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The Creative Edge

Why Music and Sound Effects Are Important for Your Video

March 28, 2017 / in Blog, Post Production, Russ Johnson / by Russ Johnson

My first serious reflections on the topic of motion picture sound design were inspired by none other than famed character actor, John Lithgow, and equally renowned urban legend, Bigfoot. Reportedly friends since appearing together in an off-Broadway production of Streetcar Named Desire, the two got a chance to work together on the silver screen as co-stars in the heartwarming family comedy, Harry and The Hendersons. Years after warming the collective cockles of 1980’s America, the Amblin Entertainment classic would have bestowed upon it the greatest honor any motion picture can achieve: it inspired a theme park attraction. In 1990 Universal Studios opened the “Harry and the Hendersons Sound Effects Show,” and that very year this young, naive film enthusiast braved the blistering Burbank sun for an hour and 45 minutes to have his eyes (and ears) opened to the amazing power of good sound design.

The show was, not surprisingly, filled with a surplus of family-friendly hijinks. But more than that it offered some very real insights into how foley artists and sound editors transform films and television programs in frequently under-appreciated ways. And while I could recite in great detail every beat of the presentation, I will instead recount the single demonstration that struck me with the greatest impact.

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Why Music and Sound Effects are Crucial to Video

Early in the proceedings, a pivotal scene from the Academy Award winning opus (That’s right. Look it up.) is played for the audience without the benefit of sound design. In all my years of consuming polished, fully realized media, I had never experienced anything in which this vital component had been stripped away. The result was doleful and incomplete. The scene lacked snap. The otherwise hilarious jokes fell flat. But as the onstage presenters layered in sound effects and music, the scene came alive. This was the Harry and the Hendersons I knew, the film that moved me to full-throated spasms of laughter, and I’m not ashamed to admit, unrepentant tears of joy.

But I digress. Take away my sentimental ramblings and you’re still left with one simple action item. When crafting a powerful piece of video, don’t banish considerations of sound and sound design to the woodshed of afterthought. As consumers of video (across social media, YouTube, and the likes), we often focus on a beautifully composed shot and stunning visuals, but there’s so much more that goes into a good video. A lot of very important decisions go into the creation of any video project, and since sound design comes so near the end of the process it doesn’t always get the consideration it deserves. Like good casting, clever scripting, or vibrant color grading, a good sound mix can enhance the impact of your video, ensuring greater reach and enduring audience appeal. If you doubt it, just try to imagine the powerful closing moments of Harry and Hendersons without Lithgow’s husky sobs or Harry’s perfectly modulated grunts of existential angst.

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Sound and Social Video

What about video on social media? Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter automatically play your video in a feed with the sound off. If music and sound effects are so important, how do you work around these sound-off environments?

 

Sound adds dimensionality to your video. Regardless of the platform, be aware that it should do the same in sound-off environments. So, my advice remains the same. Don’t leave music and sound effects as an afterthought — plan it out before hitting post production. Think about what music will elicit the emotion you want from viewers; find the right sound effects to play off of what’s happening on screen and immerse your audience in the experience. Give viewers a little more if they were to turn on the sound, an added level of engagement if they click into the post.

Still curious about what music and sound effects can do for your video? Head on over to the AMP Labs page of our website for a light-hearted demonstration of just how dramatically music and sound effects can transform the overall feel of your video!

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About Russ Johnson

Russ Johnson likes putting things together: puzzles, Ikea furniture, and riveting video content. Being AMP’s Senior Editor and Post Production Supervisor affords him the opportunity to do all three. If you have a story to assemble using compelling visuals, stellar performances, or mesmerizing sound, come to AMP and let him put something together for you.

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