“What you hear is just as important as what you see,” California-based director, filmmaker and cinematographer Ben Hess explains.

In this video, he describes how proper sound design and the right sound effects can be the difference between a good video and a great one.

“Filmmaking is a very visual art,” Ben explains “which means it’s centered on making the image look as best as possible,” but adds that audio is just as important as visuals. If, for some reason, while editing a clip or working on a piece of film and it just feels like it’s a little empty or flat, “more than likely the sound effects are what’s missing,” Ben advises.

Giving examples of two different clips - one an intro, the other an interview - Ben compares and contrasts how they work better by using additional sound effects like New York city streets and glitches on the intro title shot. You can, of course, use the natural audio from the camera, Ben explains, but adds “most cameras don’t have that great a microphone, so it’s necessary to recreate these everyday sounds present in the scene when editing later”. Something as simple as footsteps can be the difference. Ben advises that “one of the biggest, most important elements to put into your videos is footsteps, without footsteps it just feels as if something is missing within the scene”.

So how do you plan your sound design? Well, three ways. Simply look at your scene, your environment and the main action taking place, all of these elements add up to make the scene possible. “Epidemic Sound has a vast library of very precise sound effects and pretty much every scenario in videos,” Ben explains, adding “sometimes you may have to think outside the box as to what sound effect you’re actually looking for, you want to layer in your sound effects so that your sound design is not too loud but not too quiet either; you can also play with the pitch and sound of each sound effect to get it”.

Once you’re all done with your sound design, a little tip is to close your eyes and just listen to what’s going on –– you should be able to get a good idea as to what’s going on just by only using your ears to listen and see if you can follow the storyline without using your eyes. Before finishing editing, Ben suggests listening to your sound on multiple devices to make sure it sounds good across the board – from your computer to your phone to your car speaker.

Or, have the forethought to make your own. It’s so easy to make your own custom sound effects if you take your sound recorder with you while you’re filming on location – “take a moment to capture those particular sound effects after you’ve filmed a scene, as its much better quality than the camera microphone itself,” Ben finishes. Filmmaking is about opening your eyes, and ears, to the audience.

You can follow Ben Hess on YouTube and Instagram.


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