How To Add Sound Effects

Sound effects are added into music, video and video games to creatively enhance the content of said media. In music recordings they are used to improve the quality, or aesthetically change the audio character of the recordings. In video production, such as film and television, they are used in support of the visual narrative. They play the same role in video games but with the added dimension of interactivity.

  1. Learn to operate audio editing software. The actual process of integrating sound effects depends on the type of media to which they are to be added. Nevertheless, the use of audio editing software will always be necessary as these types of applications are designed specifically to deal with audio data. Cutting a piece of sound effect audio into its proper time duration, converting it into an appropriate format, or designing a completely new sound - these are all operations that a professional audio editing software is capable of doing.
  2. Learn some basic principles of sound engineering. Since you'll be working with sound effects, familiarity with some sound engineering concepts is also necessary. What do the terms reverb, panning, master volume, chorus, noise reduction and equalization mean? How do they affect the final output? When should they be applied? You don't have to become a full-pledged sound engineer but having at least a layman's level of knowledge of such terms will save you from a lot of trial-and-error.
  3. Music. With recorded music, you'll only need the audio editing software. The musical piece is loaded into the application and the sound effects are either built-in features or plug-ins that can be directly applied. They can be integrated to the whole piece or into specific tracks or instruments. Different types of sound effects have their own parameters. Professional audio editing software usually enables individual tweaking of such parameters through pop-up windows. Since everything is digital, one can easily render changes in real-time or undo them with a few short cut keys.
  4. Video. Professional video editing software usually have their own set of audio editing features. Some are even powerful enough to provide separate audio tracks for dialogue, music and sound effects. In such cases, adding sound effects will be simply a matter of loading the particular audio file and placing it in its proper sequence in the timeline. In cases however where the video editing software can only give you a single audio track, it would be better to initially prepare the sound effect audio file in a separate audio editing software and then load it into the video editing application. This is necessary so that any manipulation you do to the sound effect audio does not also automatically apply to the dialogue and music audio.
  5. Video games. Being interactive, video games are non-sequential or non-linear in character. This means that visual and audio elements occur depending on what the player does. Unlike in the two previously discussed media, there are no timelines in video games. What you have instead is a branching flow chart of game events set and defined by the game's programming. Thus sound effects in video games are added and stored as discrete audio data files to be triggered by whatever in-game action the player initiates.

Back when digital media was still uncommon, people working with sound effects had to go out and record real sounds and manipulate them through complex configurations of separate analog machines. Nowadays everything can be done through a computer with one or two editing software applications. In fact there are now websites that offer libraries of sound effects plug-ins and actual sound effects audio files. One simply has to download them and use whatever is appropriate. Of course you'll still need to make sure that they are in a compatible format, cut them into the correct time duration and possibly adjust their volume and other audio properties.


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