If you’ve ever cried over a movie or pooped yourself at a horror you’ll recognise the importance sound played in that... or maybe you didn’t because here’s the secret, great sound design is meant to be invisible! 🤯​​​​​​​

What sound does this image bring to mind?

Film and especially animation has the power to take us to a different world, flip our mood and open up our tiny little minds. Audio is the catalyst for that transition, you can’t underestimate it’s importance. Most of the time its the visuals and the story that we’ll remember, but it was the audio that made that world real, believable and tangible. 

Let’s get into it, but first, do me a favour, whack ya headphones on and volume up for this one! Fullscreen the videos to enjoy the hours of love that these artists put into their craft.

Let’s start with the obvious

The quickest way to set the tone of a piece is through music. Even before the visuals have given anything away, you can tell from the first six seconds that this isn’t going to be a deep, serious video putting the world to rights, you immediately get the feeling it’s aimed at a young audience. The beat drops in about 10 seconds and we know this is going to be a fun animation. From here visuals are matched perfectly to the beat to keep the viewer entertained.

Did you notice the crackle and static sound design added to the audio? Audio adds texture that the brain picks up on and sets the mood but we may not register consciously. It gives this video a vintage feel and this is matched with some ‘visual noise’ in the design, take another look if you missed it the first time.
Inspiration inception

Great sound design, just as in design and storytelling is about contrast. You need to experience the lows to appreciate the highs. This video about Inspiration starts with silence, well almost, in reality, its cleverly designed silence, the kind of background noise that the brain normally filters out but allows us to know something is coming and builds anticipation.

This use of contrast returns at 0:41 when a sound effect instigates a change of pace, or ‘the drop’ that is present at some point in nearly all remarkable animations. The beat returns at 0:49 seconds and drives the story onward. 

Sometimes sound effects (SFX) are essential, take a look at the 1-minute mark, we can see its an alarm clock but if you were to watch without audio can you tell what it is? 
Without the sound effects of glass shattering it’s not clear from the visual that this is a clock that has broken apart. The sound is the story if only for a brief moment. Watch out for these subtle sound design elements next time you're watching Netflix.
Psychology of sound - what we can learn from cinema

Animation is a great tool for business because it’s so engaging, and creates strong emotional responses. Film and video are so embedded in our culture that animation can easily tap into those previous experiences. If you hold the viewer’s attention and entertain or educate them, they’ll understand what you do, they're more likely to buy your product and they’ll remember your brand. Sounds a key part of that.

Fight club just happens to be one of my favourite films, watch and learn more about sound design in this fascinating breakdown of David Fincher classic.
All Sound design is a lie

Hopefully, you guessed that when you watch a film the sound of breaking bones isn’t really someone having their legs snapped for your entertainment. The sound is a porky pie (lie) we accept as true... but can you tell the difference between the sound of rain and frying bacon?
Check out the first minute of this TED talk, and let me know if you got it right!
P.S. I hope that you found this blog informative and entertaining and I’ve got plans to dig deeper and deeper into what makes an effective video by talking to experts over the next 12 months and sharing lots of insights so please checkout our other issues.

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