Creative sound effect design is about collecting, creating and manipulating sounds that we all hear and recognize and then to replay in a story to help aid our imagination, to immerse us deeper into a story, to forgot our surroundings and be transported to another world. Thunder and rain to evoke a stormy night, birdsong for a sunny day or busy chatter for a bar or restaurant.
Some of these techniques are as old as storytelling itself. Big bass drums or sheets of metal to signify thunder, canvas running over a drum for wind and yes, even coconuts for horses hooves. We’ve moved on a bit but the fundamental is much the same.
Here’s where it starts to get fun. We all associate certain sounds with certain things. We all have sound memories. The sound of waves is a good example. Waves crashing on a beach could mean we think of sunny days, it could also mean drizzle and fish and chips, it might mean isolation and loneliness or even a shipwreck. The sound, like smells, can conjure up images of memories that transport (the listener) to where the story is taking you. The job of the sound designer is to find the right sound that conjures the right image or memory - a memory shortcut. It’s unique, you cant really do it with light or even objects.
There are sounds that we all recognise; some real and some not. We’ve been taught certain sound languages through film and TV and some are part of our DNA. The sound of a telephone conversation, the wheels of a plane as it comes into land, the sound of a lightsabre or the TARDIS landing. Ever wondered why you hear a red fox when anyone is about to be killed in Midsummer Murder or why when ever you watch a funeral scene in a movie you hear Crows. We also think that Sharks sound like a Cello. Sounds stick in our head - the same way we remember tunes to song. Again, the contemporary sound designers jobs is know these things and then use them to their advantage.