There are three main aspects of sound in a film: speech, sound effects, and music. Although this doesn’t seem like a very impressive list, there are so many possibilities within each category.
The words spoken are important as that is the message the audience receives, but more so it is how the words are spoken that tells the audience how to perceive it. The aspect of speech falls on the director and actor to interpret and convey but it is good as a sound designer to understand it as well so that when adding the sound effects and music it will not contradict what is being said.
The sound effects added to a scene can really help to boost the environment for an audience. If on the day of shooting you are not able to pick up aspects of a scene, you can then add them in after through the use of sound effects. This can also be to add information to a scene that cannot be seen.
For instance if you have a shot in the rainforest and during the shoot you focused on the dialogue and actors sound which is most important, you can then go back in and build that environment using sound effects. If I were to add to that scene I may add soft distant sounds of rustling leaves from the wind, a variety of bird chirps both distant and close sounding, and lastly the sound of water hitting the leaves from the rain. All of these you may hear while there but not be able to record so in post you recreate and enhance that environment for the audience so they can feel as if they are part of the scene. Sounds effects are not only used to create atmosphere. They can be used to add suspense, action, relief, symbolism and more.
Music works similar to that of the speech and sound effects adding to the tone and atmosphere of the scene. It can also be used to create a counterpart or allude to something that may be coming later in the film. Below is a recut trailer for the movie Dumb and Dumber as a Horror. What was very much a comedy you can now see by the use of speech, pace, and sound effects, you achieve an entirely different feeling to a well known film.
The use of sound in a film is essential and there are so many different possibilities you can do by layering these three aspects.
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