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Free Sound Effects for Filmmakers

 

We love working with filmmakers. Are you a looking for free sound effects to bring your movies to life? Maybe you’re struggling to meet a deadline and are looking to download professional high quality sounds that are 100% legal to use. Or maybe you just can’t find another library that has all the sounds you need?

Here at ZapSplat.com, we work alongside filmmakers every day to deliver amazing audio for countless films, from indie filmmakers on a budget (or not) through to high-end productions. We listen to their feedback, source sfx they can’t find anywhere else and have crafted what we believe is one of the best resources online.

From day one, we have focused on creating a library that houses highly useful free sound effects for filmmakers covering many of the gaps in the current market. Sound designers and field recordists often neglect the more mundane sounds, focusing on bigger and more ‘fun’ things to record. Yeah, we love recording Lamborghinis and massive thunderstorms (and we have these in our library too) but we also spend a lot of time recording more common everyday sounds. For example, if you need the subtle sound of someone sitting down in a leather chair, the sound of a particular object being put down or picked up, specific footsteps on stone, carpet, wood, metal or grass… we have them! It’s often these sounds a filmmaker needs to bring a movie scene to life.

What type of sound effects are commonly used by filmmakers?

We can break down the types of sounds commonly used by filmmakers as spot sounds, ambiences/atmospheres and production elements.

Spot Sound Effects

Think of these as short one shot sounds that usually accompany an action or event. Some common examples could be simple be the sound of someone placing an object down, a punch, pouring a drink, footsteps, smashing a glass etc.

Ambiences and Atmospheres (and background sounds)

These sounds very often don’t represent a visual element, action or event, but simply help add atmosphere and realism. They could be nature sounds such as rain, thunder, wind, birds etc., man-made sounds such as traffic, city backgrounds, room tones, hums and drones, or even more abstract atmospheres for genres such as science fiction. Speaking with many newbie filmmakers, this is often one of the most overlooked areas or, if not used correctly, it can ruin the desired effect.

Production Elements

Production elements are sounds used for things such as to enhance, add tension or drama to a scene, transitions, whooshes etc. They are often designed rather than organic or natural. Think of a movie trailer for a horror film and you’ll be imagining all those big hits and impacts, drones and risers that help to make the trailer more engaging and dramatic and really grab your attention.

Some of the most downloaded sound effects by filmmakers at ZapSplat…

Why should I use a stock audio library?

This is probably the most important question to ask yourself if you’re new to making films and are looking for resources to acquire audio. You can of course record them yourself, and many do. If time and budget allow, purchasing some high-quality microphones and a recorder is one of the best investments you can make. While some audio may be captured on set, it’s likely that you’ll need to add clean sound in post, and that’s where you’ll either want to have your own recordings available, or access to a large collection that you can download quickly and easily.

Like anything, someone owns the sound effects and music that you’ll hear on any form of media and the owner either created them for themselves, or licensed them out for use to others. The latter is where a stock audio library comes in. At ZapSplat, and like any other professional library, we supply you with a license to download and use the sound and music tracks available on our website. This means the creator retains the copyright but gives you permission to use the audio in your films so long as you abide by the terms of the license agreement.

Here at ZapSplat.com we have a very flexible license that doesn’t place many restrictions on the audio we offer. You can check it out here.

Some useful tips when adding sound effects to your film

I will be adding more tips to this list over time. It’s easy to make some of the most common errors when adding sound to your movies in post production and somethings can be fixed with ease.

Get the levels right. It’s really quite common to watch an indie movie and hear sounds which haven’t been mixed correctly. Sound libraries rarely have the exact sound needed so editors often need to edit, modify or mix sounds, layer them with others or simply use some processing to get them exactly right. Once they’re added into the scene, make sure the audio level for every sound is set so the audio isn’t dominating the viewers focus. So often I hear sounds that are just plonked into the mix without any real thought for how loud it is. Footsteps are a great example. Spending time selecting the right surface and shoe type is one thing, but if those footsteps are too loud, it’ll sound unnatural.

Also, spend some time automating levels. If those footsteps start further away and get closer, adjust the volume level to increase in proportion the actor’s actions. As they approach, increase the volume. Use the visual perspective as a guide for the audio perspective too.

Utilise reverb correctly. Reverb is another often incorrectly utilised effect. It’s something our brains are wired to recognise and as such, it’s vital to get it right. A small room with soft surfaces has a totally different reverb to a large reflective room. An outdoor setting may have no reverb, a forest could have a long reverb but with a long pre-delay… Objects closer to the viewer will require more direct sound to be heard first and the further away, more of the reverb. Again, reverb effects can be automated and this is a useful skill to learn. As that walking actor gets closer, you might want to drop the reverb off slowly, as the closer they get, the more direct sound you’ll want the viewer to hear!

EQ is often overlooked. EQ should be used in conjunction with reverbs and all the other effects you’ll use to fit the audio together. When we record sounds for libraries such as zapsplat.com, we record them as dry as possible (mostly) and try to get the EQ on natural effects to be as balanced as possible. This allows the film editor to then apply more low, mid or high EQ as required. Distance has a direct impact on how boomy or thin a sound will be. The closer it is, the more low-end will be heard. The further away, the less and maybe a little more top end to thin it out. As before, this can be automated so that the EQ changes as things move onscreen. It’s really important to make sure the sound in your film doesn’t stand out in the wrong way.

Other resources you might find useful

We love to share other resources we think you’ll find useful. Below are some other sound libraries we would recommend you check out. We are not affiliated with any of the websites in this list!

Film Crux – Singularity, cinematic sound library

Film Crux is a renowned filmmaking blog that’s stuffed with info, resources and sound libraries. Singularity is a cinematic sfx pack that contains 400 original sounds, from rises, impacts, whooshes, bass drops, drones, atmospheres and more. Perfect for creating professional movie trailers

Take me there

BoomLibrary

Boomlibrary is one of the go-to sound libraries many filmmakers use, especially when working on big cinematic works. The thing that makes this resource so special is their amazing collection of sounds tailored towards movie makers in general. There is also a real mix of natural sounds too. Check them out!

Take me there

Lens Distortions

Lens Distortions focus on production element sound effects and have a great collection for filmmakers to use. Not the biggest library on offer, but some real gems here. They also offer visual effects too! Check them out!

Take me there

Pixabay

While many people associate Pixabay with free images, many don’t realise they also host a large collection of stock video too. If you need high quality free video footage for your film, then check them out. With a wide variety to choose form, everything from nature and urban to abstract are catered for. These are ideal for transition shots and intros etc. Their license is also free for commercial use with no attribution!

Take me there

Videvo

A great resource for filmmakers here that provides many assets. From stock footage to music, this is definitely worth checking out. Just a note, some of the assets are free while others are premium and while they do display on each the difference, it’s not really obvious. So you might find you waste a bit of time clicking on something you think is free, only to find out it isn’t. However, if you’re not pushed for time, this is a great site and worthy of inclusion here.

Take me there
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Remember, you must credit us/provide attribution when using our sounds/music in your work. An example would be:

Sound from Zapsplat.com


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