A sound effect (or audio effect) is an artificially created or enhanced sound, or sound process used to emphasize artistic or other content of films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, or other media. Traditionally, in the twentieth century, they were created with foley
. In motion picture and television production, a sound effect is a sound recorded and presented to make a specific storytelling or creative point ''without'' the use of dialogue or music. The term often refers to a process applied to a recording, without necessarily referring to the recording itself. In professional motion picture and television production, dialogue
, and sound effects recordings are treated as separate elements. Dialogue and music recordings are never referred to as sound effects, even though the processes applied to such as reverberation
effects, often are called "sound effects".
This area and
Sound design is the art and practice of creating sound tracks for a variety of needs. It involves specifying, acquiring or creating auditory elements using audio production techniques and tools. It is employed in a variety of disciplines including ...
have been slowly merged since the late-twentieth century.
The term ''sound effect'' ranges back to the early days of radio. In its Year Book 1931 the
BBC #REDIRECT BBC
Here i going to introduce about the best teacher of my life b BALAJI sir. He is the precious gift that I got befor 2yrs . How has helped and thought all the concept and made my success in the 10th board exam. ...
published a major article about "The Use of Sound Effects". It considers sounds effect deeply linked with broadcasting and states: "It would be a great mistake to think of them as anologous to punctuation marks and accents in print. They should never be ''inserted'' into a programme already existing. The author of a broadcast play or broadcast construction ought to have used Sound Effects as bricks with which to build, treating them as of equal value with speech and music." It lists six "totally different primary genres of Sound Effect":
:* ''Realistic, confirmatory effect''
:* ''Realistic, evocative effect''
:* ''Symbolic, evocative effect''
:* ''Conventionalised effect''
:* ''Impressionistic effect''
:* ''Music as an effect''
According to the author, "It is axiomatic that every Sound Effect, to whatever category it belongs, ''must'' register in the listener's mind instantaneously. If it fails to do so its presence could not be justified."
In the context of motion pictures and television, ''sound effects'' refers to an entire hierarchy of sound elements, whose production encompasses many different disciplines, including:
* ''Hard sound effects'' are common sounds that appear on screen, such as door alarms, weapons firing, and cars driving by.
* ''Background'' (or ''BG'') ''sound effects'' are sounds that do not explicitly synchronize with the picture, but indicate setting to the audience, such as forest sounds, the buzzing of fluorescent lights, and car interiors. The sound of people talking in the background is also considered a "BG," but only if the speaker is unintelligible and the language is unrecognizable (this is known as walla
). These background noises are also called ''ambience'' or ''atmos'' ("atmosphere").
* ''Foley sound effects'' are sounds that synchronize on screen, and require the expertise of a foley artist
to record properly. Footsteps, the movement of hand props (e.g., a tea cup and saucer), and the rustling of cloth are common foley units.
* ''Design sound effects'' are sounds that do not normally occur in nature, or are impossible to record in nature. These sounds are used to suggest futuristic technology in a science fiction film
, or are used in a musical fashion to create an emotional mood.
Each of these sound effect categories is specialized, with sound editor
s known as specialists in an area of sound effects (e.g. a "Car cutter" or "Guns cutter").
is another method of adding sound effects. Foley
is more of a technique for creating sound effects than a type of sound effect, but it is often used for creating the incidental real world sounds that are very specific to what is going on onscreen, such as footsteps. With this technique the action onscreen is essentially recreated to try to match it as closely as possible. If done correctly it is very hard for audiences to tell what sounds were added and what sounds were originally recorded (location sound).
In the early days of film and radio, foley artists would add sounds in realtime or pre-recorded sound effects would be played back from analogue discs in realtime (while watching the picture). Today, with effects held in digital format, it is easy to create any required sequence to be played in any desired timeline.
In the days of silent film, sound effects were added by the operator of a theater organ
, both of which also supplied the soundtrack of the film. Theater organ sound effects are usually electric or electro-pneumatic, and activated by a button pressed with the hand or foot.
Photoplayer operators activate sound effects either by flipping switches on the machine or pulling "cow-tail" pull-strings, which hang above. Sounds like bells and drums are made mechanically, sirens and horns electronically. Due to its smaller size, a photoplayer usually has fewer special effects than a theater organ, or less complex ones.
