involved with design, presentations especially, there are clichés we should try to avoid.  Unless your presentation has a story, or theme, the context is important and audio shouldn’t be included “just because”.  Before my days as a Duartian I had seen more then my fair share of explosion sounds as a graph climbed to a high point.

But, a dramatic photo of a new business site can be enhanced with some environment sounds of the area.  If you have a slide mentioning how quiet your product runs in comparison to a competitor, why not let people hear that?

It’s another dimension that many people rarely explore, and adding audio to a presentation is very simple.  It can be applied to an object within a custom animation or over a series of slides using the transition feature.  Powerpoint and Keynote both are very capable of this media feature, but what you design with sound is that which makes the experience unique for your audience.

Slide:ology rule: Treat the Audience as King!


Adding Audio to an Object Animation

Adding Audio Over Multiple Slides and Transitions

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