Hearing is Believing: Introduction to Sound Design

This is the introduction of a three-part blog about Sound Design, and its impact on filmmaking and video production.

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"Sound is half of the picture..."

This famous quote comes from George Lucas when talking about the level of importance he placed on audio when making Star Wars. That movie pioneered sound effects into a new era but sound has been an important aspect of film since its inception. Whether it was scoring a silent film, recording the actors speak or using the soundscape to create authenticity; the sounds coming from the speakers of a theater are just as important as the images coming from the screen.

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Now, obviously the most noticeable audio in a film is dialogue. The words spoken by the characters move the plot, reveal information, and are used to deliver messages and themes. In this blog series we will focus on the non-dialogue audio aspects of film. While dialogue may move the plot forward, it's all of the other sounds that drive the scenes.

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Foley: Adding Realism to Your Film & Video Production

The first part of this blog series will focus on Foley Audio. Named after its innovator, James Foley, Foley Audio is the sound recreated in post-production to give scenes a sense of realism. Field recordings, the audio captured on-set during filming, don't always pick up the sounds you want from the background so they have to be recreated after filming wraps. And on the other hand, sometimes field recordings can pick up unwanted audio that then has to be masked with Foley.


Score: The Heartbeat of Your Film

The second entry of this series will examine the impact a musical score has on a film. The score is the instrumental music created specifically for the film. Score is usually composed and conducted after the film has been shot and edited. Musical scores are used to heighten the emotion of a moment, create tension, and foreshadow events to come. Composing for a film has become a form of art itself thanks to legends like Leonard Bernstein, Ennio Morricone and the godfather of film composers, John Williams.

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Sound Effects

The final blog post on the impact of audio turns its eyes to sound effects. Sound effects are the sounds created to compliment a visual effects shot. Sound effects are some of the last pieces of audio recorded for a film. These sounds are used to bring a sense of realness to an unreal image. Sound effects creativity has risen over the last 40 years and is essential to big budget filmmaking.


Hearing is Believing...

As I have focused more on audio work over the last 8 months, I've come to appreciate its importance in film. I believe it to have the largest influence on a film's technical quality. The images on the screen are paramount but you can mask bad cinematography as "an artistic choice". There's no artistic mask for poor audio. In the upcoming series I will show examples of how these sounds can change the scene and improve the authenticity to film and video production.

...when we made Shallow Grave, we had this discussion, because we had a million pounds and we were all just working out how to spend it. I said to them, we talked about, why was it, when were looking at movies in Britain, the British movies looked sh*t, and the American movies looked great, even if they weren’t great movies, they looked great. Why is it? And it was sound. American movies know you spend money on sound. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money on it.
— Danny Boyle

Dennis StackComment