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What are Sound Effects?

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Imagine you are watching a horror movie, and the main character is about to open the door that leads into the creepy basement (despite all your yelling at the screen). The music starts to intensify,you can feel the fear like it is a physical thing clawing at you. The character opens the door, and the wooden stairs creak as she start descending into the pitch black of the basement; suddenly a noise off to the side makes the character freeze. What was that? The characters hands are shaking with terror, and you are hiding your eyes behind your hands, peaking around your fingers to keep watching. You know something bad is about to happen.

But why do you know something bad is about to happen? It all has to do with the sound effects being applied to the scene. Without them it would just be a scene about someone being scared to go down into their normal basement, nothing scary or terrifying about that, it would almost seem silly. The music is letting you know that something is going to happen, and it isnt going to be good. We can feel the atmosphere of the scene, as if we were there. We can share in the bone chilling fear of the character, and can react in a similar fashion when strange noises come out of the darkness.

This is the added value of having sound effects in any sort of production. Lets take a step back for a minute, and look into what a sound effect is. Wikipedia defines Sound Effects as artificially created or enhanced sounds, or sound processes used to emphasize artistic or other content of films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, or other media.Sound effects are used to enhance something specific in the production, whether its an emotion, an atmosphere, or regular day-to-day sounds.

Giving Life

When someone goes to see a movie, or plays a video game, they want to feel immersed in what they are seeing. They want to feel like they are there themselves. They want to experience the same emotions, get invested in the characters wellbeing or the storyline. The way that productions make that possible is by making this simulated environment on screen seem like reality. They put in sound effects that would be there normally in everyday life, like the background ambience of a busy coffee shop when two people are meeting there, or the sound of metal against metal during a car crash in an action scene. Sound effects give life to the production, they make the viewer create connections in their own lives of similar things, and draw out emotions.

Be careful though, if you make a mistake with sound effects your viewers will notice. A wrong sound at the wrong time can completely dissolve the immersed reality, and have the viewer start thinking critically about what mistake just happened, can even ruin the enjoyment of the viewer so much that they could decide to just stop watching the production altogether. Knowing what type of sound effect to use and when to use it is crucial to the success of the production.