Ever notice that things always sound ‘better’ in a movie? Our resident sound man explains why the guns sound like cannons and the cannons sound like nuclear explosions.
It’s easy to think of sound effects as a cut-and-dry discipline. All you have to do is properly record the action and match it to the footage right? But in reality, sound effects need to enhance the cinematic experience first and be realistic second, if at all. Lets look at the sound of a gunshot as an example. We all know from watching countless action movies that guns make an almost unbearably loud explosion, but if you listen to a real gunshot you will see that this is, in fact, a gross and highly-stylized exaggeration. In fact, you may even find yourself feeling a bit disappointed by the real sound of a gun being fired after seeing guns fired in the movies.
‘Why the exaggeration?’ you’ll say ‘why can’t they just use the real sound?’ Well the easy answer is that you’ve already answered your question by being disappointed in the real gunshot. When our wounded hero takes one more shot with his last ounce of strength, we expect a shot that sounds like it means something, with a loud bang and a drawn-out reverberation that lets us know the battle is finally over. It may not be realistic, but it fits perfectly and that’s the key in any movie scene.