Properly Using of Sound Effects to Your Next Video
We all know that video is an image (or series of images) over time. It’s the closest thing to reality. It can be real or imaginary, but it needs to tell a story, so there needs to be some kind of narrative within your shots/video. Sound complements visuals sometimes better than even words alone. If you want people to feel what’s happening in your video, sound design should do this for you, if done right.
So what exactly is “sound design” and how does it work? Well, that depends on context. There are several kinds of sounds that play tricks on our mind and bring us into the mood of the video, whether it’s a horror-like suspenseful soundtrack or just a good ol’ guitar riff that makes you go AH-HA! All of this kind of sounds or effects play tricks on the human mind, and we’ll discuss them in some more detail.
All videos and films have soundtracks and visuals working together, but today we’re going to focus on sound ONLY .
There are four main categories on what type of effect a particular sound has:
Natural Sound, Atmosphere Sound, Interface Sounds, and Music. They each want to accomplish different things with your video. Let’s look at the big boys first.
1) Natural Sound – those are just regular everyday sounds that happen around us all the time. Sometimes they’re taken from nature (wind blowing through trees) and sometimes they’re made by nature (water flowing through a brook). They can also be sounds that come from mechanical things (car engines) or any other sound that is not human-made.
2) Atmosphere Sound – this kind of sound doesn’t have any effect on us directly, but creates the sense of place and atmosphere, which in return lets you notice some small details within your video. I think it’s easiest to explain what type of atmosphere sound will create the most impact; let’s say that you’re making a horror movie. You’ll need creepy music with lots of moody violins playing in the background… Well, now imagine how different it would feel if there was no soundtrack at all – just simple sounds like creaking doors or short but sharp scratches on a chalkboard. The atmosphere would change immediately, right?
3) Interface Sounds – these are your notification sounds. They can be anything from notification sounds on your phone to notification sound that comes from the computer when you receive an email or something similar. In videos, they’re mostly used for things like opening and closing of the car door, notification sounds from the device in the protagonist’s pocket being activated, notification sounds from other devices being activated by another person, etc.
4.) Music – music is always a tricky one because it depends a lot on genre and personal preferences. For example, if you use too much-undistorted rock’n’roll riff in a story promo video, people might feel like they’re watching a music video instead of an informative tutorial.
It’s always good to use appropriate sounds with your visuals, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it for notification sounds. Everyone does that and if you do the same, people will think that this notification sound is part of the effect or track. There are better ways to grab attention than notification beeping every now and then. And let’s face it; most notification sounds are generic anyway…
Now, what about atmospheres created by sounds? They can make or break your story depending on whether you want them to tell some underlying message (like in horror movies) or not (elevator dying down after old woman gets off). You need to consider whether you want to create a sense of tension or you want people to feel relaxed, light-hearted, etc. Atmosphere sounds are definitely something that needs your thinking caps on when you create them.
Interface notification sounds are easy, but only if the application was made very well in first place. Some notification sounds can send mixed signals to your audience… Go into the thing too much, and they’ll get annoyed by additional notification sound effects being activated every now and then. They might even start ignoring notification sound effects altogether – it’s always better to have just one notification sound for simple things like receiving an email or message on Facebook (unless you really want them to see the notification popping up). Use several different sounds if there’s a reason why a character would have notification sounds popping up all the time on his phone.
Interface notification sounds are also your last resort when you can’t find anything better to do with audio in your video. They’re not the best way to start or end a video, but quite often they’re used just because that is simply what most people use. There is nothing wrong with them, but it’s always good to know when notification sound is better than no notification sound at all…
Music might be tricky sometimes too since most of the time it is generic itself (like notification sounds). It shapes atmosphere and experience too, so depending on how you use it, music will either make or break your project. Generally speaking, don’t overdo it!
Last but not least – atmospheres created by sounds! Just like with notification sound effects, you want to create the right atmosphere and let it play in the background. You don’t want your audience to focus on sounds too much since they might notice some flaws and the whole thing would snap. It’s all about the balance between visuals and audio.