Sound design is the art of creating and/or adding audio to video during post-production. Sound design is a wide and creative canvas to build tension, add realism, affect emotion, shock an audience, and much more.

In the film industry, being a sound designer is often a dedicated role. Having a professional sound designer is an amazing luxury when the budget allows for it, but a lot of times video editors are responsible for this aspect of the project.

There are a few foundational types of sound design, such as whooshes and hits, foley, and ambience. Knowing how to use these common sound effects is important for every video editor.

 

Whooshes

Whooshes are one of the most common sound design tools for any project. There are virtually unlimited types of whooshes, but they all share a basic constitution. A whoosh refers to a (usually quick) swell of sound that starts quietly, ramps up in volume and intensity, and then dissipates in a similar fashion to how it started. Think of a typical whoosh sound to be like a quick burst of wind.

Whooshes are such an effective tool because they recreate the idea of motion. When you imagined that short burst of wind, you subconsciously understood that there was air moving fast enough to create that sound. When whoosh effects are synchronized to movement on the screen, it adds another sense of motion or speed for the viewer to internalize and relate to.

 

Whooshes In Films

Whooshes are all over Hollywood movies. Take a fighting scene, for example, and listen for a whoosh sound with every single punch and kick. A sound designer or video editor added these whoosh sounds during post-production. Even though those sounds might not be heard in real life, they help the viewer understand and internalize the speed and intensity of what is happening on screen.

Watch this famous scene from The Matrix to see how whooshes made the fight more visceral.

 

 

Whooshes With Motion Graphics

Since whooshes suggest the idea of speed or motion, they are very effective when accompanying animated text or graphics. Together, the visual and aural information gives the viewer a good idea of how quickly and intensely something is moving, even if it is just words on a screen.

Using whooshes with animated text makes the message feel more impactful. This is a common technique in movie trailers, commercials, and product videos because it adds energy and calls extra attention to the words or animations.

Check out this Nike sneakers commercial, which is all about speed. Try to notice as many whoosh sounds as you can, and then begin identifying why it was used. Was it to show the speed of the thread growing? The movement of a foot? A quick flash cut?

 

Explore whoosh sounds here.

 

Hits

Hits are just as common of a sound effect as wooshes. Also referred to as slams or impacts, hits are quick and loud sounds that can be used to add tension, intensity, or realism.

There are countless types of hit sounds. Hits can be recorded live or generated digitally using virtual drums or synthesizers. Imagine taking a heavy book and dropping it on a hard floor. If you were to capture that impact with a microphone, then you’d have your own hit. To create really massive hits, people will record the sound of a slamming car door inside a cement garage. That type of initial impact followed by the rich reverberations produce hits that are commonly used in movie trailers and other high-intensity edits.

If you don’t have the time or equipment to stop editing and run out to a garage to start slamming some doors, you’re in luck. Soundsnap also has a searchable library of thousands of different types of hits.

Hits have a uniquely recognizable audio waveform. There will be a large impact moment near the beginning followed by a decaying signal.

 

Hit Sound Wave

 

This waveform shape resembles that of a kick drum in music. This is an extremely useful similarity when figuring out exactly where to add hits to your edit. By synchronizing the peak of the hit with the peak of a kick drum, the sound effects will blend well with your music and stay in rhythm.

 

When to Use Hits

Using hits in conjunction with your edits can help elevate the overall experience. Below are a few common applications.

  • Movie Trailers
    • Hits in movie trailers are probably the most noticeable application. Hits are used to punctuate dialogue sound bites and to make the music more intense. Pull up your favorite trailers on YouTube and listen for sound designed hits for inspiration.
  • Logo Animations
    • In the commercial and advertising world, it is common practice to end each video with a company logo. Many big brands have their own sonic signature that accompanies the logo, such as Intel and HBO. However, if you’re doing projects for other brands, experiment with using hits when the logo appears to add impact and call attention to the brand. 
  • Narrative Development
    • In narrative work such as films and documentaries, there are often moments of realization for the characters or audience. This could be a protagonist realizing a major development or an interviewee sharing something extremely moving. Using hits as punctuation to thoughts and words can help drive home the full significance of that moment for the audience.  
  • Scare Tactic
    • Depending on the type of hit, the sharp impact of a sound can be quite startling. Hollywood movies are famous for using the “jump scare” tactic to thrill and shock the audience. Jump scares can be created by sudden loud sounds coupled with an action on screen when the audience isn’t expecting it. Sometimes, sound design can scare an audience all by itself.

 

Using whooshes and hits can not only be a lot of fun, but they are also the perfect gateway to understanding sound design as a whole. They’ll hone your skills of timing sound effects with the music and visuals, and start to open up other ideas of how to shape your edits through sound.

Sound Design Basics Part II: Foley coming shortly!

 

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AUTHOR
Jason Brandel,

Filmmaker/Video Editor

Jason is currently offering the Soundsnap community a 95% discount on his top-rated online course, The Complete Audio Guide for Video Editors, which includes 4.5 hours of in-depth video tutorials. Clicking the link automatically applies your discount.