Sound is incredibly important in films, from the musical score to dialogue and everything in between.
We’ve already explored how important a good soundscape is within a film; we’re not talking about the music here, but the additional sounds that set the scene, create the worlds and yet go almost completely unnoticed. You may be a sound producer who relies on the noise captured when filming, but that might not always convey your message. Imagine, if you’re shooting a war movie, there won’t be any ambient noise in the background, which suggests war is going on elsewhere; that will have to be added.
That is where the sound producer comes in, and it isn’t an easy job. Creating accurate, believable sounds is a challenge, but slotting them into a movie, so the viewer is led to a conclusion is even trickier. How can a sound, almost unheard amidst the score and dialogue, really change how a viewer perceives the overall presentation? Some films do it badly, but some do it very, very well.
If you are interested in how a film can benefit from sounds you don’t know you need to hear, then here are some fine examples of good cinema made great by sound effects, equipment and a lot of producer skill.
Star Wars changed pop culture forever, according to a Cleveland article, and it did the same for sound. It broke the mould in terms of what producers could achieve, adding layer upon layer of great sound to a classic film. The clip we’ve selected is the obvious one, those light sabres were an integral part of the film, and the sounds still resonate today. Away from that, think about Chewbacca’s strained yelps or the zipping noises from a TIE fighter in action. All came from the genius of sound design Ben Burtt, a creative sound master who achieved great things without much of today’s equipment.
Quentin Tarantino is a master of creating cinematic masterpieces, and Inglorious Basterds is no exception. Like many of his works, Foxy Bingo details that it is a dark comedy with an emphasis on dark. Paul Aulicino was the film’s sound effects editor, and some of his work is so subtle, you might miss it. Take the classic scalping scene from the end of the movie; you hear it happening even though no actual actors were scalped (we hope). That’s great sound production, but there’s another reason for including the film; the lack of effects in key parts. Brad Pitt’s character, Aldo Raine, gives a speech about hunting Nazis and, if you listen carefully, there is no sound in the background. No birds, no wind, nothing. It is a great use of one of cinema’s most powerful sounds, silence, to accentuate the dialogue.
A good sound producer has to match events on screen to their chosen effect, which can be a challenge, but what about matching it to CGI effects? Jurassic Park might look dated now, but it was widely accepted as a huge leap forward for cinema at the time. Whilst praise was heaped upon the film, especially the visuals, sound designer Gary Rydstrom warrants a big mention. The iconic T-Rex roar terrifies filmgoers, whilst some of the other dinosaur noises felt real, even though there is no actual source material to work with. To make something sound real, when nobody has any idea what it actually sounds like, is pure sound technician genius.