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Enhancing videos using sound effects and foley


Over the recent Covid lockdown I have been lucky enough to escape to some great locations right on my doorstep. Hamford Water National Nature Reserve is a surprisingly busy and noisy place during the winter. I was able to film seals, waders and gaggles of Brent geese. I'm slowly releasing videos from the footage I captured over the cold winter days I spent around the backwaters. The video below features the Brent geese that congregate in their hundreds in areas of the backwaters. Editing this video required building a detailed soundscape: owing to the windy weather, I could only use 10 per cent of sound recorded on location, and some sounds, such as splashing seals, were too far away for me to record.


On some days, I took down a Zoom H6 recorder to record general backwater ambient sound and specific bird calls. One of my favourite sounds was a formation of geese flying overhead, recorded with a Zoom MSH-6 microphone attachment. This mic contains dual mic elements - a forward-facing, unidirectional mic (the 'Mid') and a side-facing, bi-directional mic. This kind of mic was great for recording the sound of birds flying overhead, as you hear the sound come in from the right and pass over to the left, making you feel like you are in the environment when listening to the recording.



Why are sound effects used?

Sound effects (sfx) such as ambient noise, dialogue and everyday sound effects can enhance the overall quality of your film. For example, when editing this video of the geese, I took the field recording I had captured and dropped it onto the video timeline to match the visual action. After this, I found other scenes within the video that could be enhanced with foley sound effects, and laid other sounds from an online foley sound library to enhance these. You may be wondering, 'what is the difference between sound effects and foley?' Foley is the reproduction of everyday sound effects: for example, a foley artist may crumple up paper to replicate the noise of a crackling fire.


The great thing about adding audio to visuals is that you can use any sound recording out there as long as it matches the visual and tricks the brain into thinking it is hearing what it is seeing. For example, in the video below we have a sound design of a wading bird walking across the mud. For this sound I needed to find a squelching noise for the tiny footprints and beak dabbling into the mud. I ended up finding a foley recording of a sound artist stirring a bowl of thick, wet noodles, which sounds like squishy mud! I then cut sections out of this sound to match the action of the bird dabbling and moving across the mud. By becoming a sound designer for your film, you will improve the storytelling of your scene, creating a video production that enthralls its audience.



Adobe Premiere Pro sound effect techniques

Normally, I flit between Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Audition. Once I've recorded my foley sound, the first thing I do is open the raw file on Adobe Audition. This sound effects editor allows me to clean up the raw file by using an array of effects and tools. These include tools like the parametric equaliser or the noise reduction process, helping to remove any background noise, and compression tools to act as volume control.


Once I'm happy with the clean recording, I then import it into Premiere Pro ready to use on my timeline to match the visuals. There are a few tricks that you can use in Adobe Premiere Pro to help create a good soundscape. For example, you can crop sections of the sounds and drag them onto your timeline. Once on your timeline, there are many effects you can overlay onto these sounds. I tend to use rate-stretch to make noises sound quicker or slower, and I'm also a fan of the low-pass effect, which makes the audio sound more distant.


Sound effects libraries

When creating soundscapes I usually use freesound.org if I can't find a specific sound effect in my personal sound effects library. Because I download sounds regularly from this site which offers free foley sound effects, I also give back to the community by uploading my favourite sound recordings so that other people can use them in their videos. Check out my Freesound page which showcases a range of sounds I have recorded.