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. These are normally 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, music, 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 or flanging effects, often are called "sound effects".
The term sound effect ranges back to the early days of radio. In its Year Book 1931 the BBC 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":
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:
Each of these sound effect categories is specialized, with sound editors known as specialists in an area of sound effects (e.g. a "Car cutter" or "Guns cutter").
Foley 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 or photoplayer, 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 less 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 positional audio, 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 Doldingers 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 like satellite.
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 or sampled 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. Such small sounds are often delegated to a foley artist and foley editor. 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 sound effects editor or a professional sound effects recordist.
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 cannon 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 cannon- 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-microphone 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 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. 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 reverb 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.
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 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:
Bling-bling, often shortened to just bling, is a slang term popularized in hip hop culture, referring to flashy, ostentatious, or elaborate jewelry and ornamented accessories that are carried, worn, or installed, such as cell phones or tooth caps. The term was first used in rap by Dana Dane in "Nightmares" on Dana Dane with Fame in 1987 referring to the sound effect of tinkling bells that was used on cartoon shows to demonstrate the shininess and desirability of gold coins, money, jewelry or gems when they were displayed on-screen. It was later popularized by Cash Money Millionaires in the song "Bling Bling" in 1999.Castle thunder (sound effect)
Castle thunder is a sound effect that consists of the sound of a loud thunderclap during a rainstorm. It was originally recorded for the 1931 film Frankenstein, and has since been used in dozens of films, television programs, and commercials.Cue (theatrical)
A theatrical cue is the trigger for an action to be carried out at a specific time. It is generally associated with theatre and the film industry. They can be necessary for a lighting change or effect, a sound effect, or some sort of stage or set movement/change.Delirious (Prince song)
"Delirious" is a song by American musician Prince, from his 1982 album, 1999. It was the album's third single, and Prince's second top 10 hit, reaching number 8 in the US during the fall of 1983. The success of the single was boosted by the runaway success of the previous single, "Little Red Corvette", and also because DJs often played the first three album tracks in sequence, which just happened to be the order of the singles released from the album.Distant Drums
Distant Drums is a 1951 American "Florida Western" film directed by Raoul Walsh and starring Gary Cooper. It is set during the Second Seminole War in the 1840s, with Cooper playing an Army captain who destroys a fort held by the Spanish gunrunners then retreats into the Everglades while under chase.
The actual location of the fort in the film was the historic Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, where most of the filming took place.
The enduring legacy of this movie is the earliest known use of the Wilhelm scream sound effect, originally used to vocalize a character being bitten by an alligator.Down for My N's
"Down for My N's" (written and stylized as Down 4 My N's on the Snoop Dogg releases) is a song by C-Murder featuring Snoop Dogg and Magic from Dogg's fourth album, No Limit Top Dogg and C-Murder's Trapped in Crime. Kanye West included an interpolation of this song in his song "Blood on the Leaves", and Khia included an interpolation for her song "Fuck Dem Other Hoes" from her debut album. There are two edited versions of "Down for My N's"; one uses amended lyrics, for example "Touch them other Hittas cause I'm down for my Hittas", which is used on the radio and the other uses an gun sound effect and backmasking to censor swearing, which is on the clean version of the latter albums.Gorgar
Gorgar is a 1979 pinball machine designed by Barry Oursler and released by Williams Electronics.
Gorgar was the first 'talking' pinball machine. With a vocabulary of seven words (Gorgar, Speaks, Beat, You, Me, Hurt, Got) The words could be combined together for different phrases, such as "Gorgar speaks" and "Me got you." The pinball machine also has a heart beat sound effect that increases in speed during longer game play.High Hopes (Pink Floyd song)
"High Hopes" is the eleventh and final track from the 1994 Pink Floyd album The Division Bell, composed by guitarist David Gilmour with lyrics by Gilmour and Polly Samson. Its lyrics speak of the things one may have gained and lost in life, written from Gilmour's autobiographic perspective. Gilmour has said that the song is more about his early days, and leaving his hometown behind, than about the seeds of division supposedly planted in Pink Floyd's early days. Douglas Adams, a friend of Gilmour, chose the album title from one verse in this song. Live versions are featured on Pink Floyd's Pulse, as well as Gilmour's In Concert, Remember That Night, Live in Gdańsk and Live at Pompeii releases. On Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd, a somewhat shortened version of the song segues into Syd Barrett's "Bike". The segue is accomplished by cutting from the church bell at the end of "High Hopes" to a new bicycle bell sound effect before "Bike" begins. A 7-inch vinyl version of the single was released on a transparent record.
