Lauren Wilks Media Manchester
My Latest Work
The Importance of Sound and Audio in Video Editing
When editing footage, whether it’s for an online video or a film, using the right audio is a subtle detail that can ruin the tone of a scene if mishandled. Good sound design should rarely be noticed by audience members, but that doesn’t mean it should be neglected by filmmakers.
Sound design is like a pinch of baking soda you add to a cake. It may seem like a small, insignificant ingredient, but without it, your cake won’t rise and no one will like it.
So how, exactly, does sound design affect a scene? Let’s take a look:
Sound Design Isn’t Just Music
Contrary to popular belief, there’s a lot more to editing a film’s sound than just picking the right music. A sound editor has to balance background sound effects, dialogue, and atmospheric noises to create a film that engages audiences while also keeping their suspension of disbelief in tact. An experienced editor has the power to use individual sound design elements to manipulate how the audience feels during a scene. They can make the audience feel whatever is most appropriate for a scene much more effectively than cinematography or dialogue ever could. This is why it’s imperative for filmmakers to invest enough time, effort, and resources into sound editing.
Sound Can Tell a Story
Sound effects in film or video can tell an audience what’s going on without ever showing something onscreen; however, sound effects in film should never be the focus of a scene. Sound design is a spice used to flavor the video, not the main dish. If audiences wanted to listen rather than watch something, they’d turn on a podcast.
When editing a scene, a sound editor should ask what the point of the scene is. Are you trying to make the audience feel happy? Are you trying to show that the characters are angry with each other? Editors should use music and sound effects to enhance a scene as well as work with the director to make sure everyone is on the same page.
But what happens if a sound editor doesn’t do a good job or if a filmmaker doesn’t understand the importance of sound design?
How Poor Sound Design Ruins Immersion
Audience members have a certain suspension of disbelief that when broken will take them out of your video or film. If someone closes a door, but there is no click, your audience will notice it and be taken out of your film. Rather than focusing on the story, they will begin to focus more on the technical aspects of what they’re watching. It will be much harder for them to engage with the narrative being told.
Poor sound design can also make scenes confusing. If someone new enters the frame, a good sound editor will insert sounds like a door opening and closing and footsteps to show how that person entered the scene. Without these sound effects, the audience will be left wondering where this person came from.
In action scenes, sound effects are especially important to give the characters’ actions weight. Whether they’re throwing a punch or ramming their car into a building, authentic sounds are the key to allowing the audience to focus on the actions between characters, rather than missing or out of place sound effects.
Music in Film
Using music to set the tone of a scene is just as important as using sound effects. A high-energy fight scene wouldn’t make the audience’s heart pound if there is soft piano music playing in the background. A slasher villain stalking his victim wouldn’t be as terrifying if the audience hears nursery rhymes playing. But there are also subtle ways a sound editor can establish the theme of a film.
For example, in an anti-fascist film, there is a scene where a group of rebels capture a fascist general. He’s about to die and the rebels need to get him to one of their hospitals to make sure he stays alive to spill all the fascist government’s secrets. When you read the synopsis of the scene, it’s obvious that suspenseful music would be chosen, right?
This scene has victorious music playing because this is a victorious moment for the good guys so the audience is told through the music to feel happy and accomplished as well.
But does every moment need to have sound?
Sometimes, Silence is Golden
Silence is very hard to come about in real life. Even if you’re completely alone in a house, you’re bound to hear something whether it’s ambient nature sounds outside or your air conditioner cooling the room.
That’s why silence makes us feel so on edge.
If you’re creating a scene that needs to have some level of tension, it may be a good idea to use no music at all. Audience members will instinctively begin to anticipate and dread that moment when something pops out of the corner or the camera pans to a dead person on the floor.
Even if a scene isn’t 100% quiet, the lack of music can indicate that something is very wrong.
That’s why it’s important to know when to use music and when to use silence. This balance can be a difficult one to strike, especially if you’re new to sound editing, but with practice, you’ll come to know when it’s appropriate to let the camera and dialogue carry a scene and when you need to insert some music.
Sound design in film or video is often considered the hidden hero of the industry. When done properly, most audience members will never notice masterful sound editing, but without it, films would be distracting, boring, and almost impossible to watch. Adding sound effects and appropriate music to a project will automatically make it seem 100 times more professional. Your audience will become more engrossed in your film and there will be an elevated level of realism that will keep them engaged.
So next time you’re thinking about skimping on sound production, remember that the little details are what separates a decent video or film from an amazing one.