Believe it or not, it’s been said that sound comprises more than 80 percent of the impact of a viewing experience for the average movie audience. The math doesn’t add up, but the exaggerated saying is made on purpose to illustrate just how important the sound design truly is. As a visual medium, of course whatever is actually going on in each shot is important, but it will always fall flat if there isn’t an amazing score and effective array of sound design work laid on top to accent everything to perfection.
Movies are all about immersion. The viewer needs to be as close to believing that what they’re seeing is real as they possibly can, despite knowing in the back of their head that it’s obviously all “make believe.” Good sound design helps do exactly that, and it often becomes just as iconic as any special effect or prop.
Take the popular world of Star Wars for an example. R2-D2’s beeping dialogue, the stomping servos of the AT-AT walkers, Darth Vader’s labored breathing, the cracking and whooshing of the Jedi and Sith lightsabers – you name it – these are all classic sounds layered into the film by sound designer Ben Burtt. These are some of the most well known and beloved elements of those films. They helped give personality to the world, as well as draw audiences in.
That’s what sound design is all about. It’s just as equally important in entertainment mediums such as television and video games as well. The almost criminal beauty in sound design is that the general audience doesn’t even really “notice” it. It does its job and they just accept it as it cascades over them. Believe it or not, any sound designer would be happy not to be noticed, for it ultimately means they did exactly what they needed to do: helping build a believable world.