Are you someone who likes to deep dive into every possible creative process of video creation? Perhaps you’d like to have a go at creating your own sound effects? Find out how to do just that, right here!

Have you ever watched a film and thought, “hang on, I’ve heard that same scream before”? More than likely, that would be the Wilhelm Scream, a stock sound effect synonymous with characters getting brutally shot or knocked down from a great height. From Star Wars to Kung Fu Panda, this famous yell has been used in over 100 films. Yes, it is an iconic Hollywood stalwart, but wouldn’t it be cool to freshen things up a bit? Now, I’m not saying you need to grab a microphone and belt out your best blood-curdling scream – think of the neighbours. If you’ve had a go at making a stop motion video, you’ll know they can be great fun and present loads of cool sound effects opportunities. If you haven’t met these little guys already, allow me to introduce you to clay wonders, Morph and Chas.

Created by the legends that are Aardman, these little animations highlight perfectly how straightforward and rudimentary tools can create engaging and effective sound effects (SFX). Tapping wooden blocks and fiddling with squeaky hinges is just the start. Did you know that a lot of gruesome bone snapping noise is created by breaking celery (also a bit gross, but that’s just me) in two? So, surround yourself with a plethora of random objects and get stuck in!

Make a Plan

The prospect of creating your own audio effects is exciting, but be careful not to charge in without a plan. As with any project, getting going with a whirlwind of ideas in your head isn’t going to be the best route of attack. Ensure you know the video you are creating effects for like the back of your hand. Knowing how each scene plays out will help you to map out your ideas and position the sounds. Getting this down on a piece of paper or some physical medium is a fantastic method for visualising the intangible journey of sounds.

Foley & Sound Effects

Although the creation of Foley has changed dramatically over the decades, it can be helpful to approach it in the same way the originators would have. Create sounds in real time along with your video to get a feel for it. Of course these days you can reposition sounds to be in sync with the visual. But, the more in sync your sounds are when originally recording, the less editing will be needed in post. The core of Foley comes from surrounding yourself with tools and objects in a suitable room for recording. This is the fun part. You are going to need a lot of stuff, and I mean a lot. Some useful things to have to hand include pots and pans, wooden planks, glass bottles, foil, percussive instruments and gravel. Having said that, there are no rules about what to use, so get creative! Try tapping, scrunching, shaking and bashing different things to experiment with the sounds they make. You have to trust your ear here, as it’ll ultimately be you deciding whether ruffling a lettuce sounds anything at all like fire (I’m going to say probably not).

Recording & Mixing

A good microphone is essential for recording high quality SFX. A shotgun mic is often the best choice, due to its highly directional nature and ability to pinpoint sounds. There is a good amount of choice out there when it comes to digital audio workstations (DAWs). Utilising one of these is crucial for piecing your sounds together with your visual. Check out our article if you need help deciding on the best DAW for you. You will need to be able to cut and fade sounds, stretch time, play with pitch and add effects to make your SFX fit perfectly. This is arguably the most fiddly and technical part, but once you have a handle on your chosen DAW this part of the process can be just as fun as creating the sounds. Start small and simple. A short animation will be less daunting than tackling a half hour long episode. Don’t forget to store and catalogue your best sounds, and you will soon have built up a fantastic library of your very own SFX!


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