In a recent conversation with a director discussing their forthcoming project, it was said that there would be no need for sound effects (SFX). The comment gave me reason to reflect on the role sound plays when married to picture, whatever the format or medium.
Sound is another way to access what we see—a side door to the image, if you like. Dialogue, music and SFX, including Foley, are the elements we work with to create psychological and emotional responses, all directed to enhancing the story.
Somewhat ironically, our aim is for the audience not to notice our work—we want the audience to stay with the story, feeling comfortable, uncomfortable, excited, apprehensive and so on when prompted. Ultimately, storytelling is what we do.
Due to the high level of detail required when working with sound, you become intimate with the intent of those people who have been involved in the production prior to you. You find an emotional connection, and that connection is a powerful tool in creating a powerful soundtrack.
There is a perception amongst some that all the impact provided by sound comes from SFX, but every element plays a major role. Dialogue editing is much more than cleaning up production sound; whilst a lot of the dialogue edit is just that— removing dental clicks and taking out distracting sounds, etc.—by replacing a constant we can dramatically improve legibility whilst retaining the original performance. In the mix, a character with an annoying voice can be made more annoying by highlighting particular frequencies. By raising the level and adjusting the tonal characters of a person’s voice, we can make them seem more powerful and domineering.
It’s the attention to detail during the whole sound post-production period that makes the final mix so enjoyable; each element has its role to play, and, if done correctly, those perfect moments when sound and image become one are as rewarding for the audience as they are for the storyteller.