A great screenplay tugs at emotions and makes people “buy into” the story. Direction, acting skill, and an overall visual design bring the story in line with the intended vision. Yet, movies have another element that may take the scariest scene pregnant with anticipation and make it flop — the sound design.
Sound design is differentiated from sound editing in that it impacts the film’s tone and direction through the use of music and sound effects. A hinge creaking eerily at the right moment adds to the anticipation while wily and amusing circus theatric themes would intone it as a farce.
In other words, the sound design for movies imparts more of the emotion, by working with the present tone and style of the film to add another layer of effects all through sound. A sound editor, meanwhile, has the important duty of making sure the sound is balanced, equalized, and at the quality level needed to allow people to hear everything at relevant levels.
A great director will turn to the likes of Walter Murch, the first Sound Designer, to impart structure by way of sound. It is more than just adding in some music or sound effects. Instead, it has to do more with coloring the movie with sound.
The sound, it turns out can in fact color the whole film in a sense, making it take on a different tone and persona than if it were ignored or marginalized in importance.
And it doesn’t have to be a film either. We are in discussions with a company in Minnesota that does high end three-season porch windows and deck upgrades. They have a video that they’re working on that needs music and editing for their marketing.
Sure there can be great sound quality in a home theater for the purposes of watching movies, but it is not the same as having the artful painting of movies with sound. It needs to tie in with the rest of the movie and be integrated throughout. A great soundtrack on its own is just nice music. When it moves the movie almost as much as dialogue and good acting then it is effective sound design.