How to make a sound or ambience fit the lighting technique that comes from below and shines up casting shadows on the face? I was thinking maybe you could take a spooky scream/drone/ringing or what not and pan it there.

What kind of sound represents this emotional situation (think little girl possessed by the devil, revealing herself to the man who sold his soul)?

David Sonnenchiene's book helped me learn a lot about emotions of sound and he posted some techniques. Does anybody have any other ways to connect emotions of sound and image?

2 Answers 2


You can never go wrong with evil and the tri-tone chord. Its what bothered the Catholics in past musical history :)

  • 1
    Amen to that. Tri-tone's seem to find their way into ProTool's soul quite often.
    – Chris
    Jul 21, 2011 at 2:00
  • Danny Elfman also uses it in the Simpsons theme at the start. Jul 21, 2011 at 6:09

Gauging the emotional response to certain sounds is one of those immeasurable things, a bit like trying to measure how the colour blue makes you feel, but I think there are some approaches in sound design that generally achieve the same effect across the board (particularly when it comes to horror).

For example high pitched, jarring sounds like squealing, scraping metal would usually denote tension or a sense of unease. With a fast attack and in conjunction with a sudden visual event this kind of sound is also very good for the classic scare. Film seems to have created it's own sound language in that where you have drawn out period of tension or building quiet, you know that the scare is coming and so creating the anticipation is just as important as the hit itself in my opinion.

If you're into further reading, someone did an actual medical paper titled "The Psychoacoustics of a Chilling Sound" where they investigated why the sound of fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard was generally deemed as being so horrible. They drew similarities between the frequencies of that sound and the alarm calls of a certain monkey, so maybe our responses to certain sounds are an inbuilt, primal thing. Can't remember the author's name :-/

Similarly, the University of Salford in the UK did a survey called "Bad Vibes" where people voted on the worst sounds online and via a booth in one Manchesters museums. If I remember rightly number one ended up being the sound of someone being sick but for some reason I find that hilarious haha.

Anyways, I'm going off topic. Subby hits, rumbles and drones are also often used to create a feeling of dread and fear. My little theory is that this stems back to a natural response to earthquakes, tornado's etc and as such can also be used to depict the magnitude of a situation (think Inception brass).

For your particular situation, I'm thinking a reversed high-pitched thing with a bit of a pitch bend just to reflect that somethings not right. The peaks of the reverse could possibly sync with the movement of the shadows? Maybe also whispers that have been reversed, reverbed and then reversed back again. But that's just me :)

+1 to the devil's chord!

  • Great reply interesting reading forcasted, hopefully theres a copy online
    – Chris
    Jul 22, 2011 at 3:31

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