May 17, 2017

Watch: How You Can Harness the Power of Sound to Tell Better Stories

It's not just about what your audience sees that makes your film memorable, it's also about what they hear (or don't hear).

When making films, it's important to know which elements of storytelling to focus on the most. Of course, visuals always seem to be at the top of the list because when people think of movies they think images, but one component that often gets overlooked is sound. What your audience hears is just as, if not more, important than what they see, and in this video essay from The Royal Ocean Film Society you get to find out why, as well as what steps you can take to make the sound in your films more dynamic for your story.

"It's not about being noticeable or unnoticeable. It's about how the sound is being used to guide the audience."

There are many theories about what makes a good sound design; some say it's about making it unnoticeable to your audience, some say it's about making it stand out. But just like the video points out, it's really about using it in whichever way best delivers information to the viewer. 

And this is a crucial concept to understand as a filmmaker, because many times films will have these clunky expositional scenes in which characters will literally tell the audience what they're thinking and feeling. I don't like to deal in absolutes, but I will venture to say that it is absolutely always a better idea to show rather than tell. Of course, "showing" isn't always visual, and "telling" really just refers to explicit, rather than subtle, exposition.

The Royal Ocean Film Society gives a bunch of great examples of how filmmakers have cleverly used sound to transition from scene to scene, reveal something off-screen, and reveal emotional turmoil, psychological distress, as well as the inner workings of a character's mind. Explore these films and then experiment with the extremes of noise and silence. Find new ways to communicate with one of the more overlooked cinematic tools.      

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