Film is an audio-visual medium. What you hear is just as important as what you see. Adding a sonic soundscape (mainly the ambience), dialogue, background score or music and special sound effects that all play a cohesive part in enhancing the movie-viewing experience.
Sometimes, music acts as a filler or intends to direct your attention towards the emotion the scene intends to deliver. Happy or sad, sometimes energetic and explosive to indicate excitement, romantic, dance numbers, too, in certain cases – without which the video can go only so far in conveying the message.
In some cases, victory or war, rage or anger, love or kindness to name a few, and there’s always a composition to be made for almost every human emotion thinkable – all of which can be conveyed by music alone; though with the picture, it has a much greater impact for the audience.
Hence, we commonly see theatres boast about a superior sound system or speaker technology which delivers this sound with greater ease, wider range and sonic clarity.
Special sound effects have also come a long way in the world of films. Films in the genres of action, sci-fi and horror in particular greatly benefit from these. Sounds in sci-fi films are intended to be out-worldly and cannot be found in nature to simply capture or create with the help of an instrument, and neither are the screechy voices found in horror films easy to recreate with the just the human voice alone. It is, in fact, post-processed for the effect that has your hair standing every time you hear the voice, giving you nightmares!
In the case of some movies, the sound effects have become so iconic that you can tell which movie they are from just by hearing them – a true testament to the talented sound design teams behind the creation of these out-worldly sounds.
Today, let’s take a look at some of these timeless pieces of sonic artistry with sound effects in Hollywood movies (old and new) that have stood the test of time.
7 of Hollywood’s most memorable sound effects
1. Iron Man’s Repulsor Blast
The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Iron Man was such a success that it spawned 3 sequels. Tony Stark (played by the ever-so-charming Robert Downey Jr.) puts on his metal combat suit to become Iron Man, and one of the suit’s most iconic features is the Repulsor Blasts he can shoot from the palm-region, and chest of the suit. It also has a very unique sound – one that has etched itself in the memory of moviegoers and one that throws comic book geeks into frenzy of excitement every time they hear it.
This effect now can also be sourced and used if an Iron Man game was to be made for the same blast sound ejecting from his suit. This keeps it true to the original film sound used and makes it even more relatable for the gamer.
2. Toothless the Night Fury’s dragon sounds
How to Train Your Dragon, a DreamWorks animated film based on the book of the same name is an immensely popular flick. The movie soon saw a sequel hit the big screen again, and one of the reasons for the popularity of the franchise is definitely the lead character Hiccup’s flying sidekick. The sounds created by this particular species of dragon (called Night Fury) are completely different to the mainstream dragon sounds of the other species in the film and to what is associated with dragon sounds commonly in general mainstream cinema and its why we think it deserves a mention.
3. Indiana Jones’s whip
Indiana Jones, famous as he is and a cult classic, with the series propelling lead actor Harrison Ford to greater heights. The action series was typified by its larger-than-life storylines, Indiana Jones’s debonair character, and the vibrant thrill-a-minute action sequences. One of the mainstays of these sequences was Indy’s favourite prop – his trusted whip. And the sound made by the whip is one you can never forget if you have watched the film. It’s one to learn how to whip up for sure.
4. The screams of the Nazgûl
The Nazgûl is an Oscar-dominating epic The Lord of the Rings’ chief baddie – Sauron’s trusted minions. Nine mortals who were seduced by Sauron’s promises of immortality and power and are thus bound to their lord’s will, they dress in haunting black, ride horses and later winged demon-beasts and leave fear in their wake. Their calling card is a signature shriek that is as awesome as it is terrifying, and goes a long way towards conveying their mystical fear-inducing traits to the audiences.
5. Darth Vader’s heavy breathing
The ultimate villain in one of the greatest movie franchises of all time, Darth Vader is the mask-wearing world-ending bad guy whose very breath and signature entry theme can announce his arrival and set anyone’s pulses racing. His breathing apparatus-assisted heaves are a sight in their own right, and someone liked them so much that they uploaded 10 hours of the stuff online!
6. Wolverine’s claw snick
It seems to me that great sound effects are the secret to building up a film franchise because this entry, too, comes from a massive franchise – this time it is Marvel’s X-Men series of films. One of the mainstays and most popular characters of the series is definitely Logan a.k.a Wolverine, a character made immortal by the stellar performances of Hugh Jackman. Wolverine has adamantium claws that slide out from between his knuckles at will or when angry, and make a characteristic, metallic snick when they do. That sound usually means trouble for whoever he is up against, and a sign that watching fans should pay attention, because things are about to go down. Watch the video to witness a cool compilation of every claw-snick ever!
7. Godzilla’s Roar
Godzilla is the giant, dinosaur-esque monster that originated in Japan, and gained crazy popularity and numerous Hollywood remakes in the years gone by. This massive, monolithic creature has an astounding roar that is as individualistic as it gets, has awed audiences since the first film’s release in ’54. Have a listen and hear to see if it sets your pulse racing.
What is great about all these film sound effects is that they have been attributed to objects or creatures that don’t even exist in everyday life! However, they are so amazingly executed that they ring with authenticity, and make even the unreal believable or hearable if we must say. That is the power of special sound effects and hopefully these examples can provide inspiration for to come in the future.
Which movie sound effects did you get bowled over by? Let us know in the comments section below!
About Sound Engineering at Seamedu
At Seamedu School of Pro-Expressionism, we take a macro as well as micro approach to unraveling the beauty of sound. We offer three diverse courses across two campuses for aspiring sound engineers. Our meticulously planned audio engineering courses in Bangalore, Chandigarh and Pune allow individuals from a wide geographic swath (yes, international students, too) the opportunity to go after their dream – playing with sound!
What’s more, one can expect to fill positions in the following profiles post successful completion of the aforementioned courses:
Contact us to know more details about our courses, the fee structure and admission dates!