Tips That Will Take Your Sound Design to the Next Level



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You may have noticed that we just launched a new SFX feature on Artlist. That means that from now on, you can get unlimited downloads of sound effects with the same universal license that covers any video project, even commercial.

For this special occasion, we thought it would be cool to show you some pro sound design tips that will take your videos to the next level.

To see how sound design can impact your video, let’s take a look at the video we created to promote our sound effects bundle we gave away last Black Friday.

Here’s the video with only music:

And here’s the same video with only sound effects:


Use Different Layers of Sound

Don’t use just one sound effect; try stacking multiple sounds on top of the other. You can use similar sounds but make sure they’re not the same or that they cover different frequencies. If you have a low-frequency impact, pair it with a high-frequency one to get maximum depth. You can use filters to cut out either the low or high frequencies of a sound that you like and do the opposite on the second sound. For example, in the first shot of the video that begins with the astronaut, we used four layers of sound.

  1. People talking on radio communication
  2. An intro impact that starts the video
  3. Breathing sounds that add another dimension to the video
  4. Another impact sound

When you put all of them together, the result is captivating. 

Although both videos can work by themselves, the combination of music and sound effects can really bring your visuals to life.

Let’s dive into our sound design tips:

Use SFX to Smoothen Visual Transitions

Using the sound of the next shot before it appears makes the video transition smoother and more powerful. Here, we inserted the sound of the car before the cut, inserted the hit of the boxer after the cut and added another car sound for added effect. These three sounds help create an awesome and powerful transition.

Drama Enhancement

In the transition from the pool ball hit close-up to the SWAT team, we knew we needed a more powerful effect than a regular pool ball sound. We used three different impacts, and two of them had a riser effect. For the SWAT team shot, like with the astronaut, we used sounds that are not onscreen but are associated with the visual like police radio communication and gun loading – adding another dimension to the video.

You can use sound design to maintain the same level of intensity in your video by adding a dramatic effect as we did with the pool ball shot.

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Get Creative

Do you know what exploding strawberries sound like? That’s the job of a sound designer to figure it out. When you come across a visual with no obvious sound, try to figure out the textures and feelings it evokes and create a sound that matches that.

Here, we needed a sound that mixes mushy texture with an impact. So, to create the texture of the strawberries, we used two seemingly unrelated sounds, one of a man chewing and the other of bones breaking. We placed a low pass filter on both sounds to remove the high-frequency sounds to create a completely different sound. Then we added an impact and some whooshes, and there you have it, the sound of sweet strawberries falling apart in slow motion.

Play with low pass and high pass filters or use the equalizer (more on that later) to get new sounds from your existing sounds. You can get really creative with it.

Another example of how a low pass filter can affect your sound is the shot of the manta ray doing a 360 flip underwater. We placed a low pass filter on an existing water sound and we got something that sounds underwater.

Put It in Reverse

You can turn an impact into a riser by putting it in reverse speed. Just right-click on the sound, located on your timeline, go to Speed & Duration, then check the Reverse Speed box and now you have a cool riser. You can get creative with it by taking any sound and putting it in reverse speed and see (or hear) what kind of sound you get.

Use Panning

Another tip that can separate you from the amateur sound designer is using panning, a technique used in most movies by all the big sound designers. When you see somebody talking on the right side of the screen, you’re probably going to hear them more on the right side of the speakers. To fully grasp the power of panning, you need to put on your headphones.

We have a shot of birds crossing the frame from left to right, so to give this scene even more power, we created panning that moves from the left speaker all the way to the right. To go into the panning feature, just right-click on the small FX box on the sound layer, choose Panner and then on Balance. When you pan, know that the upper half of the layer represents the left speaker and the lower half represents the right speaker. Create keyframes and move one part to the left and the other to the right.

This is the result:

You can use the panning on multiple layers as we did in the car shot, which featured different three layers. Since the car is located on the right, we took the first layer to the extreme right of the speakers. We started the second layer in the middle and moved it to the right. The third layer remained centered. When you combine these three sounds, you get a much deeper sound that starts on the right and balances itself to the middle.

You can probably imagine that when you have different things crossing your frame from left to right and right to left, playing with the panning can be very powerful and could take your sound design to the next level. Some sounds already come with panning, so look out for that.

Use the Equalizer

We touched on this point when we talked about the low pass and high pass filters, but the equalizer gives you more flexibility since you can play with all the range of a sound’s frequencies. For example, let’s take the shot of the whiskey pouring into the glass and manipulate the regular sound of liquid pouring.

To open the equalizer, write EQ in the effects panel. Drag the parametric equalizer to the audio clip on the timeline and drop it. Go to the effect control panel, click on the small Edit button on the equalizer and now you can start playing with the EQ.

The high frequencies are on the right, the low frequencies are on the left, and In the middle, you guessed it, the middle frequencies.

If you take out the middle frequencies, for example, you get a more hollow sound. You can play with the equalizer to make your original sounds a lot more interesting.

Hope you found these sound design tips useful. Check out our new SFX catalog on Artlist, start downloading sound effects and use the techniques we showed you to take your sound design to the next level. Stay creative!

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