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How to spice up your video with sound design

After editing the video, you may still have a feeling that something is missing. To get rid of it, you need sound design. Sound designer Pavel Novikov demonstrates how sound design may change a video’s perception.

I have merged several videos together in a video editor to create a little story. It is necessary if you want to know how to make a film. All the videos are taken from free stock video websites. There is no link between the footage, only the location, so let’s focus on sound design now. 

I decided to use Logic Pro X, which is handy when it comes to this purpose. The screencast is an excellent way to demonstrate my work in real-time, however, in this article, you are going to find videos and pictures of my desktop as examples.

Location: Cafe

So we get a simple video: the person is pouring some coffee into a mug, then there are few shots of a couple talking and drinking coffee. The final scene is a mug with the moving coffee inside. It’s essential to get the correct room tone when you work with videos. This is the background sound type that fills the space. For instance, I specifically used various room recordings in one of the scenes.

In this version, we hear that the room is empty. There’s no dialogue in the background. Therefore the cafe either has a bad day, or it’s night time.

It’s also important to “hear” the room’s size. By hearing, we can define if it’s large or small, crowded or quiet. The one we hear in this recording is medium, we also hear some sort of kitchen machine obviously running in the background. Someone may claim it’s difficult to determine what kind of space it is from this sound. But that’s how our brain reacts when an acoustic signal is received. Otherwise, how are you going to navigate the dark?

Notice how these shots work with a different record. It has become much more comfortable here, now that the cafe is crowded. We also imagine having breakfast in a sunny cafe right away, as the sounds of cutlery are audible

Let’s make the shots more comfortable with adding room tones to each scene separately. By the way, it’s not necessary to record all the sounds by yourself if you don’t have time for it. Try a free library of sound effects, there will be something interesting for sure.

The long-shots and close-ups are supposed to be taken in the same room (yes, the guy has a sweater of a different color, but we focus on the sound, remember?). These shots should, however, still be separated by sound from each other. It’s simple — we leave the same room tone, but change its volume. We are moving away from the crowd and getting closer to the couple, so I made the background noise quieter.

Let’s add more sounds. It’s weird, for instance, that we don’t hear how coffee is poured into a glass in the first scene, right?

It sounds like this is the recording of how coffee is poured into a metal container. Let’s change the sound to a different one. Now the noise fits in better and does not contradict the image.

It would be great to add some dialogue recording to the shots of the couple, but as we consider it as a promo video, we don’t really need it. 

Don’t forget, by the way, that the real room tone can be less pleasant than the one made artificially so don’t forget to re-record the voices in the studio without background noise. This is very important for such kind of videos.

Of course, the video is much better now, but if you came across it on Instagram, wouldn’t you skip it? Let’s add some music to make it even more exceptional.

Now the music sets the positive mood! Background sounds and some extra noises made the video sound comfortable, while music gave the entire video some energy. The last scene, as you can see, does not need anything. It’s fine as it is.

We rarely think about the sounds, but it turns out that sound design is crucial for the perception of the media content, whether it’s commercials or artwork. Even tiny details can connect frames with each other, having entered them into the general atmosphere. By the way, you can easily pass this video for a real promo if you add footage with an interior and titles.

Pavel Novikov

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