Sound effects are a marvelous invention. When selected carefully, sound effects really work wonders. Believe it or not, they truly make a difference when it comes to filmmaking. Imagine watching a movie and not hearing the character brush their teeth or start the engine of their car. Not as engaging, is it? In this article, we will cover all you need to know about sound effects and a few movies which have integrated them like a boss.

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What Is a Sound Effect?

So what is a sound effect? Sound effects are artificially crafted sounds which help emphasize the content of films, television shows, video games, animations, theatrical plays, podcasts, etc. Sound effects are digital, meaning they are files on a computer which are recorded and edited. 

Sound effects are added to enhance the production value of movies, whereas other sounds are used to heighten the dramatics of a scene or just simply create a sense of realism. 

History of Sounds Effects in Film

Believe it or not, sound effects have been around for a while now. The term goes all the way back to the early days of radio. Back in the day, when radio was the only way of entertainment and all types of stories were told, sound effects were a real deal. A dramatic pause on the radio was often mistaken for dead air, and even listeners thought they had lost signal. So the way this problem was handled was by adding in sound effects. They were simple, like a door closing or a telephone ringing, but they did the job. 

One big issue was that the radio was live, so sound effect creators could not miss a cue because the show would be ruined. Performing live was definitely a challenge for sound effect artists. In 1930, directors of these plays started using pre-recorded material too. 

With the beginning of cinema, sound effects were also considered. In 1926, the movie Don Juan by Alan Crosland, was the first film to utilize sound effects in synchronization with a musical score. From there, sound effects became key for film productions.  

By 1933, with the release of King Kong, we noticed a major breakthrough in the realm of sound effects. To create the roar of famous King Kong, Murray Spivac, sound designer, recorded actual zoo animals and slowed down the audio to create the terrifying roar. 

However, it wasn’t until 1977, when Star Wars by George Lucas was made, that sound effects took a leap. Star Wars has immensely contributed to the sound effect industry, being responsible for most of the famous sound effects in movie history, including the buzzing hum of lightsabers.

Why are Sound Effects Important?

Sound effects are a powerful tool to enhance the film and impact the viewing experience. Sound effects, along with music, work in order to create a mood and establish a sense of reality. This way, the audience can feel immersed in the movie and pull the most from the experience.
Sound effects help build up the world of the film. 

Of course, there’s always a level of exaggeration when it comes to sound effects. For example, big office action flicks can have loads of sound effects. This is because they want their audience to feel the adrenaline and have them over the edge with the movies. Other films might be more realistic with their sounds, like a kitchen knife chopping vegetables. 

But the truth is that the right audio effects are powerful and can completely change your movie. They can highlight action to emphasize movement in a scene, like the sheathing of a warrior’s sword. They are crucial to add context and drama, especially in horror films.  

Types of Sound in Film

There are several types of sound effects when it comes to sound production. You can recognize four types of sound effects in films:

  • Hard Sound Effects: common sounds like door alarms, weapons firing and cars driving by. 
  • Background Sound Effects: these sounds indicate the setting to the audience, for example, forest sounds and car interiors. 
  • Foley Sound Effects: these are sounds that are crafted in sync with the film during post-production to recreate everyday sound effects. 
  • Design Sound Effects: these sounds do not normally occur in nature. One example of this is the sounds that are used in science fiction films in which futuristic technology is used. 

Famous Film Sound Effects

There are various films that are known for their sound effects. We’ve already mentioned King Kong and Star Wars, which are widely-known for their sound effects. Yet, many others are also known:

  • Jurassic Park (1993) by Steven Spielberg:

Much like King Kong, sound designer Gary Rydstorm, had to make a mix of different animal vocalizations in order to create the iconic T-Rex roar. This Steven Spielberg’s classic was revolutionary in many ways, and the sound effects department was not left behind. 

  • The Matrix (1999) by Lana Wachowski & Lily Wachowski:

This is another revolutionary movie that stands out in many ways. The Matrix contains lots of futuristic sound effects, which are creative and immersive. What does a bullet sound like in slow motion? Well, now you know.

  • The Exorcist (1973) by William Friedkin:

This movie won an Academy Award for Best Sound in 1973. Were you expecting that? Well, the sounds in this movie created a terrifying atmosphere, leaving the audience uncomfortable and jumping from their seats. The 180 Degree Head Turning was made by twisting a leather wallet filled with credit cards. Bet you didn’t expect that, did you?

  • Back to the Future (1985) by Robert Zemeckis:

We were all convinced that the 1982 Delorean car actually time traveled due to the sounds it made. The car doors of this time machine were made with a car window regulator motor, since the original doors made no sound.