We started a new monthly contest where we ask people to completely redo the sound design of a clip from a famous horror film that we have made silent. It’s been a blast to see peoples’ entries and just how drastically different a scene plays out given the sound effects and music that have been added. Some have gone as far as adding elements and noises that aren’t even in the original movie but once added… probably should have been!
Adding sound effects that come from people, pets, or objects outside of the camera frame really add depth to a scene.
Let’s break down a rather basic scene with very simple production value and make it more exciting.
1 Actor, 1 Camera Operator, A Whole City of Cops After Them Both
Someone running down a sidewalk on a busy street merely shows us it’s busy behind him. It doesn’t really give us any context. What are they running from? Are they being chased? Who’s chasing them? Maybe if we do some whip pans and add some shaky cam we can make the footage stylized but … that really doesn’t add any more context to the scene. Shaky handheld closeups of our hero’s face only give the audience a sense of urgency, but why should they feel urgent? Let’s add some context with some off-camera sound design.
Give him a bag and a mask! Add a helicopter and a siren sound effect! All of a sudden the audience is transported to a false reality that this hero might not be a hero at all, maybe they are the bad guy. Add the sound of a distant burglar alarm going off and fading as our actor runs down the sidewalk. Did our bad guy just rob a bank?
These sound effects paint an entire picture and we never had to show:
Now add some crowd noise. Immediately your audience well feel like there are twice as many people on screen. Add some tire squeals… crap… is that a cop car that just pulled up? Add the whoop whoop sound that a cop car does when they pull you over for speed to let you know they caught you. Oh no, our main character is busted. Swoosh sounds are added to the timeline to match each time the camera angles cut along with the sound of a sneaker against concrete peeling out to emphasize that our main character now is really running harder than before. More footsteps are added, this must be the cops behind him. The footsteps grow in volume. The cops are nearly on him. Music swells, the crowd sound effects are pitched down several octaves and slowed down as the footage of our characters is now being shown to the audience in 120fps.
The video clip editing pace slows down and the sense that we are at the climax of our chase scene sets in… where are the cops? Did our bad guy get away? Is this it, is he about to be tackled? The audio warps and the outdoor crowd audio is pitched up several octaves back to its normal key. The footage is speed ramped back to 24fps. The audience hears another brake screech and a door open sound effect… This is it. It’s all over for this guy, he’s caught…. But then we hear a lady’s voice come from our left speaker… “Hey, get in!”
Cut to black.