Sound effect

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Sound effects or audio effects are artificially created or enhanced sounds, or sound processes used to emphasize artistic or other content of films, television shows, live performance, animation, video games, music, or other media. In motion picture and television production, a sound effect is a sound recorded and presented to make a specific storytelling or creative point without the use of dialogue or music. The term often refers to a process applied to a recording, without necessarily referring to the recording itself. In professional motion picture and television production, dialogue, music, and sound effects recordings are treated as separate elements. Dialogue and music recordings are never referred to as sound effects, even though the processes applied to them, such as reverberation or flanging effects, often are called "sound effects".

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Film

In the context of motion pictures and television, sound effects refers to an entire hierarchy of sound elements, whose production encompasses many different disciplines, including:

  • Hard sound effects are common sounds that appear on screen, such as door slams, weapons firing, and cars driving by.
  • Background (or BG) sound effects are sounds that do not explicitly synchronize with the picture, but indicate setting to the audience, such as forest sounds, the buzzing of fluorescent lights, and car interiors. The sound of people talking in the background is also considered a "BG," but only if the speaker is unintelligible and the language is unrecognizable (this is known as walla). These background noises are also called ambience or atmos ("atmosphere").
  • Foley sound effects are sounds that synchronize on screen, and require the expertise of a Foley artist to record properly. Footsteps, the movement of hand props (e.g., a tea cup and saucer), and the rustling of cloth are common foley units.
  • Design sound effects are sounds that do not normally occur in nature, or are impossible to record in nature. These sounds are used to suggest futuristic technology in a science fiction film, or are used in a musical fashion to create an emotional mood.

Each of these sound effect categories is specialized, with sound editors known as specialists in an area of sound effects (e.g. a "Car cutter" or "Guns cutter").

The process can be separated into two steps: the recording of the effects, and the processing. Sound effects are often custom recorded for each project, but to save time and money a recording may be taken from a library of stock sound effects (such as the famous Wilhelm scream). A sound effect library might contain every effect a producer requires, yet the timing and aesthetics of a tailor-made sound are often preferred.

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