Techno-Babble-On-Final-220Situation: Your new award winning radio ad has a couple on a first date enjoying the night air and then getting into their car for the ride home. Sounds like a lot of heady sound design trying to evoke the aural perspective of a walk in the park that then shifts to the tight confines of a car doesn’t it?

Yup – your spidey senses are well attuned.

Ever considered going out and recording your voice-over talent actually doing what the characters in your script are supposedly doing?

(With respect to the aforementioned scenario, we’d politely skip the “doing” and just keep it to light conversation, popcorn and hand holding)

You may feel this is a lot of foolish excess since recording studios have futzed these sound effects for years and no one seems to be the wiser. True enough, we’ve gotten pretty good at fooling the average listener into believing whatever environments we’re looking to mimic.

However, when one considers the wow factor and glossier nuances of recording on-location versus the pittance of extra work and money required to do it, recording on-location becomes a logical alternative.

The most tangible benefit (well, in our sonically-biased brains, anyway) is that as good as the tools of the trade have gotten for us with automated EQ’s, impulse/response reverbs, mult-tap delays, and sonic widgets galore – nothing ever sounds as real and/or as transparent as actually being there. And if the weather is nice – you’ve just gotten to the bonus round.

Ads that are mixed with audio that was recorded on-location stand out from other radio spots as glaringly as a supermodel on “The Biggest Loser.” Equate it with shooting an actor against a blue screen in order to place him in some stock-footage meadow, versus rounding up a crew and shooting the actor in a real, beautiful meadow (bug bites not withstanding). It’s apples ‘n oranges. The same holds true with shooting audio for radio, except it’s a lot easier and cheaper for us to meet you and your voice-over talent at the corner of 10th and Nicollet than it is to get a video|film crew set up on-location – and we never whine about craft services.

We’ve had great success (and fun) recording on location, and it never fails to result in – okay, I’ll just call it what it is – a cooler final mix than anything we could do in the recording studio environment. Imagine a scene in an upstairs bedroom: girlfriend getting dressed, reminding her boyfriend that they’re to meet her annoying sister for dinner tonight, to which he responds with a half-hearted grunt and a turn of his heel as he heads down the creaky steps. Now imagine it being captured in an almost documentary-style recording with a single stereo mic acting as the ears of your listener. A fly on the wall – and a sonic world apart from any recording studio session.

We’ve actually recorded that above scenario along with things like a couple chattering away in the stands at a game, kids arguing in mini-vans (no direction needed there), party revelers lounging around a backyard, folks splashing in the lake at the cabin, even tap-dancers doing what they do in a canoe (no, that’s isn’t a misprint).

So, give some thought to setting the scene of your next radio ad in some odd place that’ll separate it from the dull, thick and ordinary offerings that season the airwaves. The added cost isn’t that significant and, with modern technology, it’ll be a piece of cake for us to rip an audio CD of all the takes for you before you leave the scene – saving you time and money when editing back at the recording studio.

Get your parka, shorts, umbrella, sun block and waders. The fresh air will do us all some good!