The principles involved with modern video game
sound effects (since the introduction of sample playback) are essentially the same as those of motion pictures. Typically a game project requires two jobs to be completed: sounds must be recorded or selected from a library and a sound engine must be programmed so that those sounds can be incorporated into the game's interactive environment.
In earlier computers and video game systems, sound effects were typically produced using sound synthesis
. In modern systems, the increases in storage capacity and playback quality has allowed sampled sound to be used. The modern systems also frequently utilize
3D audio effects are a group of sound effects that manipulate the sound produced by stereo speakers, surround-sound speakers, speaker-arrays, or headphones. This frequently involves the virtual placement of sound sources anywhere in three-dimensio ...
, often with hardware acceleration, and real-time audio post-processing, which can also be tied to the 3D graphics development. Based on the internal state of the game, multiple different calculations can be made. This will allow for, for example, realistic sound dampening, echoes and doppler effect.
Historically the simplicity of game environments reduced the required number of sounds needed, and thus only one or two people were directly responsible for the sound recording and design. As the video game business has grown and computer sound reproduction quality has increased, however, the team of sound designers dedicated to game projects has likewise grown and the demands placed on them may now approach those of mid-budget motion pictures.
Some pieces of music use sound effects that are made by a musical instrument or by other means. An early example is the 18th century Toy Symphony
. Richard Wagner
in the opera '' Das Rheingold
'' (1869) lets a choir of anvils introduce the scene of the dwarfs who have to work in the mines, similar to the introduction of the dwarfs in the 1937 Disney movie '' Snow White
''. Klaus Doldinger
s soundtrack for the 1981 movie '' Das Boot
'' includes a title score with a sonar sound to reflect the U-boat setting. John Barry
integrated into the title song of '' Moonraker
'' (1979) a sound representing the beep of a
Sputnik 1 (; see § Etymology) was the first artificial Earth satellite. It was launched into an elliptical low Earth orbit by the Soviet Union on 4 October 1957 as part of the Soviet space program. It sent a radio signal back to Earth for ...
The most realistic sound effects may originate from original sources; the closest sound to machine-gun fire could be an original recording of actual machine guns.
Despite this, real life and actual practice do not always coincide with theory. When recordings of real life do not sound realistic on playback, Foley and f/x are used to create more convincing sounds. For example, the realistic sound of bacon frying can be the crumpling of cellophane, while rain may be recorded as salt falling on a piece of tinfoil.
Less realistic sound effects are digitally synthesized
and sequenced (the same recording played repeatedly using a sequencer). When the producer or content creator demands high-fidelity sound effects, the sound editor
usually must augment his available library with new sound effects recorded in the field.
When the required sound effect is of a small subject, such as scissors cutting, cloth ripping, or footsteps, the sound effect is best recorded in a studio, under controlled conditions in a process known as foley
. Many sound effects cannot be recorded in a studio, such as explosions, gunfire, and automobile or aircraft maneuvers. These effects must be recorded by a professional audio engineer
When such "big" sounds are required, the recordist will begin contacting professionals or technicians in the same way a producer may arrange a crew; if the recordist needs an explosion, he may contact a demolition company to see if any buildings are scheduled to be destroyed with explosives in the near future. If the recordist requires a volley of
A cannon is a large-caliber gun classified as a type of artillery, which usually launches a projectile using explosive chemical propellant. Gunpowder ("black powder") was the primary propellant before the invention of smokeless powder durin ...
fire, he may contact historical re-enactors
or gun enthusiasts.
Depending on the effect, recordists may use several DAT
, hard disk
, or Nagra
recorders and a large number of microphones. During a
A cannon is a large-caliber gun classified as a type of artillery, which usually launches a projectile using explosive chemical propellant. Gunpowder ("black powder") was the primary propellant before the invention of smokeless powder durin ...
- and musket
-fire recording session for the 2003 film '' The Alamo
'', conducted by Jon Johnson
and Charles Maynes
, two to three DAT machines were used. One machine was stationed near the cannon itself, so it could record the actual firing. Another was stationed several hundred yards away, below the trajectory of the ball, to record the sound of the cannonball passing by. When the crew recorded musket-fire, a set of microphones were arrayed close to the target (in this case a swine
carcass) to record the musket-ball impacts.
