Make It Fit!

“Go Fast, But Sound Slow…”

There will always be the commercial writer/producer who can’t bear to edit his “perfect script,” in spite of the fact that it is much, much too long. Or, worst of all, it has been mandated by “Legal”! Take heart. There is always a way to get that commercial to fit the 30 or 60 second hole the stations give you.

You may not like the way it sounds, but there is always a way.

Decades ago we used to wind Scotch tape (the office variety) around a tape deck’s capstan to speed up the playback until it fit the hole. It sounded like Donald Duck on crack, but it fit! Things are better now in the digital era. If you have a decent nonlinear audio editor, you probably have plenty of algorithms for squeezing sound into tight little time frames.

But what do you do when they get squeezed so hard they start popping and crackling with digital artifacts? Try changing the algorithm. Instead of squeezing time directly, stop short of the point where the artifacts begin to occur and switch to vari-speed. Just speed the damn thing up until it’s fast enough to fit the hole. Then get rid of the “Donald Duck” effect by using a pitch-shift algorithm to bring everything back down to a fairly normal level. Because it’s a whole different algorithm, you have an entirely different range to work in, giving you more elbow room to compress the selection. Its a Frankenstein approach, and you may get lucky!

By this time, it’ll be so fast the human ear will recognize that somebody’s been screwing around with the sound. But it won’t be because of digital artifacts or added noise. It’ll just be obviously faster than natural human sound. Play the super-compressed selection for your producer and hope they have the good sense to cut copy. The one instance where nobody seems to care how bad it sounds is when doing one of those “CYA” legal disclaimers, such as the financing terms at the end of a car spot. “Slightly higher in California…”