If you work in film and video, you've probably heard of "SFX," but you may not know what the term means. In filmmaking, there are many effects incorporated into videos to add enticing visual illusions and sound effects to drive a specific message.

As an aspiring filmmaker or video maker, you should know more about visual, sound, and special effects. This guide will give you all the insight you need to feel confident about using SFX in your next video.

What is SFX?

SFX, or sound effects, is a vital element that film and videos use to stand out. They provide a sense of realism, add and evoke emotions and feelings, and help set the scene without using words or dialogue.

What Does SFX Stand For?

SFX most commonly stands for sound effects in film and video, but it can also be used to describe special effects as a whole. Sound effects and special effects are used in film and video to influence the mood and reactions of the audience.

Types of Sound Effects

There are varying types of sound effects. As a film or video maker, it’s important to understand the various sounds and how to incorporate them with your digital audio workstation (DAW).

Driving the plot of a story is aided heavily by using sound effects. The types of sound effects you'll often see throughout film and video include the following:

  • Hard or Spot Sound Effects: These effects are easy to see since they are linked directly in a visual. The sound requires synchronization with the visual, such as a door closing in a shot, such as the sound effect of a door shutting.
  • Background SFX: Background SFX is also referred to as "soft" SFX because the sound creates ambiance or helps aid a setting. For example, if the location is in a park, you might hear leaves rustling and birds chirping.
  • Loop Group SFX: Also known as Walla, loop group SFX are murmured noises in the background, such as hearing the mumblings of a crowd. You can't make out what's being said, and it could be coupled with other sounds like clapping, cheering, etc.
  • Off-Screen SFX: These sounds are things you hear happening off-screen, like police sirens. Another good example is someone going into another room that's "off-screen" to pour a drink, and you hear the sound of pouring.
  • Foley SFX: Foley SFX are sounds you'll often hear in video games, but they go with a character's actions and use a foley artist (or audio engineer) to create the ambient sounds. Think about the sound of footsteps; some filmmakers like a sound created that isn't digital, so foley artists generate the sound with props.
  • Design SFX: Design sounds are entirely made up of sounds that never existed and wouldn't usually exist. Many of these sounds are a mish-mash of other sounds or something futuristic, like technology or aliens.

How are Sound Effects Used in Film and Video?

Sound effects can be used in several ways in film, video, television, and gaming. When you create a film, you can work directly with a sound designer to help develop the sound effects you desire.

The SFX type you used directly correlates to how you're showing the scenes. Audio producers understand how to use SFX when creating realistic sounds, settings, and driving emotions.

Let's explore how sound effects can be used in video and filmmaking.

SFX is Used to Create a Sense of Emotion

Consider your favorite television show - what sounds were brought out at key moments? When you want to evoke emotion and feelings, you might use background SFX, Loop Group/Walla, or Off-screen sound effects.

The use of sounds drives your audience's emotions, and the effects are a great way to help people feel part of the scene. For example, if you want to create a jump scare, you could add a string instrument's quick, sharp sound when something pops up on the screen.

You can also use low, ominous music to draw out the suspense, building it up to a silent pause and then a strong or hard sound effect that creates the jump scare.

SFX Help to Set the Scene

When you use SFX in a setting, the sounds are used to set the scene in front of you. Adding sound effects in a scene gives you a sense of where you are. For example, if your film is set somewhere in the future, the sound effects will sound like something your audience hasn't heard before.

These sounds require more computer use, and it may be helpful to consult with audio engineers to develop a plan for a specific sound. Music design can be done with production SFX, meaning it's recorded during the production on a separate track, and you can use it while filming instead of adding it in post-production.

SFX Add Realism to Film and Video

Realism is where SFX plays a major role; our brain makes sense of these sounds as they happen in real life, so it correlates within a game, video, or film the same way. Bringing things to life and creating a realistic atmosphere is done substantially with sound design.

The goal with your SFX is to help people immerse themselves within your visual. The sounds need to add depth. Consider the example of a heavily CGI film, where there are futuristic characters and events. Using sound effects wisely is one of the best ways to ensure that people can put themselves within the setting of your film.

Examples of Movies with Great Sound Effects

Consider the movie Avatar and its futuristic setting. How were people so quickly immersed in something that was fantasy? This is a great example of how sound effects can be combined with video effects (VFX) to help set the scene.

Other examples of movies with great sound effects include:

  • The Dark Knight
  • Inception
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Jurassic Park
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Braveheart

These award-winning movies have exceptional sound effects. They capture contrasting settings, give voices to prehistoric creatures, develop suspense behind enemy lines, and provide the main element of frightening realism.

Studying any award-winning film for its sound design is bound to help give you many ideas for your own creations. Viewing these and dissecting the order of the sound design provides a plethora of information.

The visual elements are remarkable, but you should also take notice of how the sound makes the vision more natural for you as a viewer.

Wrapping Up

However you use your SFX, remember to take your time post-production and ensure that the sounds are driving your overall plot and working with your visual effects. It will take time to become masterful, but understanding what SFX is and how it influences your audience is the perfect place to start.