3 Most Important Elements of Sound Effects

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Whether you’re creating a film, video game or animation, as the creator you can visualize your project, but can you hear it? 

Sound effects are one of the four main elements of sound design and can be categorized into 3 groups:

- Designed Sound Effects

- Hard Sound Effects

- Background Sounds and Ambient Sounds

In this blog, we’ll discuss the 3 most important elements of sound effects and how to incorporate them into your sound design.



Designed Effects

Designed sound effects can be described as a sound that does not normally occur in nature. Things such as lasers, spaceships and most sci-fi sounds can be classified as designed sound effects. 

Designed sound effects are typically created through layering multiple sounds over each other to create a new noise. During this process, audio effects such as pitch alteration, reverb, delay and distortion play a big role in achieving the desired sound.

In Star Wars, the Tie Fighter screech is a drastically altered elephant bellow, while the laser sounds are a hammer hitting an antenna wire.



Hard Sound Effects

Hard sound effects, also referred to as specifics, are common sounds that are synchronized to the scene or game level. 

Specific sounds such as a gun firing or a car engine starting up can be classified as hard sound effects. A large part of hard sound effects is a style called foley.

You might have heard of foley sounds. Foley art is the process of creating sounds that occur naturally, such as footsteps, clothing sounds, and specifics. 

A good sound editor knows that a key element in post production is creating foley art that helps enhance the sound design of a movie, game, or TV show. 

READ MORE: 3 Fundamental Elements of Foley

When we include these elements of sound design, we add more life and realism to our project. There is a sense of depth to a scene or game level by filling up the sound strategically. 



Background Sounds and Ambient Sounds

While they are mostly subtle, background sounds (or ambient sounds/ambient noise) are a necessity when sound designing your project. 

Also referred to as atmospheres or ambience, background noises do not synchronize with the picture like hard or designed effects do. 

They are a type of sound effect that is used to help set an environment for the audience such as a quiet house, lush forest or an office. 

Background sound consists of noises that are present in the environment such as a buzzing fluorescent light bulb in an office, or nature sounds like rustling leaves in the forest.



Incorporating these three elements can help you when creating your sound design for royalty free sound effects or music. 

Whether you are a foley artist, a sound designer, or a recording artist/mixer, these 3 elements of sound design can help enhance your next project or sound design projects for clients.