The final couplet from the song ("The endless river/Forever and ever") recalls a line from the band's second single, "See Emily Play", from 1967, ("Float on a river/Forever and ever") and inspired the name of their final studio album, The Endless River, released in 2014.This song has an official music video directed by Storm Thorgerson.I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio
"I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio" is a song performed by Eric Idle, an English comedian and member of Monty Python. It mocks radio censorship of words considered inappropriate (such as "damn," "shit," "arse," etc.). Another similar song, also by Idle, is "The FCC Song", whose refrain "Fuck you very much" is directed at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. "I Bet You They Won't Play This Song on the Radio" touches on the same subject, but includes bleepings and comic sound-effect noises (such as "Cha-ching" or "Yeeaagh!") in place of actual profanity.The song first appeared on Monty Python's Contractual Obligation Album, and later appeared on two compilation albums: disc two of The Final Rip Off and the E.P. Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.Ironically, the song has been known to have been played on the radio quite frequently.Motion comic
A motion comic (or animated comic) is a form of animation combining elements of print comic books and animation. Individual panels are expanded into a full shot while sound effects, voice acting, and animation are added to the original artwork. Text boxes and sound effect bubbles are typically removed to feature more of the original artwork being animated. Motion comics are often released as short serials covering a story arc of a long running series or animating a single release of a graphic novel. Single release issues of a story arc are converted into ten- to twenty-minute-long episodes depending on content.Reverse echo
Reverse echo or reverse reverb, also known as backwards echo and reverse regeneration, is a sound effect created as the result of recording an echo or delayed signal of an audio recording played backwards. The original recording is then played forwards accompanied by the recording of the echo or delayed signal which now precedes the original signal.Shattered (song)
"Shattered" is a song by The Rolling Stones from their 1978 album Some Girls. The song is a reflection of American lifestyles and life in 1970s-era New York City, but also influences from the English punk rock movement can be heard.
Recorded from October to December 1977, "Shattered" features lyrics sung in sprechgesang by Jagger on a guitar riff by Keith Richards. Jagger commented in a Rolling Stone interview that he wrote the lyrics in the back of a New York cab. Most of Richards' guitar work is a basic rhythmic pattern strumming out the alternating tonic and dominant chords with each bar, utilising a relatively modest phaser sound effect for some added depth. Due to the absence of bassist Bill Wyman, the bass track is played by Ronnie Wood.
"Shattered" was released as a single in the United States with cover art by illustrator Hubert Kretzschmar and in 1979 climbed to number 31 on the Billboard Hot 100. The Rolling Stones performed the song live for an episode of Saturday Night Live.
A live version was captured during their 1981 tour of America and released on the 1982 live album Still Life. A second version, captured during the band's A Bigger Bang Tour, appears on Shine a Light. It would act as the opening song for the 1981 compilation Sucking in the Seventies, and the Stones included it on their career retrospective, Forty Licks, in 2002.
The 8-track tape of the Some Girls album features an edited version of "Shattered" clocking in at 2:45, with a shortened intro and guitar break. An instrumental version circulates among collectors.
The Weird Al Yankovic parody is called "Fatter".
