The rustle of leaves as a serial killer stalks their prey. The heart-stopping sound as something creepy drags its way over the floor towards you. The surge of adrenaline as a hail of bullets descends on the heroes. Sound is an often underestimated part of creating visual mediums, bringing emotion, tension, and drama to the table and guiding the viewer through the matching footage the way the editor intends. Hence it is essential to know the importance of sound effects.
Today we look at just how critical sound design is to video editing and why it needs just as much attention as the pretty pictures you’re putting on screen.
Table of Contents
The Power of Immersion
Ask 5 people what makes a specific video clip so powerful, and you will get 5 different answers. But distil those answers down to their core, and you will find the same thing- immersion. The ability of a piece of video to pull the viewer in is what builds its value. The video gets mesmerizing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tutorial, a marketing video, or a feature film. Whether it lands with the audience depends on how well it engages the viewer’s mind and soul and makes them feel like they are not the viewer, but a participant in the video itself. And the audio is a key part of that. While film without sound can be powerful, it’s the added effect of engaging all the senses that give the video its real power.
Two types of sound effects are used to create this are power-diegetic and nondiegetic. The diegetic sound matches the action. Think dialogue, the sound of a glass breaking as we see (or infer) that a glass has broken, and so on. Nondigetic sounds ‘don’t belong’ to the world you’ve created on screen but are there to enhance the visual experience—a soundtrack, a narrator voiceover, and so on. Used together, these build the audio world of a video.
Types of Sound in Video
Keeping in mind the importance of sound effects, several types of sound are frequently in use for video production:
- Dialogue: The sound of people speaking in the video shouldn’t be confused with voiceover. This is typically directed through a script for participants to follow.
- Soundeffects: These are sounds that one adds to the video to enhance the realism and immersion of the scene. Examples include the sound of a car engine starting or the sound of a door slamming shut.
- Music or Soundtrack: One can use this background music to set the tone and mood of the video and guide the viewer’s emotions.
- Ambient sound: This is the background noise of a scene, such as the sound of birds chirping or the sound of traffic outside the window
- Voiceover: This is a voice or narration that one records separately from the video and then overlays, either to tell more of the story or guide the viewer
- Foley: This is the sound effects that one adds in post-production to enhance the realism of the video. The dino noises in Jurassic World are Foley effects.
- Automated Dialogue Replacement/ADR: This technique is used to re-record dialogue separately from the video footage. While it falls under ‘dialogue’, it’s created separately. It is often in use to improve the audio quality of the dialogue or to fix errors in the original recording.
That’s a lot of different types of audio to consider. While not all projects will use every sound class, you will often need to use several combinations to create the powerful statement needed and tell the story, so it’s good to understand each and how they differ.
The Art of Sonic Storytelling
This is where sound design becomes a role. You aren’t just going with what was natively in the scene when the raw footage was created. You’re making a deliberate effort to weave sound into the story. This allows the audience to feel the full impact of the video and appreciate the importance of sound effects.
One quick example is sound bridges. This is where the video creator uses audio to push the story onward into the next scene. In effect, the audience can hear the scene before they can see it. This often keeps the viewer more engaged than a simple fade-in, fade-out will. Subtle but powerful.
Roles Of Sound
Another use of sound is to enhance a scene and create emotion in the viewer. You may want to establish that your setting is a cafe in Paris, so you have the soft strains of French music as you pan into the action. Or your protagonist suffers a crisis of consciousness, and you use the sound of dreary dripping rain to build their mood throughout the video. Sounds are also in use to direct the viewer’s attention, as we saw in Jaws. The iconic shark theme lets you know danger is incoming even before the fin breaks the water.
Sound is also part of branding on the video’s marketing side. They’ve used the ‘hook’ of the sound to help you build brand associations and create an immediately recognisable sonic branding. Think of the famous jingles you know, even if you don’t use the product yourself.
Last but certainly not least is a very subtle aspect of sound design. How do you know a cinematic room is big and hollow? Could it be the echo of footsteps on stone reaching forever? In a small space, we hear loud, quick sounds instead. It tells the important viewer information without having to make space in the action to do so.
Sound design plays an important role in video production as it helps to create a more immersive and engaging experience for the viewer. The right soundscape can advance your story, increase immersion, and tell stories of its own- a powerful tool, right? This is the importance of sound effects. We tend to focus on the visual (the given film is a visual medium), but without the right ‘supporting cast’ from the audio design, the results feel flat and lifeless.
Learning to incorporate smart sound design into your video production is the secret to more vibrant, emotional, and immersive video that takes the viewer on a journey rather than simply talking at them.
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