There is no denying the importance of sound effects, as they engage audiences in numerous ways, such as delivering information, increasing production value, evoking emotional responses, and emphasizing what’s on-screen. When put to good use, sound effects can elevate cinematic experiences dramatically.
Evolution of Film Sound Effects
Historically, sound effects served as comic relief or to indicate off-screen action. In the same way that cinematography has evolved, so has sound design and the use of sound effects. Sound Effects (and sound design in general) can impact an audience’s emotions as powerful as an actor’s performance, a beautiful vista shot, or a dramatic scene can. This article lists eight of the most popular sound effects in movies.
8 of the Most Popular Sound Effects in Movies
1. Wilhelm Scream Sound Effect
“Wilhelm Scream” is one of the most popular sound effects in film, having been used in over 400 films and television shows to date. This iconic scream can be heard in many Disney films, such as Toy Story, Cars, and Aladdin, as well as Quentin Tarantino’s films.
2. Howie Scream Sound Effect
“Howie Scream” is considered to be the younger brother of “Wilhelm Scream”, and is one of the most common sound effects of the modern era. First appearing in the 1980s film The Ninth Configuration, the sound effect is named after Howie Long’s death in the film Broken Arrow. Howie Scream can also be heard in Captain America: The First Avenger, Tropic Thunder, and Face/Off.
3. Inception‘s ‘Braam’ / Gabriel’s Horn Sound Effect
There is some controversy surrounding the ‘Braaam’ sound effect used in Inception (and many other movies). Many claim the one long, low note, known as Gabriel’s Horn, was around before the movie “Inception”. However, according to the composer of the film, Hans Zimmer, the note was created by placing “a piano in the middle of a church and placing a book on the pedal, and the brass players played into the piano’s resonance.” This sound effect has become prominent with several films using it in their trailers.
4. Diddy Laugh Sound Effect
If you’ve ever been around children watching television, you’ve probably heard this sound effect, often considered to be one of the most legendary sound effects. The short clip of children giggling (converted into the sound effect) is rumored to have first made appearances in 1992 and became renowned because of its presence on numerous shows worldwide, such as Barney & Friends and Postman Pat.
5. The Hawk Call Sound Effect
Imagine a movie set in the countryside, with the camera panning across the setting. What kind of sound will you hear? Most commonly, you will hear the shrieking sound of a bird, and it’s the same shriek every time you listen to it, made by the red-tailed hawk. In films, this sound represents the beautiful outdoors and is a prominent sound effect.
6. The Waterphone Sound Effect
Although you may not recognize its name, the Waterphone has appeared in films like Poltergeist, The Matrix, and Alien. Richard Waters invented the Waterphone in 1968-1969 with a stainless steel pan and metal rods of varying lengths that can be bowed or drummed like strings. Films often feature its unhinged, resonant sound when something strange and unknown happens, and it has also been used to call whales.
7. King Kong Roar
Murray Spivack was responsible for one of the earliest breakthroughs in sound effects and design and some early technical triumphs in cinema sound effect techniques. Spivack performed some of the industry’s earliest fieldwork by recording zoo animals, which he then doctored by slowing down the audio to create King Kong’s legendary (and horrifying, at the time) scream.
8. The T-Rex Scream
Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg’s famed dinosaur movie, was innovative in more ways than one. The film established a new gold standard for sound effects and design. Gary Rydstrom’s work on the film was perhaps his most renowned, as he developed the frightening yet realistic outcome for the T-Rex scream, using a variety of animal vocalizations.
Sound Effects should be used with care when creating a scene. The elements like sound help to add to the fourth wall that filmmakers strive to achieve. These iconic sound effects will continue to be used for many years, whether to add a brief chuckle or pay homage to classic films that also used them.