Sound in Film

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Author: Chelsie Loader
Date: November 22, 2021

Catchy radio-jingles you hear on the way to work. The screech of tires in an RACV ad. The loud foghorn that plays after radio hosts pull an ‘epic prank call’ by ringing someone’s mate. What do these have in common? Aside from haunting us on the morning commute, these are all examples of sound being used to help deliver a message. From radio ads to corporate videos, sound is fundamental to crafting the emotions and the stories that images portray. Sometimes, it’s the first thing we notice, and sometimes we barely even pay attention. Regardless, your perception of a film is completely changed by the sounds it uses, and you might be surprised at just how different a film can feel with a different soundscape. Those Youtube videos of Friends without a laugh track didn’t go viral for no reason – the lack of laughs makes Ross seem like a serial killer. So for this week, here’s an insight into some of the different elements of sound, and how you may want to use them in your next film project.

Quality 

The first thing you’re going to ask yourself is what quality of sound you are going to commit to. Luckily now more than ever, there are a plethora of resources available to help provide high-quality sound. Be they digital effects, boom mics or online music there’s no shortage of options for your filmmaking team. But like almost all things filmmaking, deciding on a budget can help you figure out what sort of quality to commit to. Staying within the budget is crucial, but sound is a key part of filmmaking and if you need to cut corners, we’d recommend leaving the sound department alone. Nothing makes a video look tackier than poor sound quality, and it’s a sure way to turn off any potential viewers. Keep your soundscape clear, loud enough and lined up with the film footage and you’re one giant leap closer to a strong marketing film.

Filmmakers will strive for the best sound quality they can get, using a range of equipment.(Source: Suicide Squad)
Dominance

Next up is how dominant you want your sound. Are you using gentle background music to accompany your corporate marketing film? Are you using tense music in a scare campaign? Are you using loud sound effects to create humour? Understanding how much of the film should focus on sound is an important part of realising your vision, so it’s worth taking the time to think about what kind of sound you want. For this, you’ll want to trust your gut and not try too hard to reinvent the wheel. If the focus is on your professionalism, smooth background music will do the trick.  

Balancing your sound is crucial to delivering a consistent message.
Types of sound

One of the first things you’ll decide is what type of sound to use. Generally speaking, there are three broad categories: human voice, sound effects and music. All of them have their place in film and advertising, and the secret to effective storytelling often lies in the use of all three. Human voices carry the most natural way to deliver a story, with audiences primed to respond directly to the spoken word. Sound effects build a world by creating an audio environment, while music can help establish a mood – what mood depends on your choice of music. For marketing films, we’d recommend avoiding sound effects as you want the imagery and featured actors to tell your story rather than the sound. Complementary music that carries through a calm human voice can help ground your story in the people and ideas that helped make it successful. However, we’d also note not to stick to a hard-and-fast rule – if the occasion calls for it, make use of sound however it comes.

Mix and match

Another element of sound is whether you’re looking for smooth, blended sounds or something more jarring. Minimalist sound mixing – which usually refers to less layering, and more stark transitions between sounds – can be fantastic when presenting fear, excitement and change in a film. An uneasy meshing of sounds helps create tension and builds up that narrative for the audience, whether overt or quiet. Whereas, smoother sound layering can be useful for depicting calmness, focus and drawing attention towards the imagery. Gentle transitions and less abrupt soundscapes are more useful in PSAs or corporate marketing films when you’re trying to convey a more specific message with a welcoming tone. However, don’t confuse this with volume – while loudness is important, it’s separate to sound being deliberately jarring. Balance these elements wisely to deliver a story that’s consistent with its aims and ideas.

Armed with these tips, you’re sure to go into your next production meeting confident about what you want. But if you’re still worried about guaranteeing the quality of the sound and your film, get in touch with The Jasper Picture Company. Not only do we have proven experience in delivering bespoke film production for your campaign, but we can make sure that all elements of your film – especially your sound – are up to scratch. 

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