sounds that serve as the framework within which filmmakers and directors create a specific atmosphere. When coming up with an audiovisual project regardless of its nature, sounds are always carefully introduced in order for them to represent what is happening during a particular scene: what kind of actions the performers and the characters are engaged in, and where does that situation, in particular, take place.
The importance of creating an enticing atmosphere
Sound design is full of all kinds of nuances, and these vary from project to project; however, the necessity for filmmakers to understand the material remains. A good way for producers, directors, filmmakers, etc., to start editing sound for a production is by actually going through the whole script whilst figuring out the nature of every scene therein. Thus, aspects such as background sounds receive a much brighter connotation as well as the actions taking place. This is a good way to start elaborating on sound effects and possible atmospheres that could pertain to a specific scene.
What about music and dialogue?
Despite the fact that both music and dialogues are pivotal for creating an enticing audiovisual project, these two traditionally come to mind before considering the sound design part. And whilst these, as mentioned, are unequivocally vital in providing the plot with guidance, they remain as, perhaps, the most obvious elements in a project’s sound design. Since every scene is different, these require a subtle, yet specific, manipulation of both sound and sound effects to make them feel real and complete. Of course, dialogue and music by themselves are simply not enough to build the framework within which films are conceived and constructed.
Background and atmospheric sounds and noises drive the plot and allow the audience to clearly understand where a particular scene is taking place. Normally, these sounds are perceived by the subconscious given their quiet and repetitive nature; however, they are essential to every single scene because of the drive the audience. If both background and atmospheric noises were removed from audiovisual projects, scenes would end up feeling and being perceived unfamiliar and even unnatural by the audience due to the lack of realism. Scenes taking place on busy and crowded streets, for example, always include iconic noises like car horns, engines, indistinct chattering, etc., whereas scenes taking place in the woods include birds, wind, grass blowing, etc. Both examples are familiar to the audience simply because of the atmosphere created through the inclusion of background noises. Otherwise, it would feel weird to the audience.
How does action sound?
So, we just covered how sound is meant to interact on a subconscious level, the next part of sound design is helping the audience understand what the characters being played are doing in a particular scene. This is also possible and done through the inclusion of action sounds. When we speak about action sounds we are basically talking about a rather more subtle group of sounds like those we hear when characters are holding something or their clothing, or when characters interact with other character or other inanimate objects. If a character is in an action-filled scene, like a physical confrontation or a fight, then sound designers would need to include the sounds of impacts, punches, clothing being moved, etc. Sound designers actually spend a lot of time during this kind of scenes to make sure that all the sounds that the audience would hear if the fight or confrontation was real, match what is being projected and played by the performers. During a fight, it is common to hear some hits louder than other, or even a combination of different types of impact sounds. Thus, the audience perceives the scene in a more realistic way, which is why the vast majority of sound designers strive to include and use effects that resemble a real sound.
This same principle applies to the interactions characters have with inanimate objects. If a character is manipulating something made of metal, like a gun or a hammer, the sound designer will need to add that sound by adding the sound of a person touching the object itself. The same happens when characters use computers or mobile phones and we hear the keys being pressed and mobile phone beeps. These are sound that possibly go unnoticed by the audience in real life; however, by including them into a particular scene the audience ends up being driven by the storytelling component. A well-crafted atmosphere includes these and the sound mentioned in the first part of this article. Although quiet and subtle, both atmospheric and action sounds are key for providing the audience with a compelling narrative. These are small elements whose tremendous value is reflected every time the audience remains engaged throughout an audiovisual project.