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Here's an interesting question and I hope it's answerable and not too general.

What are some good ways of creating excitement in your sound design? How do you really thrill the audience with sound?

I know most of it comes from content and film editing. For instance, it is far easier to make an action/thriller movie thrill the audience than a teletubbies episode; or is it?

Dynamics?

Counterpointing?

Certain timbres of sounds?

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As a viewer and critical listener, I find that much of the energy in sound sequences comes from the mix. Having effective, rhythmic sequences of very clean sounds can be intense. I think of many fight scenes in the Bourne films or even (while I strongly dislike the film series) the first urban fight between Spider Man and Dr. Octopus in Spider Man 2. Contrast is good, too, but I find a rare contrast that few use isn't loud-soft, or low-high, but rhythmic-arrhythmic. Rare but very interesting.

On the per-sound side, middle-range compression obviously adds punch as long as it's not too heavy-handed. I agree with analog-style saturation compression can add sizzle as well. The challenge is how those effects on single sounds will really work in the mix. All the techniques you list can also be great applied to submixes as well to great effect.

  • @NoiseJockey by arrhythmic do you mean like in an extremely tense scene when the main character is walking through a dark house and all you hear is a grandfather clock ticking and you hear the rhythm of it and the audience gets used to it and then it skips a tick right before the boogeyman jumps out of the closet? I did that once!! That's a GREAT trick!!! – Utopia Aug 12 '10 at 1:27
  • @Ryan, absolutely: Building up, then tearing down, rhythms. Sounds like that arrhythmic trick probably gave your audience arrhythmia. Which is rad. :-) – NoiseJockey Aug 12 '10 at 2:05
  • @NoiseJockey Haha yeah. The clock was up in the mix at least a minute so the audience got lulled into this tick-tock monotony and then they skip a beat or 2 and it makes you uncomfortable and then BAM there's the bad guy! – Utopia Aug 12 '10 at 16:55
  • I agree, it has a lot to do with the mix. Rythm, counterpoint, sound + image relationship, psychoacoustics, always trying something new.. – Chris Feb 21 '11 at 5:15
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Simple: contrast.

Loud soft loud Dense sparse dense etc.

--jpf

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I occasionally like to give myself small electrical shocks while watching films. All kidding aside, silence can be a powerful tool. Nathan mentioned those bourne films . . . A number of those films actually used silence fairly well. There were brief silences but there were still silences.

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I mentioned this in another thread, but I really love the sound design for the opening car chase in Quantum of Solace. The audio track prefectly complimented the visuals, drawing attention to the key action points with focused and isolated sound effects. The track wasn't dense at all. It was carefully constructed, and almost minimalist in its design. It really boosted the energy of the whole sequence.

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