There are 3 basic elements every film has when it comes to audio: music, dialogue and sound design. It’s easy to understand how important dialogue and music are since they both convey emotion and information very directly. Sound design is the process of specifying, acquiring, manipulating or generating audio elements. However, sound design can be subtler in the way that it conveys its own emotion. How it divulges information, how it moves the story forward, and how it immerses the viewer in the world that we’ve created are important parts of sound design as well.

Let’s take this piece for example:

Originally, this piece was driven by custom music that changed pace, alongside the visuals to convey emotion, dialogue that informed the viewer of key pieces of information, and very subtle sound design to fill gaps of immersion.

I stripped all of that audio and replaced it with my own original recordings and synthesis. I didn’t use music or dialogue, only sound design. The sound design and the visuals are enough to convey the message and emotion of the piece and fully immerse the viewer into the gritty world of aggressive machines constructing a suit on the main character.

When the video starts, the sound of the chains around his feet clinking is clear. The clinking sound paired with the visuals of the chains forces the audience to think “prisoner”, “criminal”, or “deplorable.” As the first robot arm shoots out of the floor, it makes a very aggressive robotic voice sound, setting the tone for what’s about to happen: dangerous machines are going into motion to assemble something on the prisoner.

As the piece progresses, we can hear these machines coming to life. The sounds are loud, heavy, robotic and unfamiliar. The robots are not friends of the prisoner; they’re not trying to be careful about how they treat him. They’re putting the mech-suit on him with reluctance, indicating that he’s an antagonist.

Sparks start flying, they sound crisp and close to you, reinforcing the sense of danger of the process.

The pieces start coming in and they slam right into the prisoner loudly and violently. More visual clues start appearing, confirming what was alluded to earlier. He has prison tattoos confirming his status as a criminal. The inside forearm of the mech suit has tally marks insinuating that this mech suit is a prison itself. Finally, the mech suit process is finished and we hear and see the engines start pitching steadily up and up, higher and higher, creating tension and buildup about the fate of this man. The piece finishes with a subtle jet fly-by to signify the mech taking off into battle, immediately followed by a low, resounding, boom and fade to black. The low booms paired with fade to blacks signifies the unknown, leaving the audience hanging.

It’s a simple piece but the sound design immerses you in a dangerous room of machines, amplifying the visuals through the audible.

To learn more about Juan Pablo and DHD Films, check out our team page here.

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