Film Sound Techniques: The Importance of Audio in Film

Film Sound Techniques: The Importance of Audio in Film

Have you ever watched a film without sound? Did the visuals make any sense without the accompanying audio? Not really, that is because sound has become an integral element in filmmaking.

Silent films were popular between 1895 and 1936 and included no spoken dialogue or synchronized sounds. The actors would convey dialogue using mime and muted gestures as well as title cards to inform viewers of how the plot plays out.

These films were often accompanied by a live pianist, organist or orchestra to play music while the film’s visuals played out.

Thus, sound techniques are vital to any good filmmaker. The idea of synchronized sound was finally introduced into filmmaking in the late 1920s as the technology for recording sound became available and operational.

Filmmakers began moving towards making films with recorded sound and the silent era of films ceased.

The function of sound in filmmaking

Sound enhances the viewers’ experience when watching a film and helps to set the scene or create a specific mood. Think about the famous, signature-tune from the Jaws soundtrack, the suspense-building “da-dum, da-dum, da-dum” music draws you to the edge of your seat in anticipation of what will happen next.

The function of sound in a film is predominately to create an atmosphere by layering various sounds, like music, sound effects, and dialogue. Filmmakers use high-pitch sounds to induce feelings of anxiety, or the use of low-pitched sounds to create a sense of mystery or calm.

Interestingly, the absence of sound can also add to a scene’s mood. Silence is often used as a contrast, to build intensity, create suspense or to highlight other visual elements in the scene.

Music, on its own, also has its function in films. It may seem peculiar that characters in films always have a soundtrack, whereas in real life we do not have music accompanying our daily lives.

However, we have come to expect this from films. We expect music to guide us through the storyline of the film, eliciting various emotions throughout and providing information about a scene in terms of culture or ethnicity.

In another sense, narration also helps the viewer navigate their way through a film. A narrator’s voice will tell part of the story, giving more structure.

Alternatively, they can provide the viewer with a look into the mind of a character to hear their thoughts and

Sound Equipment for Film

There is a variety of equipment the filmmakers use when recording sound during filming. From a range of microphones to using pre-recorded sound effects, there are numerous ways to add sound to a film.

When recording the audio for a film the filmmaker needs to ensure than only the sounds they want are included.

This means the type of microphone to use is of vital importance. What many people do not realize, is that you need to have a microphone separate from the camera, because when the camera moves it affects the volume and quality of the sound.

Placing a separate microphone near to where the sound will come from for your scene is the best bet.

Types of microphones:

There are a wide variety of microphones that can be used for recording sound for a film. Lavalier and directional microphones are the most popular.

Lavalier Microphones

Also known as ‘tieclip’ microphones, lavalier microphones are worn on your clothes and are a great option for capturing voices while recording.

The only downside to this is that your actor will be attached to the camera by the microphone cable. You can overcome this obstacle by using a radio microphone instead, which is a cordless option.

Directional Microphones

Directional microphones are the ideal option to record sound directly in front of them while blocking out any additional sounds coming from the sides. These microphones are often used while mounted on a boom pole to the position above the scene being filmed.

Film sound techniques and their benefits

Since hearing is one of our five senses as humans, and it important to our everyday lives, it is an important element in films too.

Sound helps to bring the storyline together in conjunction with the visual elements. The sound has the ability to direct the audience’s attention to a particular character or event within the scene and give different scene different meanings.

For example, in a scene showing a tropical beach, upbeat music playing in the background will give a positive feeling and could represent an island holiday. While a suspenseful soundtrack may represent the ocean as being dangerous and give viewers the sense of impending doom.

There are two types of sound in filmmaking, diegetic sound, and non-diegetic sounds.

Diegetic Sounds

Diegetic sounds are those that feature in the world where the scene takes place, in other words, these are the sounds the character will hear like the dialogue between character, a car driving past or a door being slammed by one of the characters.

These types of sounds work well in creating the atmosphere of a scene and giving the viewing a feeling for the environment in which it takes place. These sounds are beneficial to film in that they help the audience to position themselves within the scene.

Non-diegetic Sounds

Non-diegetic sounds are those that the characters do not hear, like the background music or a voice-over narration. Only the audience hears these sounds, and they help to give the audience more information about the scene playing out, as well as the characters within them.

Music benefits the film in that it helps to convey emotions and feelings that the filmmaker wishes the viewer to feel, or alternatively convey the feelings of the characters. Music can also provide viewers with more information about a character, the place in which the scene is set or even the overall theme of the film.

The sound is also influential in creating perspective within a film, allowing the viewer to feel as though they are watching from inside the scene.

The sound in filmmaking gives endless possibilities for creativity. Combining the right sounds with the right visuals is a recipe for an amazing film.

The sound in films is the ideal cue to grab the audience’s attention, give them a sense of inclusion in the film, elicits feelings and emotions as well as informs them of the storyline with dialogue between characters.