Cinematic Sound Design Series: Sound Effects Of Film & The Structure Of Powerful Sounds | Part 2

Finding contrasting elements to create width and depth Contrast is an indispensable element of cinematic sound. It is the true way of making the sound as big as film.....

Posted on September 2nd 2022

Finding contrasting elements to create width and depth

Contrast is an indispensable element of cinematic sound. It is the true way of making the sound as big as film. How can we build contrast to widen the sounds? Let’s dive in…

Creating contrast can mean a lot of things such as creating a relationship between loudness and silence or alternating between contrasting textures. In summary, it means to create a relationship between two elements that have somewhat opposing qualities. When you successfully form this relationship, the two elements can be heard as one single element. It can be used to achieve more than one thing. In our case, we want to use contrast to expand the overall width and depth.


The depth can also be acquired with finding contrasting elements. If you think your sound is lacking depth, start analyzing if your current layers have matching layers. You might also get a feeling that the sound isn’t quite complete. Try to look for ways to complement your existing layers to make them more vibrant and sonically interesting. For instance, what can you do to complement a bright layer that feels somewhat alone? Support and find a way to complement it with a dark textured layer, like a lantern in the dark. The darkness gave the lantern a place to shine. Without darkness, the shining of the lantern would be meaningless. This technical process of contrast relies on this same philosophy. The textural quality of your layers should communicate with the meaningfully with their contrasting layers.

Contrast creates width and depth along with a lot of things like anticipation, suspense, intensity and so on. Using contrast will not only give you a wide and deep sound but also will help you to fill the frequency range as much as possible, resulting in a sound as wide as the big screen of the movies.


How can we keep a wide frequency range while maintaining the minimal structure in the sound?

We mentioned that adding more flavors can cause a muddy mess. If you are in a situation where your current layers feel enough to deliver the message, but the sound feels rather thin, it should help to approach this case with using your currently existing layers and transforming them into new ones. You can use effects like distortion to blend in new harmonics or duplicating and transposing some other layer to widen the frequency range. We talk about “single source layering” in one of our previous blogs. Be sure to check that out for more detailed directions. Basically, your aim should be expanding the depth of the layers without adding any other foreign details. This is a way to keep the focus of your sound still engaged.

The sound of cinema is wide, deep and emotional. It can drive you to the edge of your seat and make you feel like you are about to fall from a cliff. It relies on its unique techniques and philosophical perspectives. When creating cinematic sounds, it will most certainly help thinking in terms of contrast. Contrast will build depth, width, story, and the character and those are all you need to start creating impactful cinematic sounds. We will be talking about more ways of creating individual cinematic sound effects like braams, drones, risers, downers etc. in the coming blogs.