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The Ultimate Guide to Audio for Animation

Tags: Animation Harmony How To Tips and Tricks

Sound effects, voice-overs and music can add impact and emotion to your animation. In Part One of this three-part series, we will discuss common elements of audio for animation that have been listed in order of importance when planning for sound.

A Voice-Over Helps Tell Your Story

The spoken word is a powerful vehicle that can pull in your audience, help them understand your story and make them feel empathy towards your character. Characters can be brought to life with a great voice-over performance.

Vocal elements in animation can include:

  • Narrative dialogue
  • Character dialogue
  • Vocal sound effects (gasps, groans, screams)

When performing and recording your voice-over, it's important to stay in character and match your vocal pauses and inflections with the character. Matching a voice-over with the character is difficult to achieve if the animation has already been completed.

Recording quality is critical. In Part Two, we will provide tips on how to record a quality voice-over while on a budget.

Animation Sound Effects that Help Build Excitement

When viewing animation, your mind expects to hear what your eyes are seeing. Animation sound effects should help the film "flow" and build excitement. For instance, when a character smacks his lips, adding a smacking sound will emphasize that moment in your animation. If a character jumps, you can increase interest by inserting the sound of the character landing on the ground.

Adding Realism with Hard Effects

Hard effects add realism to the plot of your animation and should always be in sync with the animation on the screen.

Some examples may include:

  • Car crash
  • Gunshot
  • Screeching tires
  • Face slap

Recording hard effects can be challenging, which is why most people use licensed effects or royalty-free animation sound effects that can be found on the Internet.

Stereo audio files that are panned correctly add spatial realism to a scene. If a Lamborghini skids from the left and veers to the right, the sound of screeching tires should follow the direction of the car. Panning techniques help engage the viewer.

Ambient and Background Effects

Ambient tracks help set the mood by matching and defining the place with the setting.

Animation should match realistic sounds in a scene—for example, a waterfall or fast running creek. However, you need not match these ambient sounds specifically with an action in your animation to establish mood. For example, if a scene involves a bustling airport, the sound of crowd noise and terminal announcements in the background will establish the location of your scene.

Music Creates Emotion

Music can amplify emotions in your animation, build suspense and add foreshadowing when selected properly. In the menacing film Jaws, a two-note theme made famous by John Williams added a deep level of terror to the film.

The Preferred Order of Recording Animation Sound Effects

The sound elements in this article follow a preferred order: voice-overs, sound effects, hard effects, ambient effects and music. When planned out properly, effects can pump up the impact and emotion of your animation and stimulate reality and movement in your narration. Don’t make the mistake of only focusing on visual elements.

In Part Two of this series we will focus on "How to Record a Quality Voice-Over on a Budget".

Part 2 | Part 3