Friday, February 25, 2011

Good, sound reason to believe that music is just as important

    The sound of closing doors, footsteps, and explosions is important, but what about the slow, sad music during the funeral scene? Or the majestic marching tune when the soldiers go off to war? Or the creepy, eerie tune when the child is lost in the woods? Music in the background of a movie is just as important.
     Movies use music in a lot of ways you may never have even noticed. John Carpenter is a director who makes and produces the music for just about all of his movies. "You shouldn't be aware of what I'm doing ... You shouldn't be sitting there listening to music, or aware of it ... I don't want you to be aware of the technique. I just want you to feel it." However, movie-goers of this day and age have learned to recognize the techniques. When King Kong climbs the Empire State Building, it's obvious that the music is slowly going upward.
     Another good technique to use with sound tracks is the concept of every character having his or her own song or theme. This idea can be clearly scene in the Star Wars movies. To the average observer, all of a villains quite obviously have a theme, but actually the protagonists have their own subtle themes as well. Watch it sometime and see for yourself
(Information taken from

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Sweet Sound of Another Blog

     I came across a blog about sound effects, and, more specifically, free sound effects. ( It's a pretty complex and well set up blog with a lot of features. It has many, many sound effects available for purchase, as well as several links that I can see at the moment that can help us find free sound effects. You should check it out.
     The part of this blog I find most interesting, however, is the most recent post on the blog. It talks about how sometimes when we're watching a movie, sound effects that we hear don't quite match up with what we're seeing. This is because an alarming number of these sounds are actually added in post-production. I find this really fascinating, and it's a good, valid explanation to something we've probably all noticed.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sounds Effect a Change in the Project-Creating Experience

      Where do filmmakers get their sound effects? Did you know that when a character in a film sits down on a couch or walks across the floor or even drops something, most of the time camera doesn’t pick up such subtle sounds? This means that they must be added in later, and that's quite a few effects.
     We live in an internet-based society, and we can get music for free, information for free, games for free—pretty much anything for free. The free things the internet offers sometimes hurt the various industries that are actually trying to sell a product. Does this concept apply to sound effects as well? Where do professionals who work with media prefer to get their effects?
        To answer this question, I talked with a professional broadcaster, a media guru, a talented student filmmaker and a professional producer.
         Ben Dyer, a news editor at the Christian broadcasting network, said he buys most of his sound effects for his projects on the Internet. In college he was involved in the creation of a science fiction film that was an allegory of Jonah and the Whale. “I needed tons of sound effects that sounded unreal—noises machines would make,” Dyer said. He got most of his effects from, which offers cheaper sound effects to those who are just creating a project for a class or for fun.
         What did Dyer have to say about getting sound effects for free? Well, he said a lot of free sound effects are of poor quality. “Even some of the stuff they try to charge for,” Dyer said. He had been telling a story about how he was looking for the sound of a mouse clicking when he gave this example: “[For some of the effects I found] it sounded like there’s some guy with a crappy microphone, and he’s holding his mouse up to it and clicking it.” The really good effects are the ones recorded on a good microphone and in a Foley room. Dyer said, “If it’s professionally done, you’re probably going to have to pay for it.”
         However, Don Mink, operations manager and producer for the Asbury University's communications arts, doesn’t see anything wrong with using free sound effects but said that it depends on the type of sound and the budget of the project. “If you’re looking for something like thunder and lightening, you can go on the internet right now, and there are like 5,000 of them,” he said. On the other hand, Mink said that one might need to be more creative and perhaps spend a little money if the director requests an effect such as “a storm blowing into England.” Mink said that the director might dismiss a sound effects worker’s efforts by claiming that the effects sound more “like a storm blowing off San Francisco.” Since some sites are offering effects for free, this inspires the sites that sell the sound effects to come up with a better, more unique product.
         The other major factor involved in the free vs. pricey sound effects decision was regarding the budget. “If you’re Steven Spielberg, you just buy everything,” Mink said. The director will always want the best, but the producer knows that there is a budget, and it will eventually run out.  Filmmakers will always also have to spend money on costumes, equipment, location, etc.
         Zach Meiners, who wrote, directed and produced the film “Pivot Point,” expressed an entirely different view on the subject of sound effects. Besides directing and all of the other things he did, he was also very involved in the sound effects portion of the movie. During the shooting, his team created sound effects so that the actors would have something to react to. During the school shooting, Meiners had someone walking around slamming apple boxes together so the actors would know when there was a “gun shot” to cower from.
         Meiners had subscriptions for several online sound effects sites, such as He was allowed to download a certain number of effects per month, so he got a few at a time to make this deal most effective. Meiners said he used some free sound effects for the movie, but “it depended on if we could find a good sound effect on the sites that we had subscriptions to.”
         Meiners and the other members of the sound effects team also had to create some of the sounds. “We went in my garage and were throwing things around and knocking over trash cans, and then we went and screeched the tires of my car and compiled it all together,” Meiners said, explaining where the sounds of the car crash in the movie had originated. Another example of a sound effect they had to create was the sound of an arm popping during a fight. “We took pieces of celery and snapped them in water in a cup … Think about it. Celery: one of the most unassuming vegetables.”
     Michael Coleman, a producer for SoundWorks collection, expressed mostly distaste for free sound effects. "There's a certain understanding about what you're getting when you spend money on sound effects—they're probably of better quality," Coleman said. However, he also expressed a refreshing open-mindedness about the topic. Coleman pointed out that sound effects have been around for a long time, and he commented that in the old days, people used to create their own sound effects for cartoons with various random objects. "But there's really no right or wrong way to go about it. If it sounds like the sound you want to make, then it works. There are really no rules with sound effects."
         So will companies that sell sound effects for money go out of business thanks to the ones who offer them for free? Probably not. Although the four people I interviewed had differing opinions about the usefulness of free online sound effects, they all seemed to agree on one thing: There will always be a place for sound effects that one has to pay for, whether it’s because of their uniqueness, better quality or accessibility.
         What do I think about this? Well, the only experience I have with sound effects was in my radio production class last semester. I made a radio drama and used all of the sound effects on the computer. However, I couldn’t find an effect that sounded like someone cutting through a rope and then it subsequently falling off a cliff. I created this by scraping my spiral notebook on the edge of a table. And it worked!