I Can't Hear Anything: Social Media + Sound


YOUR VIDEO FROM THAT KANYE CONCERT SOUNDS LIKE A DUMP TRUCK DRIVING THROUGH A NITROGLYCERIN PLANT


I CAN'T HEAR ANYTHING

After uploading the above clip to his YouTube account, Mr. Videeeooo wrote: "Put my N5 through it's (sic) paces at a gig the other night only to come back and find the audio quality is appalling... Is this normal or do you think I have a faulty unit?"

Unfortunately, this is not a faulty unit.

Every Monday as I scroll through my Instagram feed, among sun dappled aloe vera plants, steaming mugs of coffee, and crossed feet in hammocks, I stumble upon the same series of 15 second clips: THE CONCERT VIDEOS. Strobes and moving lights that are more than an iPhone's autofocus lens can handle, and an onslaught of compressed clipping sound that more closely resembles an explosion than a musical performance. I think: Why did Instagram add this video feature? Bowls of blueberries charmingly placed in windowsills with light curtains billowing in the background, however abundant they may be in our feeds, do evoke a feeling, a sensation, an atmosphere. What story is being told by 15 second concert videos? What is being evoked? 

Instagram filters make it look sunny when it's not. The creepy dude in the corner making eyes at your friends can be cropped out. Camera apps and their various filters allow us to control the visuals in our lives, and though many use this control to exaggerate the fun they are having or the lushness of their blueberries, the effect remains: when I see a beautiful photo on social media, it makes me wish I was there. 

The control that Instagram affords its users has helped broaden the conversation about photography. It has nudged people to talk about contrast, brightness, and composure. To think not just about what they are looking at, but how is was made. We have had access to these editing tools for a long time, but we didn't use them. Instagram helped bridge this divide.

WE COULD DO THE SAME FOR SOUND

What if people thought about the elements of what they're hearing? The audio filter is not a new thing. Sony had it in the '90s on their receivers -- "Church," "Jazz Hall," "Auditorium." Our cars have long had treble and bass control. What we've lacked is a conversation about the aspects of sound. Just like a well-lit photo with the right amount of lens flare and tilt shift can make Gary, Indiana look like Miami Beach, great sound can turn your parents' basement into the Grand Canyon.

 

WHY USERS AREN'T USING SOUND IN SOCIAL MEDIA

Control.

There is currently no way to control the volume or mic level on Instagram, Facebook, or Vine. There is no Amaro for audio. The sound we record is the sound we get.

You're at a concert. You're wearing a fanny pack. You're not going to carry around a microphone.

You may or may not be wearing a fanny pack, but you get the idea. Smartphones are great because they are multifunctional: microphone, camera, and social media all in one. If great sound means adding heavy gear, it won't catch on. But what's one piece of equipment you're already carrying in your fanny pack? Headphones. What if designing sound were as easy as wearing the headphones around your neck? 

THAT KANYE CONCERT COULD SOUND LIKE A KANYE CONCERT

At Hooke, we're working on it.

Great sound is an amazing experience, but we have to find a way to integrate it seamlessly into our lives. Because carrying a fanny pack at Coachella is already almost too much to rave with. Almost.

From One Ear To Another,
Anthony Mattana
Hooke Founder

 

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