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Picking the best sound bites is a critical part of most video production. Compelling comments that draw in an audience and keep them connected with a story are the cornerstone of professional storytelling. Perhaps the best place to start is with a definition of a sound bite.

What is a Sound Bite?

A sound bite is a short clip of speech or music cut down from a longer piece of audio, usually sound bites are from a recorded interview, full piece of music or long-form video content. Most sound bites are less than 30 seconds.

On the surface it seems pretty straightforward: listen to the words, think about what are the most interesting remarks and, boom, you’ve got your sound bite!

Easy right? In some cases, yes and in some cases, not so much. Is the sound bite too long? Is it too short? Do they ramble? Is it an incomplete thought? Most importantly, does the person say what you, the video producer, needs them to say?

 

Tips for Interviewees

To create a video that either emotionally inspires or relays useful information, it takes more than just pretty pictures or a great song as its soundtrack. Many videos relay that emotion or information through people talking and sharing on camera during an interview.

So as you prepare for your temporary moment in the spotlight, we have a few suggestions for you to make both of our jobs easier. Here are five things that make up a great sound bite.

 

  • Be Relatable: When giving your answers in the interview, one main point to keep in mind is to make it relatable to the audience. Even if you spent days trying to memorize your organization’s mission statement, answer it in the way you would say it in a normal conversation. If you meet someone on the street and start chatting about your business or organization, you wouldn’t start off by saying, “We analytically strive to gain strategic profits for…” Blah, blah, blah. Be real – it’s the best way you can present yourself, especially in front of the camera.

  • Be Succinct: Answers should be short and succinct. Answering in complete and concise answers will help create the best final product, even if it takes a few tries to get your sentence compacted down into one nice little sound bite package.

  • Be Passionate: Stories that are naturally emotional and heartfelt always come across well on camera. Although the message you’re trying to convey may not pull at the audience’s heartstrings, it’s important to remember to bring passion into what you’re talking about. It helps keeps the audience engaged and interested in what you’re saying and what your business or organization can do for them.

  • Be Confident: Lastly, but most importantly, bring your confidence. The more confident you are during your interview, the more likely you and I will both be happy with the end result. The lights, the camera and the people can get intimidating, but don’t let that shake you. Prepare your thoughts and focus on the conversation at hand and you’ll nail it. If all else fails and your confidence level drops, take a deep breath and don’t be afraid to ask for some advice from the video production team. Above everything else, know that “tape is cheap” and since we only record digitally, we have lots of room for mess ups, mistakes and mind blanks.

  • Be Prepared: The old line “fake it ‘til you make it” doesn’t exactly translate well on camera. When you find out you will be interviewed on camera for your company’s internal video, a testimonial video or even speaking as an expert on behalf of something you care about, your first step is to prepare yourself. Make sure that you feel comfortable with the topics you’ll be speaking about. It will help to make you feel more confident about the whole experience.

Tips For Video Producers

Good video producers quickly learn is how to differentiate between a good and bad sound bite. You also develop the skill of learning to identify an “editable” sound bite. If you are trying to understand how to identify the best clips, here are a few tips to help you get started.

  • Memorable comments: If you listen to any long interview in its entirety, chances are you’ll get to the end and remember one or two things from the interview. Sometimes you can recall the remarks verbatim, in which case, you probably found yourself a couple strong sound bites. Often, the best sound bites are the most memorable.

  • Emotional remarks: Passion speaks volumes, not just in the words, but the expressions and mannerisms that go along with it. Whether they are joy filled or sorrow filled sound bites, typically, we remember passion and they often make the most powerful sound bites.

  • Declarative statements: Declarative statements often make for intriguing sound bites. In fact, during media training sessions for businesses we often recommend declarative statements that establish an opinion or fact right off the bat. These typically get the attention of the audience right away.

  • Humorous comments: Humor is tricky because what is funny for one person is not funny for all. Yet, in many cases a well placed remark that draws a smile or a chuckle is a good thing. Humor is engaging and memorable. In some cases, a funny sound bite may be the only thing you remember! Along those lines, stay away from “inside jokes,” since a select few people may appreciate the subtlety while others are simply lost. Also, consider the context of the joke and make sure that it’s relevant or germane to the story. Cracking a “funny” for the sake of being funny is sometimes nothing more than a distraction.

  • Statements of facts and stats:  Statistics can be incredibly boring, especially when they dive into minutia. At the same time, if there are alarming figures that really drive home a point, they can best be summed up in a sound bite where emotion can come through and capture the attention of the audience. Consider accompanying a graphic element to the sound bite to drive home the impact.

  • Predictions and speculation: We love the “inside” track on information. Predictions and prognostications from industry leaders are always interesting. Not all people like to go “on record” with their thoughts, but quite often these make fantastic sound bites. This may be why so many reporters will ask hypothetical questions – sometimes the information that is given is remarkable.

  • Recaps and retrospective: Just as predicting the future can be of interest, a thoughtful evaluation of past events also can be compelling, depending on the topic especially when filled with opinion. This is one of the reasons documentaries are so captivating. From a production perspective, “The Fog of War” by Errol Morris is a must-see. It is a documentary featuring Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense for both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, in which he recounts the lessons he learned. McNamara's stories are collections of captivating sound bites.

What’s your favorite documentary? Watch it again and think of it from a sound bite perspective – think about what is said, why remarks are placed where they are within the structure of the piece and how it impacts the overall message. Then, take a moment and think of the producer who had to sift through all of that interview sound only to leave a majority of it on the cutting room floor.

Keep in mind, it takes years of training your ear to listen for quality sound bites, so be sure to listen to interviews after they’ve been recorded, highlight the best and throw out the rest. Remember, a sound bite should either make the piece better or it makes it worse. If it’s redundant, pick the best and discard the weaker remarks and move on. The editing process begins here!

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