How Sound Effects Impact The Way We See Visuals

Before modern technologies came around, the movies we watched were silent except for a jaunty piano piece that never really allowed us to connect to what we were seeing. The reality is that sound effects have a strong impact on how we interpret what we’re seeing, and those piano pieces allowed us to connect with the song, but not the visual we were seeing. Time has allowed us to develop much more developed sound effects, however, and now we have the capacity to quite literally build an experience using sound to do it. A visual is strong, and sound effects are strong, but both together are like dynamite. Take a look for yourself.

Sound effects build atmosphere

When you are watching a movie or a commercial, you are not just watching it, you’re connecting with it. This means that you need to use audio to build the atmosphere that you are promoting. You can determine how a viewer is going to feel (more on that later), but you also make sure that you are setting up the visual properly, too. Maybe a scene can in be interpreted a few different ways. Making the atmosphere feel right for the scene and the viewer is as easy as picking the right sound effects, or SFX to do the heavy lifting for you. It creates and sets up an environment for a scene, almost identical to how our atmosphere does the same for our planet.

How Sound Effects Impact The Way We See Visuals

Makes you feel like you’re right there

This is obvious, perhaps, but not for the reasons that you think. The reason that you watch a movie is to be entertained, of course, but you also are there because you want to know what it feels like to be in those actual situations, even if they’re terrifying or gory. So, the sound effects are what does that for you. When you hear grunts in a fight, shoes slapping pavement during a run or a chase scene, it helps you imagine actually being in the moment, which is an important aspect to think about for your own project. What you hear is going to impact how you interpret what you see. If there were no grunts in the fight, it wouldn’t feel real, right?  Those noises help us feel like we’re in the moment. Our hearts are pounding and our fists are clenched. Sound familiar?

How Sound Effects Impact The Way We See Visuals

Sound effects influence how you react to a scene

When you are creating a scary scene, you need to use spooky music to help the viewer properly understand the moment, right? It doesn’t need to necessarily be music, but floorboards squeaking or a twig snapping during a walk through the forest helps the viewer understand what’s going on and how the scene is supposed to feel. We’ve all had those moments where tense or scary music comes on during a movie scene and you just know that something is going to happen.  But how do you know? Because the music changes or you hear a creaky floorboard.  These SFX enhance how a scene is going to feel and makes the experience that much better for us as viewers.

Both library and “from scratch” sounds are effective

You’d be surprised to learn just how many sounds from a movie are from a sound library that are dubbed in after the fact.  If you’ve ever been in a movie as an extra, you were probably instructed to mime conversations instead of having them outright, correct?  That’s because the general “hub-bub” is brought in afterward, including some semblance of a conversation that kind of fits what you were doing.  If you had actually been talking, it would have destroyed the audio of the actors that were being filmed in the scene. In some movies, the sound effects like crunching gravel or twigs snapping or a floor being swept are made from scratch just for that specific movie. A lot of films use a combination of library sounds and ones from scratch depending on what the budget is and how specific that sound has to be like.  The thing is, we can’t usually distinguish from the library or “from scratch” options, even if we heard them side by side. This tells you that both are high quality and will have the same impact on our overall experience.

How Sound Effects Impact The Way We See Visuals

Everything is created in a studio

Both the library and “from scratch” options are made in a studio with the right tools put in front of the microphone. The people that record these are often unsung heroes in the professional film industry because without them being done, a scene just wouldn’t have the same effect. A fight without grunts or a chase without twigs snapping just isn’t going to be the same. It isn’t realistic or effective and its impact will be minimal. The visual impact will be enhanced greatly by these small sounds, as trivial as they may be in comparison to the big movie scores.

It ties up the loose ends

So, when you’ve got the proper sound effects in place, the overall effect is going to enhance what you are looking at.  They work together so well that one without the other would just be alienating, which is why lagging videos are so annoying online.  The visuals and audio are out of sync, and even if it’s just a little bit, it’s enough to make a huge difference to your viewing experience, right?

How Sound Effects Impact The Way We See Visuals

It’s incredible to think that there was ever a time without any kind of sound effects to go with visuals, but that is very much the case. Now they are pretty much standard and this is so much the case that it can have serious effects on how all viewers are going to be able to interpret a situation one way or the other. The two blending together properly creates a comfortable atmosphere that is going to enhance the overall effect of the visual that we’re seeing. It puts us in the moment and helps us understand what we’re seeing in a whole new, stronger way. So, when we are working toward creating an experience that is going to suck the viewer in completely, this blend of the two senses is the absolute best way to make sure that happens. When you combine that with creating a strong atmosphere and helping the viewer determine how to feel about what they’re seeing, you have the ability to do some incredible things. It’s just important to use these effects to help create a scene that draws the viewer into it. This will make it all the more effective and give you better results.

Enjoyed reading this? You might like reading about 5 reasons to use sound effects in your projects, or discovering more articles in our audio and footage page.