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How to Let an Animation Script be Your Guide for Sound and Effects

Tags: Animation How To Tips and Tricks

In this final part of our three-part series on "How to Create Audio for Your Animation," we'll discuss how a script can convey which audio elements are required long before your animation is completed. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2, please find them here:
The Ultimate Guide to Audio for Animation
How to do Voice-Overs on a Budget: Eight Key Tips

Create a Sound Map

As you read through your animation script, create a sound map and add reference notes of the different types of sounds you think would best serve your project. Close your eyes and ask yourself: what do I expect to hear at this precise moment? Should the scene include ambient noise like people talking in a busy restaurant, or the sound of plates being placed on a table?

A rough sound sketch can be as simple as adding extra notes into your script. For example:

  • Effects (fx): Clock ticking
  • Ambient Effects (ambfx): Crowd cheering
  • Music: Uplifting

Effects can really help tell the story, depending on what's taking place at each moment. The scene will always tell you what sounds should be present and when. Make sure your sound effects include elements that tie in with a character's action and the dominant mood in the scene.

Avoid Using Too Many Layers

As you build your story by layering sounds and effects, focus on one element at a time. Avoid adding too many effects as you can end up cluttering the sound and taking away from your audience's experience. Invest extra time with each element as it is introduced, to ensure your audio effects have room and don't cancel each other out. Sound effects can get in the way of the dialogue if they aren't chosen properly.

Picture and sound should coexist naturally without competing. If a scene's importance relies on the visual aspect, avoid adding too many sound effects, as they may be more of a distraction than enhancement.

Consider using low musical frequencies when dialogue is the main focus. For example, if a scene involves the sound of breaking glass and a woman screaming, the sound of breaking glass will make the female voice less audible because the pitch of the elements is in the same frequency range.

Don't Obscure Dialogue

During dialogue, it's important to ensure voices are clearly understood. Ambient effects such as the sound of a storm, will make for a more dramatic presentation, but can be a distraction if the dialogue is buried under the mix making words more difficult to understand. Scenes can be brought to life by adding in the sounds you expect to hear, while keeping all audio elements in balance so that they blend in with the dialogue without becoming a distraction.

Add Music That Aligns with the Action

Music can be used to add dramatic effects when major plot points occur. As you go through your script, make note of significant points such as "beginning of scene", "end of scene", "begin action" and "end action". These points will give you the opportunity to establish the tone or mood of the scene with suitable music tracks that support the action as well as help create atmosphere and suspense.

An effective technique for building excitement involves increasing the tempo and volume of the music track during a fight or action scene. Again, make notes on your script aligning with the action or emotion you need to portray.

Prime music insertion points can include:

  • Major victory
  • Tragedy
  • Suspense
  • Fear

Keep in mind how the music, sound effects and script interact with one another. All three components, when treated properly, should blend together and complement your project without becoming a distraction. When in doubt, less is more.

Part 1 | Part 2

Harmony