A famous film director once said that “…70% of a film is sound.” I don’t know that we can put a number on it, but one of the most important lessons beginning filmmakers can learn is the importance of high quality and creative sound in their films. Instructors of filmmaking want student films to stand out and communicate effectively with an audience. Even non-filmmakers notice when the audio in a film is poor. It’s distracting and immediately gives an impression of a lack of professionalism.

In my Filmmaking 1 course, a favorite assignment is my challenge to tell a simple story or take the listener to a place using only sound effects and other student-recorded audio. Students use camcorders, digital SLRs, or smartphones to record things like character dialogue. They make use of resources like freesound.org and the BBC Sound Effects Library to find specific sound effects to help them tell a simple story. Students can use a free audio recording and editing program (Audacity) to pull everything together to create their soundtracks.

With the picture portion taken away, a student’s creative mind finds all sorts of ways to set a mood, introduce a setting, and shape the emotions of their listeners. It’s a great challenge that really drives home the need for filmmakers to pay attention to every element of storytelling they can use to reach their audience.

No matter whether your student is a beginning or has a lot of experience, they’ll come away from each course having grown in their skill and understanding of this influential and fun vocation.

Tools for you to try:

Audacity Audio Software

BBC Sound Effects Library

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Tom Khazoyan has been teaching online film and screenwriting classes and in-person workshops and seminars since 2010. He began his career on the production side of the film and television business. He’s an award-winning producer, director, cameraman, and editor. He has produced projects ranging from television commercials to documentaries to dramatic films in over 30 countries.