Bad Audio Of the Day – TV Ad During US Open Tennis

Yesterday I put up the first in a new series called Bad Audio Of The Day, which will consist of my observations of inexplicably poor audio quality in otherwise professional productions.  Yesterday's example was a TV commercial played during the US Open Tennis Tournament by an internet company called tennisexpress.com.  As bad as the audio was, the company is a very small one.  So on some level it isn't terribly surprising.

However, today's example is just unbelievable to me, coming as it does from an internationally established sports equipment company - Dunlop Sport.  They are known as one of the most successful sports brands of the 20th century.  Their TV advertisement for the Biometic Series of tennis rackets that aired around 3:00pm CST on the Tennis Channel looked stunningly beautiful. Then just at the very end, a really bad-sounding voice-over mentioned the product briefly.  The ad must have been hugely expensive to produce for a number of reasons.  First, it starred two top men's tennis players, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco, ATP ranked #12 and #26 in the world, respectively.  Second, the graphics were stunning - definitely top-notch.  I would estimate the production cost of this ad to be at least $100,000, if not half a million.  Then on top of that, Dunlop will have had to pay a premium to have the ad shown during the airing of the US Open.  So why, oh why in the world did they use a voice-over that sounded like my next-door neighbor recorded it with his $5.00 PC mic?  I'm still shaking my head.  I literally cannot understand it.  Do they think nobody will notice?  The only thing I can think of is that the producers just figured the voice-over didn't matter.  But even if that were true, why skimp so badly, so amazingly, on a key part of the ad when they obviously paid top dollar for everything else?  ARRGGHH!  Actually, the differences in the production values between the rest of the ad and the voice-over almost make me think someone else (not Dunlop) tacked the voice audio on at the end of an otherwise awesome ad.  That seems like it would be illegal though doesn't it?

Here's the deal.  The voice-over audio would have been on the same par as the rest of the commercial if they had at least used a large diaphragm USB mic like a Samson C01U, which only costs about $75, and placed it 3-4 inches away from the voice actor's mouth.  It's THAT cheap to sound professional.  But no.  If someone else did not tack the crappy audio at the end of the ad, then it seems that someone in involved in the production of this ad either didn't know any better (then why were they in producing a 6-figure commercial?), or made a conscious choice to use a sub-standard vocal recording for the voice-over.  I normally don't hone in on the cost of the gear because it is possible to record bad audio even with expensive gear.  But the sound of this particular voice-over really reminded me of how someone sounds when they are talking over the internet via Skype or something, usually with no more than a USB headset costing about $25.  It sounded thin, flat, far way and just plain bad.

To get an idea of the high quality of the production values for another of the Biomimetic commercials, take a look at the behind the scenes video here:

Even the "making of" video is top-notch professional quality.  Dunlop were clearly going for the big time here.  Now below is the produced version of the commercial being produced above. Note that this is NOT the ad that aired yesterday (which is not on the web, for some reason):

The more I think about this (and it's like the proverbial train-wreck for me - I can't look away), the more I am inclined to believe that someone (The Tennis Channel maybe?) tacked that bad-sounding voice-over on after the fact.  Notice that the above commercial did not even have a voice-over.  That makes me think that the one that aired yesterday was not supposed to have one either.  It still seems like it would be a huge no-no to do that.  I mean it ruins the ad.  If I were Dunlop, and someone tacked a crappy audio at the end of my 6-figure commercial, I'd be pretty upset.

Either way, that is what aired on August 31st, 2012 on the Tennis Channel. And as an audio guy, I was completely dumbfounded.  That is why this ad is the Bad Audio of The Day.

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