A counter-example is the common technique for recording an automobile. For recording "Onboard" car sounds (which include the car interiors), a three-
A microphone, colloquially called a mic or mike (), is a transducer that converts sound into an electrical signal. Microphones are used in many applications such as telephones, hearing aids, public address systems for concert halls and pub ...
technique is common. Two microphones record the engine directly: one is taped to the underside of the hood, near the engine block. The second microphone is covered in a wind screen
and tightly attached to the rear bumper, within an inch or so of the tail pipe. The third microphone, which is often a stereo
microphone, is stationed inside the car to get the car interior.
Having all of these tracks at once gives a sound designer
or audio engineer
a great deal of control over how he wants the car to sound. In order to make the car more ominous or low, he can mix in more of the tailpipe recording; if he wants the car to sound like it is running full throttle, he can mix in more of the engine recording and reduce the interior perspective. In cartoons, a pencil being dragged down a washboard may be used to simulate the sound of a sputtering engine.
What is considered today to be the first recorded sound effect was of
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the Great Clock of Westminster, at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, England, and the name is frequently extended to refer also to the clock and the clock tower. The official ...
striking 10:30, 10:45, and 11:00. It was recorded on a brown wax cylinder
by technicians at Edison House in London on July 16, 1890. This recording is currently in the public domain.
As the car example demonstrates, the ability to make multiple simultaneous recordings of the same subject—through the use of several DAT or multitrack
recorders—has made sound recording into a sophisticated craft. The sound effect can be shaped by the sound editor
or sound designer
, not just for realism, but for emotional effect.
Once the sound effects are recorded or captured, they are usually loaded into a computer
integrated with an audio
non-linear editing system
Non-linear editing is a form of offline editing for audio, video, and image editing. In offline editing, the original content is not modified in the course of editing. In non-linear editing, edits are specified and modified by specialized s ...
. This allows a sound editor
or sound designer
to heavily manipulate a sound to meet his or her needs.
The most common sound design tool is the use of layering to create a new, interesting sound out of two or three old, average sounds. For example, the sound of a bullet impact into a pig carcass may be mixed with the sound of a melon being gouged to add to the "stickiness" or "gore" of the effect. If the effect is featured in a close-up, the designer may also add an "impact sweetener" from his or her library. The sweetener may simply be the sound of a hammer pounding hardwood, equalized
so that only the low-end can be heard. The low end gives the three sounds together added weight, so that the audience actually "feels" the weight of the bullet hit the victim.
If the victim is the villain, and his death is climactic, the sound designer may add
Reverberation (also known as reverb), in acoustics, is a persistence of sound, after a sound is produced. Reverberation is created when a sound or signal is reflected causing numerous reflections to build up and then decay as the sound is abso ...
to the impact, in order to enhance the dramatic beat. And then, as the victim falls over in slow motion, the sound editor may add the sound of a broom whooshing by a microphone, pitch-shifted down and time-expanded to further emphasize the death. If the film is science-fiction, the designer may phaser
the "whoosh" to give it a more sci-fi feel. (For a list of many sound effects processes available to a sound designer, see the bottom of this article.)
When creating sound effects for films, sound recordists and editors do not generally concern themselves with the verisimilitude or accuracy of the sounds they present. The sound of a bullet entering a person from a close distance may sound nothing like the sound designed in the above example, but since very few people are aware of how such a thing actually sounds, the job of designing the effect is mainly an issue of creating a conjectural sound which feeds the audience's expectations while still suspending disbelief.
Sci-fi and fantasy genres can be more forgiving in terms of audience expectations; the listener won’t be caught off guard as much by unusual sound effects. In contrast, when creating sound effects for historical accuracy and realism, the listener likely had a lifetime of exposure to some of these sounds and so there are expectations of what they should sound like.
In the previous example, the phased 'whoosh' of the victim's fall has no analogue in real life experience, but it is emotionally immediate. If a sound editor
uses such sounds in the context of emotional climax or a character's subjective experience, they can add to the drama of a situation in a way visuals simply cannot. If a
Visual effects (sometimes abbreviated VFX) is the process by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of
a live-action shot in filmmaking and video production.
