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Bring your videos to life with sound

Creative sound design can make a good video great.

Here’s a guide to finding sound effects online – and how to create your own.

So, you’ve shot some great images for your video. Fantastic! How’s the sound?

It’s easy to forget about sound when you’re filming, and some locations make it very tricky to get good sound, even if you’re a gun filmmaker. But it’s worth taking a little time to think about what sound can add to your film, and how you can improve the sound during your shoot and edit.

Why?

Good sound design will make your audience connect with your film in a more visceral, emotional way. Try watching an action film or horror movie with the sound turned down. Or watch this video, which demonstrates how the mood and meaning of the same video image is totally transformed by the choice of sound.

The sound of a great movie

Music is a great way to pull your shots together, and give your video the right feeling and energy.  Our article on how to source music shows you how to find out where to find music that you can use for free. But before you throw out all the natural sounds and turn your video into a music montage, consider adding just a few sound effects or ambient sounds and mixing them in with music.

To help get you thinking, watch these films from ABC Open, and think about how sound makes them stronger:

  • The sounds of the road house, edited in a jump-cut style in this video, make you feel like you’re right there, soaking up the early morning energy.
  • Both the music and the natural sounds get their own chance to take the lead in this story set in a boxing gym.
  • Listen for the subtle use of sound in this story – the sound of paper rustling in the time lapse, and passing traffic later on – work together with the music to give a sense of the languid energy of a book exchange in a small town.

Record your own sounds

Even if most of the sound on your video is pretty ordinary, see if there are any good sounds in there. Close-up shots are more likely to have good sound, as the mic was closer to the subject. Remember, you don’t always have to use the sync sound that goes with the image.

While you’re shooting, think about a few simple sounds that might add to the story (eg footsteps, the sound of your car horn or the doors slamming, the rustle of your road map (if you still use a paper map!) or your potato chips. You can record these on your video camera (make sure you get the mic nice and close), but you may find you get a better result with an audio app on your smart phone.

Find sounds online

If you type ‘free’ and ‘sound’ into a search engine, you’ll find there are plenty of sites with sound effects that you’re free to use. Lots of them have great sounds, but the best site by far is Freesound. The catalogue is vast and easy to search.

Get to know these symbols and organisations and what they mean….

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If you are looking for music, video, writing, code, or other creative works you can search through sources like Google and Flickr through Creative Commons

Look out for the Share Alike license – you should only use this if you’re happy to share whatever you create under the same license.

No Derivatives means you can’t alter the original work, which won’t work if you want to edit the sound into your video.

Watch out for sounds that are clearly not from Australia. Birds can be a real giveaway – seagulls and crows sound completely different in the northern hemisphere. And make sure you can’t hear any background voices with foreign accents.

If you’ve used someone’s sound, send them a link to your finished video. They’ll get a kick out of seeing how their sound’s been used, and you’ve just found another viewer for your video as well.

Share your sounds

If you’ve found some great sounds online, and recorded a few of your own too, why not share the love?

Set yourself up with an account on Freesound and share any great sounds that you’ve recorded. Make sure to add plenty of tags, and a description of the sound to make it easy for other people to find.

Remember, if you’ve got great sound, you’re half way to a great film.

 

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