In this video by Andrew Saladino of the Royal Ocean Film Society, the importance of compelling sounds for storytelling is closely examined. With movie scene breakdowns from “THX 1138,” “Apocalypse Now,” “12 Years a Slave,” and many others, we are shown real examples of how the best in the business design their scenes to evoke precise emotions in the audience.
Ben Burtt, sound designer for “Star Wars,” makes a point that both literal and non-literal sounds should be considered when creating the atmosphere for a scene. Not all sounds should be included in a scene just because in real life we would expect them. It’s a way to focus the audience on what really matters in the story, and sometimes backing off from complex sound mixes allows room for strong visual elements of the film.
The video introduces several more techniques to cue emotional responses in sound design such as layering and gradual buildups, and dramatic shifts from full sound to silence. There’s also much to be said for using sound as a way to independently move the story along rather than always relying on the on-screen visuals, or even using the audio element to contradict what viewers are seeing.
What are your favorite movies that best exemplify great sound design?