The integration of live-action footage and other live-action foota ...
artist were to do something similar to the 'whooshing fall' example, it would probably look ridiculous or at least excessively melodramatic.
The "Conjectural Sound" principle applies even to happenstance sounds, such as tires squealing, doorknobs turning or people walking. If the sound editor wants to communicate that a driver is in a hurry to leave, he will cut the sound of tires squealing when the car accelerates from a stop; even if the car is on a dirt road, the effect will work if the audience is dramatically engaged. If a character is afraid of someone on the other side of a door, the turning of the doorknob can take a second or more, and the mechanism of the knob can possess dozens of clicking parts. A skillful Foley artist
can make someone walking calmly across the screen seem terrified simply by giving the actor a different gait.
In music and film/television production, typical effects used in recording and amplified performances are:
* '' echo
'' – to simulate the effect of reverberation in a large hall or cavern, one or several delayed signals are added to the original signal. To be perceived as echo, the delay has to be of order 35 milliseconds or above. Short of actually playing a sound in the desired environment, the effect of echo can be implemented using either analog
methods. Analog echo effects are implemented using tape delay
or delay lines.
* '' flanger
'' – to create an unusual sound, a delayed signal is added to the original signal with a continuously variable delay (usually smaller than 10 ms). This effect is now done electronically using DSP
, but originally the effect was created by playing the same recording on two synchronized tape players, and then mixing the signals together. As long as the machines were synchronized, the mix would sound more-or-less normal, but if the operator placed his finger on the flange of one of the players (hence "flanger"), that machine would slow down and its signal would fall out-of-phase with its partner, producing a phasing effect. Once the operator took his finger off, the player would speed up until its tachometer
was back in phase with the master, and as this happened, the phasing effect would appear to slide up the frequency spectrum. This phasing up-and-down the register can be performed rhythmically.
* '' phaser
'' – another way of creating an unusual sound; the signal is split, a portion is filtered
with an all-pass filter
to produce a phase-shift, and then the unfiltered and filtered signals are mixed. The phaser effect was originally used as a simpler implementation of the flanger effect since delays were difficult to implement with analog equipment. Phasers are often used to give a "synthesized" or electronic effect to natural sounds, such as human speech. The voice of
C-3PO () or See-Threepio is a humanoid robot character in the ''Star Wars'' franchise who appears in the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogy. Built by Anakin Skywalker, was designed as a protocol droid intended to ass ...
from '' Star Wars
'' was created by taking the actor's voice and treating it with a phaser.
Chorus may refer to:
* Chorus (song) or refrain, line or lines that are repeated in music or in verse
* Chorus effect, the perception of similar sounds from multiple sources as a single, richer sound
* Chorus form, song in which all verse ...
'' – a delayed signal is added to the original signal with a constant delay. The delay has to be short in order not to be perceived as echo, but above 5 ms to be audible. If the delay is too short, it will destructively interfere with the un-delayed signal and create a flanging
effect. Often, the delayed signals will be slightly pitch shifted to more realistically convey the effect of multiple voices.
* '' equalization
'' – different frequency bands are attenuated
or boosted to produce desired spectral characteristics. Moderate use of equalization (often abbreviated as "EQ") can be used to "fine-tune" the tone quality of a recording; extreme use of equalization, such as heavily cutting a certain frequency can create more unusual effects.
Filter, filtering or filters may refer to:
Science and technology
* Filter (higher-order function), in functional programming
* Filter (software), a computer program to process a data stream
* Filter (video), a software component th ...
'' – Equalization is a form of filtering. In the general sense, frequency ranges can be emphasized or attenuated using low-pass
A band-pass filter or bandpass filter (BPF) is a device that passes frequencies within a certain range and rejects ( attenuates) frequencies outside that range.
In electronics and signal processing, a filter is usually a two-p ...
filters. Band-pass filtering of voice can simulate the effect of a telephone because telephones use band-pass filters.
