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The Sound Effects are Free

Authored By: 
Cavin Thuring, Technology Teacher

When I worked in the production/post-production business there was a running joke in our video and audio edit sessions: “The sound effects are free.”  Originally, this was due to the fact that clients often didn’t understand why they had to pay for them.  And so, we just gave them away for free as a perk.  More importantly, the joke applied to the way a client described an action they wanted to see in an animation.  Invariably the action was described with verbal sounds. For instance, “I don’t want the lightning to go ‘ke-POW,’ I want a ‘ker-rackle.’”  And almost always, the visual was conveyed successfully.

Now that I am at Beekman teaching 3D graphics animation,  I often have my students asking me how to do certain animations.  The other day a student asked me, “How do I make my plane go fast?”  I asked, “Fast? How so?”  “You know, whooooooosh.”  I laughed and said to myself, “Yes, the sound effects are free.”

The use of sound effects as descriptors is nothing new.  We all use them on a daily basis. But I was curious if there was any research on the value of sound effects beyond the obvious.  So I did a search at ERIC, the education resource site (eric.ed.gov), and discovered there is research on the cognitive impact of sound and sound effects on individuals.  Among various studies, it has been shown sound effects enhance the learning in toddlers and that sound has an obvious impact on the speed of visual processing based on when they are timed.  Indeed it appears that the use of irrelevant sound has a detrimental impact on memory retention.  Importantly, sound effects have been shown to help improve listening comprehension.

I finally came across a link to an article that discusses the use of sound to create mental images, which is tantalizingly close to a project I give to my Audio Mixing class in which I have them do a mix that tells a story.

And, to my 3D students, I will encourage them to use verbal sound effects to describe how they want their animations to look.  It’s good to use them; sound effects are free!

 

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