Sound effects are pre-recorded or custom-made sound cues that help us tell a story. The mistake many beginning filmmakers make is that they assume the microphone used on the set to record the dialog will automatically pick up the other sounds heard on set. It’s not until they get to the editing stage that they realize how wrong they were. The microphones used on sets are primarily focused on the mouth of the person speaking. This reduces the amount of natural sound that occurs around the actor during the shot, such as footsteps and other movements. The effect is clean dialogue but the side effect is a virtual sonic vacuum where all other sounds are faint or silent altogether.
It is no big secret that sound is always the after thought in most productions. The effect that sound has psychologically and emotionally is often taken for granted. More often than not, the only time that sound is really noticed is when there is no sound at all or the sound that is heard seems to be lacking or inappropriate. This is common with lower budget productions like independent feature films or corporate productions that can’t afford to hire a sound designer to craft the appropriate sounds and mix the tracks together. Smaller budget projects have a lot to live up to and have to figure out a way to do that without exceeding their budget. For this reason, professional stock sound effects libraries and on-line sound effects shops that offer individual sound effects for just a few bucks each become invaluable resources.
The goal of using sound effects is to help tell the story. Sound effects are not the icing on the cake, but an integral part of the cake’s batter. Allow yourself time in the final edit to finish your project with audio sweetening and sound design. Using sound effects will add realism to your productions and help give them life. You’ll be amazed at how great an impact a simple sound clip can have.
By Ric Viers
This article is Copyright 2012 Ric Viers and may not be copied or republished without permission.