Why is Sound So Important in Film?

Boom mic operator capturing sound for a film

Do you watch movies and look for dialogue and Foley sound that are out of sync? Are you a film buff and want to learn more about sound design? If you answered yes to these questions, then film and sound design may be a good career path for you. The Institute of Production and Recording offers a film and sound design program for those interested learning the art of sound in the film industry.

What Kind of Sound is in a Film?

There are three types of sound in the making of a film: human voices, music and sound effects. Sounds can be recorded and edited or synthesized artificially. If you have ever watched a silent movie, then you know the benefits of having sound. Even back when movie theaters played silent movies, some theaters would have a theater organ to provide sound effects.

Human Voices

Human voices include actor dialogue. This dialogue must be synced with the action in the film and the voices should be accurate without delay. The voices should also sound like the actors in the film. Sometimes dialogue is recorded later and synced with the film. Whether the boom operator records the dialogue, or the sound designer adds it in later, it is important to fully understand what actors are saying during a film.

Music in Film

The music in the film helps drive the story forward, allowing the audience to anticipate what is going to happen, evoke an emotional response or simply help the audience transition between scenes. The soundtrack has become mainstream for most blockbuster films, but the film also has a score. Sometimes performed by a large orchestra, the soundtrack can supplement the film score.

Sound Effects

Sound effects are crucial to the film as they add realism to the characters and scenes within the film.  Whether it is a Foley sound of a horse trotting or two people whizzing by one another, sound effects give the movie realism that visuals can’t do alone.

Diegetic vs Non-Diegetic Sound in Film

Sound can be categorized as diegetic and non-diegetic. Diegetic sound occurs within the story’s world. Whether it is dialogue from actors, the sound of glass breaking or taxis honking, diegetic sound can match the exact action seen on screen or someone that is outside the scene but still acting within the story’s world. For example, someone on the outside of the door knocking is still diegetic but also asynchronous. Non-diegetic sound is not part of the story’s world. This can include the soundtrack, a narrator or accent sounds used for effect within the film. Both diegetic and non-diegetic sounds are important to add context to any film.

Why is Sound So Important in Film?

Sound is the perfect complement to the visuals in a film. Much of the sound on set would be muffled if only person responsible for dialogue was the boom operator. In addition to the boom operator, the sound designer can add music, dialogue and sound effects layered on the audio track to create an immersive experience, help tell the film’s story, and evoke an emotional response. Without sound in a film, the audience would be left with just the visuals and no context for what they are seeing.

An Immersive Experience

The best films create an immersive experience, where the audience forgets they are still sitting in a movie theater. The audience gets lost in the sounds and visuals of the film and is transported to another world. Part of this immersive experience can include sounds that tell the audience what is happening off-screen, adding a fullness to each scene. Immersion can also be created with ambient sound. The ambient sounds create a foundation for all other sounds like dialogue and sound effects.


Sound is a good tool for storytelling and allowing the audience to feel the full impact of the film. Sound can move the story along or stop it in its tracks. One trick to move the audience from scene to scene is the sound bridge.

Using a sound bridge is a technique to keep the story moving forward between scenes. This way the audience can hear the next scene before they see it. This can be used instead of the traditional fade in and out, a traditional way to stop and start a scene.

Sound can also enhance where the film is set or its location. The use of thematic music and sound can set the scene for the audience, allowing them to get a feel for the location. Whether the actors are on a busy street, secluded island or in front of a waterfall, the soundscape of the film can advance the narrative of the story.

Evokes an Emotional Response

The film’s music is useful to create emotion and allow the film to set a tone. Whether it is a romantic interlude or action sequence, the soundtrack can help the audience feel what is happening on screen and build the appropriate tension for upcoming action.

Final Thoughts

Sound can be a powerful element in film. It can immerse an audience in a unique world, help tell the story and move the storyline along. Sound can also help create emotion and set the tone of the film. A film’s sound is just as important as the visuals on screen. If you are looking for a creative outlet, enjoy films and want to learn more about sound, then it may be time to learn about the film and sound design program at IPR. We will help you start your journey in sound design and you can enjoy the creative freedom that film and sound design offers.

Film and Sound Design Program

Ready to try your hand at sound design? The Film and Sound Design program offers an occupational degree that immerses you in the world and industry of film and sound design. IPR’s condensed program allows you to earn a multi-skill, multi-functional Occupational Associate of Applied Science Degree in as little as two years.  You learn hands-on, entry-level skills in every aspect of the film business: story, preproduction, production, and post-production for video and audio. Work as a part of a team to produce your own film- from concept and storyboard, to production and editing – you’ll graduate with a portfolio of work to showcase your creativity and launch your career in the exciting Film Industry.

If you are interested in a career in film and sound design you should tour our Minneapolis creative arts college, see the labs and meet our staff. Call 1-612-351-0631 or contact admissions to make arrangements.