I am working on a film where a girl is in an abandoned old house that looks very creepy with wall paper peeling of the walls, cracked walls, and various debris on the floor. There is a voice over saying "Imagine what life was like that for the people that lived here". The director said it would be a good idea to put some life back in the home through sound but still keeping it feel empty. I am wondering how I can put 'life' back into something like this. Suggestions would be greatly appreciated and it will be an interesting topic to discuss. -Thanks.

  • I think it depends on what the girl is supposed to be feeling. – Marc W Jun 14 '15 at 0:09
  • Would it depend on what the girl is feeling or the voice over? – Luke Farroh Jun 17 '15 at 13:35

There is no correct answer here, as is the case almost all of the time with questions about sound design. No rights, no wrongs, only different interpretations.

My interpretation of this particular scene may be to apply sounds that are a direct opposite to what is on the screen. If a desolate room is shown, then perhaps fill it with a boisterous party filled with laughter and music? If an empty hallway littered with debris, then maybe the sound of children running and playing, chasing the family dog? If a cracked picture frame, then maybe a clear portrayal of the time that photo was taken?

Play with counterpoint, go against the grain. Surprise somebody. Be bold.

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    Thanks Jay, I really appreciate you taking time to answer! – Luke Farroh Aug 21 '15 at 13:17
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    Jay, would there be any different approach for this being a documentary rather than a narrative? Or do the same thoughts, approach, and sound still imply to matter what medium it is? – Luke Farroh Aug 21 '15 at 16:37
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    IMHO the same applies regardless. You're still telling a story. – Jay Jennings Aug 22 '15 at 0:38
  • what is a counterpoint ? – Abdul Al Hazred Sep 9 '15 at 14:52

maybe other signs of life? insects, birds, roaches, mice? maybe just various house creaking, settling sounds, wallpaper peeling? some varying room tone that changes subtly or modulates, or perhaps a little bleed of outside noises.


A typical way is through stuff like childrens laughter, distant in the mix. Other things are birds chirping, maybe casual conversation, table and tableware clinking, also distant in the mix.

  • Birds chirping is a great idea. There is something very atavistic about birds chirping in a forest. – Jonathan Arkell Jun 17 '15 at 16:43

I would go with animal sounds of various sorts, but reverberated a little, to make it feel off, not exactly here. And do not overdo them, once in a while, in a certain spot should be perfect to build things up


A moment of ghostly dining room table clinking? Other sonic imaginings of what life sounded like in the past? Perhaps very subtle and quick moments though so they're more subliminal?

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