sound design

How to Use Sound to Heighten Emotions in a Film

The introduction of sound was perhaps the most dramatic advancement in the history of film. From chilling sound effects and atmospheric music to the witty dialogue between two characters, our favorite movies just wouldn’t be the same had they been made in the silent era. Just like the tremendous effort it takes to get the right shots and put them all together in post, adding sound effectively require immense creativity, skill, and attention.

Sound design and scoring adds a powerful layer of meaning to what we see on screen, creating a mood and making the story more impactful and memorable. For both the aspiring filmmaker and sound expert looking to work in film, here’s how the three major types of sound in film are used to heighten emotion — and remember, sometimes there’s no better way to get a response from the audience than by having moments with no sound at all:

Sound Effects

The world is full of sound, and we as humans are very sensitive to what we hear. One of the most powerful uses of sound in film involves simply interpreting and conveying how natural (or everyday) sounds affect how we feel. Sound also works to affect mood by simulating reality and creating illusions.

For example, if a woman is shown sitting alone in her room with a book, the average viewer will absorb a completely different mood if 1) we hear children playing in the background or 2) we hear loud thunder and rain. Pouring rain accompanied by frightening thunder makes us feel anxious even though they are sound effects added by a talented editor. When the woman then hears a booming knock on her door, you can bet a sound designer chose the perfect sound to give viewers a startling, curious effect.

Dialogue

You may not have realized it, but dialogue is a very powerful way in which sound is used to heighten emotions in film. Dialogue is an incredibly effective way of getting the audience introduced to a character, hooked into a story, or transported to a different state of mind. The way two or more characters on screen speak to one another makes all the difference for your audience, and it’s an important consideration if you want the right mood for your story. It’s not only what your characters say, but how they say it.

We can’t think of a better example than when we first meet Vito Corleone in The Godfather. After the balding man explains the awful situation about his beaten daughter, we might expect Corleone to show some sympathy, maybe even outrage. Instead, Marlon Brando’s excellent voice and line delivery helps give the immediate impression that Corleone is no ordinary man; he is actually insulted by the man’s request. The manner of speech in which dialogue is delivered, and Marlon Brando’s iconic vocal choices in character, are great examples of how dialogue can serve as an essential tool if you’re using sound to influence a scene’s atmosphere.

Music

Close Up Shot of Girl Wearing Black Wired Headphones Photo by Gavin Whitner (musicoomph.com)

Music is one of the most powerful elements a filmmaker can call upon when it comes to leveraging sound to craft atmosphere in film. Audiences may have grown accustomed to hearing moving symphonies during war scenes, and completely different music when the secret admirers finally confess their love to one another, but the fact that in reality we don’t have music accompanying major moments in our life makes this film convention all the more compelling. It’s a powerful way to tap into the emotion you’re trying to convey.

Use music carefully in your film to not only cue viewers into how to feel, but to also get an emotional response. For example, horror movies are famous for using music to create tension just before a jump scare or horrifying moment, and pacing the music of your film score with silence can have a profound effect. If you really want to play with the audience’s emotions, consider mixing things up to. For example, Scorsese’s brilliant choice of an upbeat song during a montage of corpse after corpse in Goodfellas made those scenes more jarring and impactful than if a somber track had been played.

What are your favorite examples of a powerful use of sound in cinema? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about Filmmaking at the New York Film Academy.

Best Free Game Engines and Development Software

Is the only thing keeping you from transforming your great game idea from dream to reality your wallet? Well then, you will be happy to hear that there are excellent free / open source software packages in every discipline you need to build a great game. Sections include game engines, 2D art, 3D art and animation, sound design, and project management. Everything on the list below is used by professional game developers.

Best Free Game Engines – Unity and Unreal

One of your first key decisions as a game developer is which game engine you will use. Game engines provide you ways to quickly implement core game functions like physics, rendering, scripting, collision detection, and much more without the need to custom code them. They provide tested, reusable components that allow you to build more quickly and focus on making a great player experience.

The most prevalent platforms used by professional game studios today are Unity and Unreal. Amazingly, both platforms are now free to develop in. Both are great and do many of the same things, so deciding between the two comes down to user preference.

#1: Unity 

Our platform at NYFA Games is Unity for two reasons.

Firstly, Unity gives developers to build functioning games with little coding — e.g. through use of drag and drop features. However, it also has the full power of object oriented programming through scripting languages with the most prevalent choice being C# (pronounced “C sharp”).

Secondly, Unity allows developers to write their programs once and output to the top 25 game platforms including Windows, Mac, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Oculus Rift, and many more. Have a look at Gamblingapps.com to find out which gambling apps make most money and developed on which software. Games made with Unity include: “Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft,” “Deus Ex: The Fall,” “Assassin’s Creed: Identity,” “Temple Run Trilogy,” “Battlestar Galactica Online,” and many more.

#2 Unreal 

Unreal was created for it namesake (the Unreal franchise) and is a top of the line game engine through and through. When using this tool you are given the full force of a AAA tool. Games developed with Unreal include “Gears of War,” “Borderlands 2,” “Batman Arkham City,” “Bioshock,” “Mass Effect 2,” and more. Game developers of this free slot games website have used Unreal to develop the slot machine games. Have a look at their website if you want to learn more about the games

Honorable Mention: Amazon Lumberyard

Lumberyard is a relative newcomer to the game engine space. It is a free AAA engine that is deeply integrated with the Amazon Web Server (AWS) platform and Twitch.

All of the engines we recommend are fully documented and come with a slew of tutorials online.

Best Free 2D Art Software – GIMP

Compelling art is the make-or-break point on whether a new player will be willing to try a new game.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is the open source version of the industry standard graphic design program, Adobe Photoshop. GIMP is a freely distributed program for image authoring, graphic design, and photo manipulation. Use GIMP to start your game art. Check out a world of tutorials on the web.

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Best Free 3D Art and Animation Software – Blender

MAYA, MAYA, MAYA — is all everyone says these days when it comes to 3D asset creation, and for good reason! Yet Maya’s price tag of $180 / month leads some developers to the great, functional open source alternative, Blender.

What GIMP is to Photoshop, Blender is Maya. It is your one stop shop for 3D modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, and more.

Special note for those who have a .edu email address: MAYA reduces its price tag to $0 for three years! All you need is a .edu email and you can hang with the best of them. More info here.

Best Free Sound Design Software – Audacity

With the emergence of virtual reality and augmented reality, the demand for great sound design is stronger than ever. This is especially true because of the need to communicate location in VR and AR to create an immersive experience. The open source leader today is Audacity

This software is being used by game developers, musicians, podcasters, filmmakers, and other creative people. It is approaching its year 10 anniversary and going strong, so you know it isn’t going to disappear any time soon.

Best Free Project Management Software – Trello

There are many free online collaboration tools. Trello is our current favorite because of it’s ease of use, flexibility, and ability to integrate other platforms such as Dropbox and Google Drive. Trello also lets you run AGILE development and SCRUM with a little know how. Check it out here.