Part 7 of 10
Sound design may honestly be my favorite part of the editing process. Adding the right effects at the right time and in the right amounts can force a good edit to explode into something jaw dropping. The alternative is also true – poor effects, bad timing, and overdoing it can knock a good edit to its knees. The goal is to understand the video you have created and strike the balance in sound design that enhances the final product.
Simplifying sound design to its nuts and bolts, we really only have two directions to go when we edit. The easier of the two, in my opinion, is a style that is in-your-face and sometimes over-the-top. Basically, what you see is what you get. See an explosion on screen? A resounding “bang” blasts out of your speakers. See an ocean aerial shot? Sounds of rolling waves and stereotypical seagulls slip out of your tweeters. Here’s an example for a promo I cut for a fictional insurance company:
The second route involves a more ambiguous or abstract approach. Often the action is moved by musical scores and large sounds (drones, whooshes, slams, etc) that don’t directly relate to the images on screen. See an explosion? Hear a single chilling piano key. See an ocean aerial? Hear a bone-rattling drone. A stellar example of this style is this trailer for Westworld III:
How Does Coffee Sound?
For our coffee promo I’m leaning towards the first style mentioned and have free sound effects for you to download at the bottom of the post. When searching for sounds to match your piece it helps to not only think of what something sounds like, but also what might sound similar. For example, the first clip in my coffee edit is of beans falling in slow motion. This could obviously sound like beans pouring, but could also sound like rocks or pebbles falling. More often than not, you’ll end up layering these sounds to get the right end result.
Where Do Sound Effects Come From?
Like asking where babies come from, that is a big question. There is a plethora of sound effect libraries online for purchase or subscription. Many can be out of the budding editor’s budget or maybe even the project’s total budget. Here are two good places to search for budget friendly sound effects:
Similar to SoundCloud, but for sound effects. FreeSound offers FREE user-created sound effects that encompass sounds from the obscure to mundane. The downside is that it can be hard to find quality versions of sounds.
Don’t take sound effects at face value. Yes, you might find a perfect effect that nails what you’re matching on screen. More likely though, you’ll want to layer sound effects to craft that perfect sound. Layering also allows you to carry one effect through into another. If you hear a gunshot in the real world, it resonates after the initial bang. The same should (but not always) hold true in your video, even as shots continue to change under the sound. The amount the sound carries over depends on your creative editing expression.
Sometimes a sound being used is close to what you want, but needs some tweaking. In my experience this can be fixed by shifting the pitch a bit. Pitch shifting can be achieved with pitch shifting effects or, what I typically do, slow down or speed up the clip.
The last trick that I frequently use is adding a bit of reverb to a sound effect. Reverb helps an effect’s sound ring out some and can help a sound seem smoother to the ear. Reverb settings are dependent on the specific effect you’re crafting and need tweaking. That said, I do have a custom reverb preset that I can use in most situations or at the very least is a good starting point. You can download it below.