The importance of sound in video can not be overestimated. Never (almost never) is video truly silent - and when a video does have a silent clip, that silence is serving a purpose. A beautifully filmed movie with poorly done sound will be a disaster, no matter how technically good every other aspect of the movie might be.

Sound in video serves four basic purposes:
  • delivering information
  • conveying implications
  • strengthening continuity
  • evoking feelings

Delivering information:

On the most basic level, sound exists in video so that we can get the information we need to understand what is going on. The dialogue in a video conveys far more information than it might first appear. Consider these examples:
  • "I'm going to the zoo."
    • Tells us what the character plans to do.
  • "I'm going back to the zoo."
    • Tells us that the character was at the zoo and is now going to return.
  • "I'm going to the zoo again."
    • Tells us that the character was at the zoo and some point in the past and plans to return.
  • A second character says, "You're not going to the zoo again!"
    • Tells us three things:
      • the first character is going to the zoo
      • s/he goes there often
      • the second character disapproves of all these zoo visits.

How these lines are delivered also effects their emotion. If they are said with a smile and friendly expression then we assume the characters are friendly with each other. If they are said in a tone of weary resignation then we assume that the characters are tired, overwhelmed, or discouraged.

We also receive information from video via narration. We have all used voiceover in our videos this semester. Voiceovers allow us to convey necessary information without the actors involvement. A skilled voiceover artist can convey a lot of information with just a few well planned and executed lines. An inexperience voiceover speaker can be annoying, confusing, rambling, and hard to listen to. Narration does not require a voiceover. A narrator can stand on screen and narrate parts or all of a video.

Finally, we receive a lot of information from video sound effects. Sounds that adequately help explain the storyline are rarely captured while filming. While filming the microphones are focused on picking up dialogue. Any other sounds heard in a video are likely put in during post-production. Sound effects are crucial for adding realism.


In this clip, look for several things.
  • Dialogue between characters that are used to convey information.
  • Voiceovers that help explain what we are seeing on screen.
  • Sound effects that add realism to the scene: saw cutting, spoon tapping, stirring sounds, pans sizzling, etc.

Conveying implications:

Remember our first law of video space that said, "What is outside the frame does not exist unless it is implied." We can use sound to imply the existence of things that are off camera. Sound implies existence and/or locale. We don't need to see the busy road to know it's there. When we hear rushing traffic and honking horns, the existence of that busy road is implied. We don't need to see the horse standing off camera, because we can hear it whinny.


In this example, notice:
  • during the bird attack you see very few actual birds - though the impression is of an *attack*
  • the bird sounds you hear don't sound anything like actual birds
  • the sounds you hear imply that there are a bunch of angry birds attacking - even though, visually, that's not really what we see

Strengthening continuity:

When we transition from one scene to the next, it can be difficult to make that cut seem smooth and natural. We can use sound to make that transition work effectively using a split edit.
  • A split edit is a transition from one shot to another in which video and audio do not change simultaneously. Sometimes they are also called J-Cuts or L-Cuts.

We've already done split edits with our voice overs. We started with a one-shot interview. Then, while the speaker continued talking, we allowed the video to change to some B-Roll footage. Because we allowed the audio and video to change at different times - that is a split edit.


For an example, look at the (little, tiny) video here:

Also, look back at our "Top Chef" video for plenty of examples of split edits.

Evoking Feelings:

Music is the most powerful sound tool available for evoking emotions in a video, but sound effects can do it too.
  • howling wind sends a message of desolate emptiness
  • the theme from jaws heightens suspense
  • unrealistic sounds (like a light saber activating) can cue our minds to prepare for a fight
  • music always has the power to evoke emotion - be sure to select your music carefully


Because this clip contains no dialogue, it's reasonably safe to say that everything you hear is a sound effect. Footsteps, rustling sounds, fumbling with keys. Creepy music in the background ties all of those things together into one suspenseful scene.

Imagine how this scene would be different with funny sound effects and light music. Any suspense would be gone.

Editing sound in Corel:

To get sound effects from Corel's library...
  1. Click edit (Step 2)
  2. Select the music note symbol on the list of options
  3. Select the music or sound effect you would like with the options given to you. (All music tracks are titled "M" with the number of it next to it. All sound effects tracks are titled "S" with the number of it next to it)
  4. Drag your music/sound effect to the audio track

To get sound effects from YouTube...
  1. Once you found your YouTube sound effect, go to the following link in order to convert your video: This is only one option, if another converter works for you, that's fine as well.
  2. Copy and paste the link from your YouTube video into the YouTube converter.
  3. After your audio loads, select DOWNLOAD.
  4. Choose to save your audio into your class and camera folder.
  5. In Corel, select the audio symbol under edit and choose the small folder.
  6. Select your audio track from the folder where you saved it.

To adjust the volume of your sound effects and video tracks...

To use the green screen: