Movie Projector

What you see isn’t always what you hear

Have you ever wondered how the sound is added to modern movies? No? Most people probably don’t even consider that the sound effects in the movie they just watched were carefully crafted by a team of professional sound designers or Foley artists. We often don’t even question why that x-wing fighter sounds the way it does or if the lettuce being tossed in the pan should sound as it did in the scene…. We just assume that’s how it would sound.

Sometimes the reality that sound creates is so compelling that even though it contradicts what we know to be scientifically true, we believe it anyway.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Movies and Film © 2001 by Mark Winokur and Bruce Holsinger

If we have never experienced something first hand, but only seen it on screen, then we tend to believe that’s how it should sound. A few years ago I read an article in which a soldier explained that the sound of war is nothing like it is portrayed in the movies. The soldier went on to explain that the explosions and gunfire sound closer to fireworks than they do to the huge powerful and intense sounds we experience on screen. I can’t find the article now, but I wish I could.

Often when editing down sounds that I just recorded, I often realize they sound more like something else. For example, just the other day I was recording a glass being dragged across a table. But in the edit, without seeing the glass moving, it sounded more like a stone slab or tomb entrance being opened. So that’s what it became. A wet, slightly inflated balloon can emulate leather squeaks and creaks nicely. Pig squeals pitched down are often used for monsters. Celery snapping is a technique often used for bone breaks and snaps… Just a few examples but the list goes on and on.

It’s an area that I find extremely interesting and one that sound designers and filmmakers can exploit in order to gain maximum effect when incorporating sound into film. To create an atmosphere or evoke emotions, sound plays crucial role and getting that right often requires a lot of manipulation and exaggeration.

So next time you are watching a film, pay close attention to the sound and consider.. would it really sound like that?

I'm the founder of zapsplat.com, creator of a large portion of the sound effects you'll find here. I hope you enjoy the site and sfx 🙂