By Dan Friedman
A radio or television commercial is more than just words. The space between the lines helps to determine pace and establish mood. Space allows the mix engineer to create an environment in which the voice exists and where music and/or sound effects can be placed to help tell the story and communicate the message. This space and these elements are often key to the production.
Scripts often indicate that sound effects and music will play a key role at certain points within in a radio or TV production. These notes are great for the producer or engineer who mixes the spot. They give the mix engineer a clear idea of what the intentions of the client are and what the client is expecting to hear when the spot is finished.
However, what happens all too often is that the script is over written, leaving little or no time available for these elements to develop. They simply can’t have the impact they were intended to have. If a script, read out loud, is taking all of the time available, then what time is left for the music and sound effects to perform their role? Worse yet, the voice talent may feel forced to alter their speed or delivery to accommodate these elements. This may prevent the voice talent from communicating the message in the most effective way possible.
While there is little doubt that the message (the actual spoken words) should be the focus of most commercial audio productions, writing less copy provides space for music and sound effects to help communicate that message. In fact, these elements combined with the delivery of the voice talent, can often do more to communicate the overall message than including additional words in a script.
Radio and TV spots must fit into a specific time frame, usually :30 (:29.5 for TV) or :60 seconds. While these times are important, taking the time that will be needed for music and sound effects into consideration while writing and preparing a script can also be critical to your bottom line. The time saved in the studio by having a carefully written and timed script before recording begins, is time and therefore money saved.
Clients may insist on getting all of their critical information into a spot. But ultimately, clients want people to act (or buy something). Creative “ear catching” commercials are often more memorable and influential then a long string of words being forced upon a listener. The space between the lines, allows creativity to flourish.
Even if additional elements are not part of your radio or TV commercial, proper spacing and pacing will allow the listener to think about and hopefully act on what is being communicated to them.