Movies have captivated audiences around the world for decades, with the first development of this visual art form dating back to the late 19th century. While visuals are the central focus of the cinematic experience, 'sound' is an integral part of every movie. These sound effects add realism to the scene and make them meaningful to the audience.
We can’t imagine the heart-wrenching sinking of the Titanic or the fear-inducing atmosphere of the Exorcist without the supporting sound effects. Even sci-fi marvels like Star Wars relied on music and sound to create the right atmosphere. Many iconic characters like Darth Vader, Godzilla, Terminator and more would fall flat without the right sound effect, which is sometimes taken for granted.
In a nutshell, sound is what makes movies a truly immersive experience. Let’s delve deeper into how sound effects in film work.
How do sound effects enhance a film?
Christopher Nolan’s spectacular movie, Interstellar not only allowed us to experience space but also invoked all the right emotions in us. Be it the spectacular waves rising on an alien planet or the bittersweet parting of Matthew McConaughey from his daughter, what made the movie so memorable were the sound effects that added the awe factor to some visuals or made us tearful.
Without sound, the visuals would only be a stream of pictures that the audience would struggle to understand. It is the sound in film that adds contextual information and sets the right tone or theme for each scene. Additionally, it invokes the desired reaction from the audience, that otherwise would be left confused at certain parts.
Imagine the thrilling score in Dunkirk or the build-up music in movies like Troy or Avengers replaced by empty silence. Would these movies still have impacted us deeply and gone on to become stellar classics? Not really! The very reason why people connect to movies and are able to become immersed in the mood of each scene is simply due to cleverly placed sound effects and well thought out movie scoring.
The three important types of sounds
Making a movie is a strenuous process in which each element counts. While actors and other crew members work at creating astounding visual effects, sound technicians go to great lengths to bring the right sound to the movie. We are not simply talking about background music or theme songs here. Every movement on screen is supplemented by the right sound.
From the chaos of a loud street to the bristle of leaves in the forest, every sound effect is designed to bring the correct element to different scenes. Hence, moviemakers make sound effects a technical priority and hire the best for the job.
Movies will usually showcase the story of people, thus making the human voice a pivotal part of the experience. From verbal narration to emotive speech, human sounds like crying, laughing and even bodily sounds, like falling down the stairs, all come into play.
Another crucial sound in film is the genre of music that fits well with the scene. The techno sounds of Black Swan perfectly complemented the surreal dark settings of the movie, while the jazz music in Moulin Rouge depicts the 1900 Paris era perfectly. Choosing the right genre of music is crucial for setting the right tone of your movie and creating the right emotional response from the audience.
Unnoticed by many, sound effects are integral in creating the right atmosphere for movie scenes. From the busy streets of New York in Spiderman to the wasteland in Mad Max: Fury Road with cars racing through storms, sound effects can add realism to every scene. These asynchronous sound effects, as they are technically defined, are less likely to be noticed by the audience compared to soundtracks, but they bring a film to life.
How to become a sound designer?
The work of a sound designer is crucial and is highly regarded by the audience and critics. Many notable names like Sylvain Bellemare, Mark Mangini, David White, Richard King and many others have even won Academy Awards for their phenomenal work.
If you wish to join this growing field one day, then start by enrolling in a quality program that can provide you with the necessary tools to succeed. Sound editing sounds fun, but it also requires a lot of hard work and dedication. With the right aptitude and training, you can become proficient and work for various platforms like movies, television shows and game development, which all require sound elements.
Do you have what it takes to be a good sound mixer or designer? Then check out the Audio Engineering & Production/DJ Arts program offered by Trebas Institute at our Toronto campus. The 12-month program is designed to give you the necessary training and expertise to thrive in the modern recording industry. Upon successful completion of the course, students will become eligible for a multitude of roles ranging from a sound editor to an audio-visual technician and a music mixer, among several others. Click here for more!