* '' overdrive
'' effects such as the use of a
Distortion and overdrive are forms of audio signal processing used to alter the sound of amplified electric musical instruments, usually by increasing their gain, producing a "fuzzy", "growling", or "gritty" tone. Distortion is most commonl ...
can be used to produce distorted sounds, such as for imitating robotic voices or to simulate distorted radiotelephone traffic (e.g., the radio chatter between starfighter pilots in the science fiction film '' Star Wars
''). The most basic overdrive effect involves ''clipping'' the signal when its
In mathematics, the absolute value or modulus of a real number x, is the non-negative value without regard to its sign. Namely, , x, =x if is a positive number, and , x, =-x if x is negative (in which case negating x makes -x positive), ...
exceeds a certain threshold.
* '' pitch shift
'' – similar to pitch correction, this effect shifts a signal up or down in pitch. For example, a signal may be shifted an octave up or down. This is usually applied to the entire signal, and not to each note separately. One application of pitch shifting is pitch correction
. Here a musical signal is tuned to the correct pitch using digital signal processing techniques. This effect is ubiquitous in karaoke machines and is often used to assist pop singers who sing out of tune. It is also used intentionally for aesthetic effect in such pop songs as Cher
's " Believe
Madonna Louise Ciccone (; ; born August 16, 1958) is an American singer-songwriter and actress. Widely dubbed the " Queen of Pop", Madonna has been noted for her continual reinvention and versatility in music production, songwriting, a ...
Die Another Day
''Die Another Day'' is a 2002 spy film and the twentieth film in the ''James Bond'' series produced by Eon Productions. It was produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, and directed by Lee Tamahori. The fourth and final film starr ...
* '' time stretching
'' – the opposite of pitch shift, that is, the process of changing the speed of an audio signal without affecting its pitch.
A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior. That is, it naturally oscillates with greater amplitude at some frequencies, called resonant frequencies, than at other frequencies. The oscillations in a resonato ...
'' – emphasize harmonic frequency content on specified frequencies.
* '' robotic voice effects
'' are used to make an actor's voice sound like a synthesized human voice.
* '' synthesizer
'' – generate artificially almost any sound by either imitating natural sounds or creating completely new sounds.
In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a periodic waveform, called the '' carrier signal'', with a separate signal called the ''modulation signal'' that typically contains informat ...
'' – to change the frequency or amplitude of a carrier signal in relation to a predefined signal.
In electronics, ring modulation is a signal processing function, an implementation of frequency mixing, in which two signals are combined to yield an output signal. One signal, called the carrier, is typically a sine wave or another simple ...
, also known as amplitude modulation, is an effect made famous by Doctor Who
The Daleks ( ) are a fictional extraterrestrials in fiction, extraterrestrial race of mutants principally portrayed in the British science fiction on television, science fiction television programme ''Doctor Who''. They were conceived by write ...
s and commonly used throughout sci-fi.
Compression may refer to:
*Compression (physics), size reduction due to forces
*Compression member, a structural element such as a column
*Compressibility, susceptibility to compression
* Gas compression
*Compression ratio, of a ...
'' – the reduction of the dynamic range of a sound to avoid unintentional fluctuation in the dynamics. Level compression is not to be confused with audio data compression
, where the amount of data is reduced without affecting the amplitude of the sound it represents.
* '' 3D audio effect
s'' – place sounds outside the stereo basis
sound on sound
''Sound on Sound'' is an independently owned monthly music technology magazine published by SOS Publications Group, based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The magazine includes product tests of electronic musical performance and recording devices, a ...
'' – to record over a recording without erasing. Originally accomplished by disabling the tape erase magnet. This allowed an artist to make parts of the work sound like a duet.
* '' reverse echo
'' – a swelling effect created by reversing an audio signal and recording echo and/or delay whilst the signal runs in reverse. When played back forward the last echos are heard before the effected sound creating a rush like swell preceding and during playback.
[ Jimmy Page of ]
Led Zeppelin were an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group comprised vocalist Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham. With a heavy, guitar-driven sound, they are cit ... used this effect in the bridge of Whole Lotta Love.
, a word that phonetically resembles the sound that it describes
The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect that has been used in a number of films and TV series, beginning in 1951 with the film '' Distant Drums''. The scream is usually used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from a ...
* Stock sound effect
How to make your own Foley sound effects