5 reasons why sound is better than video

An old FM Radio emphasises the power of sound

For a long time, sound was the king of communication. It took a backseat with the arrival of television and was further relegated by the internet. Now, in a world that’s overwhelmed by visual communication, sound has found a way to cut through. This is why you should use audio instead of video.

Your ears are more powerful than you think! They can transport you back in time, around the world and into space. All you need is to put on a set of headphones and close your eyes.

The really special thing about audio is that you as the listener become part of the story. Your ears transmit information from the sounds you hear to your brain, where your imagination fills in the details. So what you hear in a podcast will be slightly different to what others hear. If you ever see a picture of the people talking in the podcasts you’ve listened to you’ll understand how wild our imaginations can be!

For these reasons, sound has a number of benefits over video, not least of which is that it’s far less expensive and much easier to create.

Audio eliminates judgement

They say we’ve got a matter of seconds to make an impression when we meet new people. It’s got something to do with our evolutionary fight or flight response which has been honed to respond rapidly when assessing predators.

In the modern world where that skill isn’t often required, we tend to put it to use in other ways – avoiding eye contact with the unusual looking person on public transport, swiping left or right on Tinder, or simply judging every new face that flashes across our video screens.

Sound gives us much less information, so we’re more likely to listen without judgement. Of course, there are sounds, voices and tones that we will immediately reject. But more often than not we’ll listen more openly, waiting for more information to build that picture in our mind.

This has the added bonus of encouraging us to listen more carefully. We’ll assess each word for a hint of an accent to identify the speaker. We’ll hear sounds in the background which provide clues to the location, the mood and even the moment in space and time.

When you listen to ‘The value of diversity in ICT’ there’s a few things that won’t be apparent. Most of the audience listening to the presentation that made up this podcast where listening on a conference call. The 15 people that were present were squashed into a small, slightly overheated meeting room. Oh, and we had a selection of cakes and pastries.

Voices convey pure emotion

Have you ever asked someone if they’re crying? You think it would be obvious from the tears welling in their eyes, but sometimes we’re just not sure, even when we can see and hear the whole scene in front of us.

There’s something special about the human voice when it is injected directly into our ears. It’s like we make some sort of soul connection. That voice is speaking directly to us and it conveys so much emotion.

Sometimes it’s just the change of pace or a pause that tells us something isn’t right. A voice can crack around the edges, ever so slightly, and long before it wavers to indicate that something is wrong.

It’s not just sadness that voices excel at. Just try to keep the corners of your mouth from turning up when you hear somebody laughing in your audio.

But it’s the other emotions that really shine in audio. Pride, jealousy, joy and all different levels of anger.

Have a listen to the beginning of ‘The story of Outward Bound in Anakiwa’ and count the emotions you can hear in Serpil’s voice.

Sound communicates from anywhere

There’s an old adage in the photography world that the best camera is the one you have on you. That’s probably why we have blurry, indistinct images of the Loch Ness Monster. It’s also the reason why news footage of terrorist attacks and natural disasters is captured on mobile phones.

When it comes to sound, the same rule applies, while the results can be far more impressive. From my office in Melbourne I can record a conversation with somebody anywhere in the world – all they need is a phone. It doesn’t matter if it’s a payphone in the town centre, a mobile phone or a satellite phone. All we need is a dial tone to get started.

If they have access to the internet, we can use a VOIP (voice over internet protocol) service to drastically increase the sound quality – in fact it’s possible to make it sound like we’re in the same room.

A good microphone doesn’t take up much space and can go where cameras fear to tread. We could have a chat while riding a bike, hiking in the dark depths of a forest or running with the bulls. As long as I’ve got one hand available to point the talking stick in our general direction, we can record sound anywhere, anytime, anyhow!

Audio lets you do other things – safely!

When it comes to listening to audio, all you need is your ears. Your eyes can be watching the road, or whatever you’re cutting as you prepare dinner. Your body can be exercising, walking the dog, or just slouching on a train as you head into work.

Sound can be consumed and enjoyed while you multitask. Put on your ear goggles and take it with you or turn it up so you can hear it from every corner of the house.

Most mobile phones have apps that can manage your podcasts so that you can pick up where you left off when you jump in the car. They’ll hold your spot when you switch to your headphones. And the clever, cloud-based apps will even let you switch devices, so you can listen on your digital assistant or smart speaker without having to find your place.

Most videos are just talking to camera

How many times have you watched a video that was simply somebody talking at you? Maybe you’ve seen videos that put up words on the screen that highlight the main point, because they haven’t got anything else to show you. When they cut from a front shot of the speaker to a side shot of the speaker, then you know they’ve run out of ideas.

If videos like that were presented as audio you would probably be inclined to listen more carefully. That would be because the speaker is no longer worrying about how they look on camera, or the lights, or the cost of the production.

Audio is not only easier for the person recording it – it’s much easier and less stressful for the person being recorded. So, they loosen up a bit. They get a bit more expressive in the way they talk.

The result is a more enjoyable, more effective experience for all concerned.

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