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The Role of Sound Effects in Captivating Your Audience

27 March 2024
The Role of Sound Effects in Captivating Your Audience

Claudia (1)

Author: Phil Pryor
Animator - Visual Domain

It is the end of the day, I just finished compiling all the shots I rendered for a Beard and Blade project. I neatly cut them into place within the timeline on Premiere Pro, with a soundtrack that's slapping in the background.

I’m scrubbing through it…it looks cool… but something is missing. A feeling. Something that should bring the audience in and engage with them on a level that's not quantifiable. Something immersive.

I am of course talking about Sound Effects. So, I spend some extra time sourcing some satisfying mechanical clicks, plastic foley and whooshes, and adding them into the sequence at specific spots. Timed and synchronised to when the electric razor bursts out of the box, moves and rotates around, switching heads and adjusting the wheel dial to raise the length of the blades. Voila! The video has been approved, the client is happy, and I made a video that I’m very proud of with how it turned out.


So what makes sound effects important? It's all about immersion. People can get very easily bored and distracted; so it's vital to grab their attention within the first few seconds after the video starts. Adding sound effects helps bridge the gap between the audience and your content.

Picture this: the everyday Coca-Cola commercial. We see amazing pans and close-up shots of the can tab being pulled and cracked open, followed by an extreme close-up shot of a chilled glass being splashed and poured with the delightful fizzing and bubbling thirst quencher. The glass fills up and reaches the rim of the glass, the ice cubes clink against each other, and the fizzing cola starts overflowing and spilling onto the counter. The camera zooms out, the beverage sitting proudly on the bench, ready to be consumed and the logo appears beside it.

While you were reading that, were you brought on a journey when I emphasised those sound effects as described in the commercial?

Now take away those sound effects and just leave the music and voiceover - what are you left with? I don’t intend to discredit the cinematography, but on its own - there is no engagement. There isn't anything drawing you in. But add in the sounds of cracking, a very brief spritz, liquid pouring and filling a glass and complemented with fizzing, bubbles, icecubes pushing against each other - voila! It not only looks delicious - it sounds delicious. You probably have just developed a sudden craving for cola, while reading this I wager. I’ll leave you to go quickly grab a cold beverage before you come back to continue reading this.


While you’re enjoying your refreshing, bubbling soft drink in a chilled glass, probably topped with some ice cubes, allow me to give you a brief history lesson. Get comfortable. 
The era of silent films peaked in the 1920s. Animated films like SteamBoat Willy by Walt Disney and Ub Iweks, used Live Pit Orchestras. Sound effects were actually written into the orchestra’s music; all recorded from instruments and synchronised to the film. 


Warner Bros released a film called the Jazz Singer in 1927, which sweeped the box office. The inclusion of recorded vocal dialogue and sounds was revolutionary. Audiences demanded more “Sound Pictures”. A year later, Universal Studios released a motion picture of the Broadway musical Showboat. Due to issues with syncing the sound effects with visual gestures; a Universal employee, Jack Foley, came up with an idea: to watch the film and perform all the sound effects at the same time. He would record the sounds of footsteps, hand claps and clothing passes. Hence the term “Foley Sounds” and “Foley “Artist” was born. Or to put it simply - the term for using everyday objects to generate sounds.

Fast forward to today; the film industry has significantly grown. In the modern era of smartphones, we are now able to record 8k high-definition video literally at our fingertips. We can now record high-quality surround sound and have the flexibility to manipulate audio around an edit freely.

For the majority of the projects I have worked on, I have always made the effort to add sound effects. Used mostly to emphasise points. If I am animating typography, for instance, I always compliment it by adding clicking sounds as each word pops up. If it is a sentence, I generally use the sound of a keyboard typing. It's as I said before - audience engagement. The message I am trying to convey is more likely to burn into your brain, because of the feeling the sounds invoke.

How do I decide which sound effects to use in my projects? Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. When I am animating text, I generally use mechanical clicks. There are a variety of sources I can get mechanical clicks from: Camera shutters, cassette tapes, packaging stamps, or even pen clicks.  

Or what if I am animating an interface with a view counter, where the numbers quickly cycle from zero to a million within a couple of seconds? 
Shuffling cards, flip books, rustling paper or even bike gears turning. 

You can watch any “behind the scenes” footage for any of your favourite animated films, and I guarantee you’ll watch a chapter on how the sound design was made. It's normally 1-2 employees in a room, watching the film, and using a variety of everyday household items to generate the sounds. Washboards, fabric cloths, sponges, you name it.

There’s a famous TedTalk by Tasos Frantzolas, where he goes through the process of sound design; by presenting three videos of rain in different locations. He initially claimed that for one of the videos, he replaced the audio with the sound of cooking bacon. He then challenged the audience to guess which video was the one with the sizzling bacon. After watching them, in a sudden twist, he revealed that all three videos had their audio replaced with the sound of bacon. 


So it really goes to show that when you’re scrubbing through the timeline of your video projects and there’s a section that requires some sound foley - sometimes the most obvious choice is not necessarily the right one. Even the sound of the Road Runner’s tongue blip, is just the sound of a guy putting his thumb in a Coke bottle.

Unless you’re looking to pursue a career in sound design, you thankfully won't need a recording booth or a hoarded collection of household items. There are many resources available online, such as:, or
All come with subscriptions/ pricing options, and more importantly - a licence to protect you from copyright infringements and potential lawsuits.

If you’re just starting out, there are even some free resources available out there, such as; or even the YouTube audio library. Just be mindful and check the creative commons licence and read what the terms are for usage before you consider utilising such resources.

So, when you’re in the post-production phase of your project and you’re in the midst of polishing it up - invest in the time to add some sound effects. Always think outside the box about what to use, and where to use it, and always be sure the sounds are coming from reputable sources. Or better yet, if you have the proper recording equipment - record the sounds yourself.

Sound effects can be applied to many different forms of media - tv shows, movies, radio dramas. Or even something more interactive, like mobile apps and video games. The audience immersion exists within those formats, because of anticipation - what we expect to hear and feel when we’re playing a side-scrolling platform game, and press the “A” button to make the character jump - you’re expecting to hear a bouncy, high-pitched sound

There is a phenomenon going around on social media, where if we look at a picture - we can hear it internally. Especially if it's something we’re very familiar with. Because people are exposed to this type of media on a daily basis - our brains have been trained to generate the sound effects. Not because we want to, but because we expect them to. That is the level of importance Sound Effects have, and how much they have influenced our view on media. That is the level of audience immersion it has evolved to.

While cinematography and editing are all very important steps for video production, sound effects can make a huge impact on retaining audience attention. We’re probably more likely to remember an important piece of information if it is accompanied by subtle beep noise, rather than it just appears on screen like a boring PowerPoint presentation. 
And always remember, sound effects can be sourced from (almost) anything. But when you’re applying them to your edits - think outside the box, and sometimes the most obvious accompanying sound isn't necessarily the right one.

At Visual Domain, we specialise in sound effects, expertly knowing how and when to incorporate the ideal sounds to breathe life into your animations and videos, ensuring they captivate and engage your audience. Reach out to our team today to guarantee that your video tells a compelling story through the strategic use of sound effects.

Go out there and get cracking.

Claudia (1)

Author: Phil Pryor
Animator - Visual Domain

Phil has always had a fascination with art, design and animation since a young age. With a degree in animation under his belt, he worked as a freelancer and studied a motion design course before working for Visual Domain. Armed with a skillset of 2D and 3D Motion Animation, Phil is unafraid to take on any project, no matter the challenge. He is also a complete sucker for traditional 2D animation.

The Role of Sound Effects in Captivating Your Audience
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