During a 2013 fundraiser, Eddie Vedder played the guitar while Jeanne Tripplehorn sang "Shattered" doing a Julie Andrews impression.Spooky (Classics IV song)
"Spooky" was originally an instrumental song performed by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro), written by Shapiro and Harry Middlebrooks, Jr., which first charted in 1967 hitting #57 on the US pop charts. Its best-known version was created by James Cobb and producer Buddy Buie for the group Classics IV when they added lyrics about a "spooky little girl". Vocalist was Dennis Yost. The song is noted for its eerie whistling sound effect depicting the spooky little girl. It has become a Halloween favorite. In 1968, the vocal version of the song reached #3 in the U.S. (Billboard Hot 100) and #46 in the UK.Stock sound effect
A stock sound effect is a prerecorded sound effect intended to be reused with an entertainment product, as opposed to creating a new and unique sound effect. It is intended to work within a sound effect library.The Charge at Feather River
The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 Western film directed by Gordon Douglas, was originally released in 3D with lots of arrows, lances, and other weapons flying directly at the audience in several scenes.The movie is most notable for originating the name of the "Wilhelm scream", a sound effect used in the Star Wars film series, as well as countless other movies including the Indiana Jones franchise, Disney cartoons and The Lord of the Rings film series. In February 2018 it was announced Star Wars will no longer use Wilhelm scream. Sound designer Ben Burtt named the sound after "Pvt. Wilhelm", a minor character in the film who emits the famous scream after being shot by an arrow (although the recording actually originated in the Gary Cooper film Distant Drums in 1951). When the film screened at the Second World 3-D Expo at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre in 2006, much of the film-savvy audience broke into applause when Pvt. Wilhelm screamed.
The climax of the film has many similarities to the 1868 Battle of Beecher Island, though instead of Army Frontier Scouts, Madison's character recruits "the Guardhouse Brigade" from Army prisoners and arms them with repeating rifles. Some have also noticed that the plot bears a number of similarities to the later Major Dundee, directed by Sam Peckinpah in 1965, notably the journey leading up to the climactic stand-off.The Runners
The Runners are an American electronic and hip hop production duo from Orlando, Florida, consisting of Andrew "Dru Brett" Harr and Jermaine "Mayne Zayne" Jackson. They came together to form the team in 2000, but they have known each other since they were in kindergarten. They both have been influenced their entire lives by producers Timbaland and The Neptunes. Their trademark is an exhale sound effect ringing "Ahhh" at the beginning of their songs.They are best known for producing the hit singles "Go Hard" and "Hustlin'", by rappers DJ Khaled and Rick Ross respectively. They have produced songs for artists like Keyshia Cole, Kevin Cossom, Ace Hood, Chris Brown, Fat Joe, Juelz Santana, Nelly, Trip Lee, Jim Jones, Lil Wayne, Fabolous and Usher.Walla
In American radio, film, television, and video games, walla is a sound effect imitating the murmur of a crowd in the background. A group of actors brought together in the post-production stage of film production to create this murmur is known as a walla group. According to one story, walla received its name during the early days of radio, when it was discovered that having several people repeat the sound walla in the background was sufficient to mimic the indistinct chatter of a crowd. Nowadays, walla actors make use of real words and conversations, often improvised, tailored to the languages, speech patterns, and accents that might be expected of the crowd to be mimicked.
Walla is called rhubarb in the UK where actors say "rhubarb, rhubarb", rhabarber in Germany, rabarber in the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium) as well as Denmark, Sweden & Estonia, and gaya (がや) in Japan, perhaps in part reflecting the varying textures of crowd noise in the different countries. Other phrases are "peas and carrots", "watermelon cantaloupe" and "natter natter" (to which the response is "grommish grommish").Wilhelm scream
The Wilhelm scream is a stock sound effect that has been used in at least 389 films and countless TV series (as of July 2018), beginning in 1951 for the film Distant Drums. The scream is often used when someone is shot, falls from a great height, or is thrown from an explosion.
Most likely voiced by actor and singer Sheb Wooley, the sound is named after Private Wilhelm, a character in The Charge at Feather River, a 1953 Western in which the character gets shot in the thigh with an arrow. This was its first use from the Warner Bros. stock sound library, although The Charge at Feather River is believed to have been the third film to use the effect.The effect gained new popularity (its use often becoming an in-joke) after it was used in the Star Wars series, the Indiana Jones series, Disney cartoons, and many other blockbuster films, as well as many television programs, cartoons, and video games.