Contributor Tips, Inspiration

The Importance of Diegetic Sound in Bringing Footage to Life


Once a film is shot, it isn’t really realized until it’s edited. We’ve all heard the stories of messy films being saved in the edit — but what about scenes that are driven by sound effects used to enhance the suspense, tension, or drama of a sequence long after the film is in the can?

It’s impossible to downplay the importance of an added on-camera or off-camera sound effect as a device to push a story forward, or to simply sync a sound to the action. With that said, we can’t discount the importance or the magic of what sound design contributes to a film or a commercial’s final cut. Let’s take a dive into diegetic sounds — those sounds that the on-screen characters experience.


Bringing Sound Into Your Story

Recently, I’ve blocked out time on the weekends to dive into a video piece that I shot a couple of years back. Although I had one microphone capturing the interviews and another picking up on ambient sounds from my b-roll, there was quite a bit of audio missing from the original recordings, which kept me from realizing my vision and telling my story.

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I found archival footage from the 1960s that visually supported my subject’s experience, but the footage had its own original audio source, which wouldn’t work for the story that I was attempting to convey.

Audio Editor Working in the Studio by purtoff

I removed the audio from the clips and added my subject’s dialog playing over the sequence, but the scene still lacked the necessary emotional impact that the images illustrated beneath the voiceover. I own a Zoom H1 portable recorder, which is ideal for musicians, filmmakers, and interviewers, and more, butt frankly, I couldn’t invest the time it would have taken to locate and then record the sounds I was searching for.

This is where Pond5’s SFX artists are invaluable. I immediately found a few sound effects for this one scene that worked flawlessly under my shots, and by doing so, I found a process to solve further audio problems that I could foresee stalling my progress in the future.

Woman Goes Shhh into the Camera by Airstock

Silence Can Be Golden

A city at sleep is anything but silent to a sound designer and golden for an SFX artist who desires to explore and record these urban nuances. A subtle ambient sound recorded in the morning, compared to the sound at rush hour is the difference in making a city scene believable or not. “Urban” is one of the most popular search terms among our video buyers, meaning that capturing a city’s sounds at different hours of the day would especially be worth your while.

The same can be said for the sounds we discover in nature. The subtle differences within the same environment can vary quite a bit depending on the hour of the day. Be aware of the aural differences you hear in the same place at different times of the day.

Cross Selling Video With Sound Effects

Most of Pond5’s video offering is comprised of clips without sound. I strongly suggest that you analyze the primary subject categories in Pond5’s footage collections.

We provide a dropdown filter for the most popular clips, which is an invaluable tool for not only being able to find inspiration behind a top-selling concept, but also to encourage other media artists to use it as a research tool for their own work. Chances are high that the buyer will be searching for diegetic sounds to match these top-selling clips.

You may want to create the sounds that would accompany the action in these top-sellers. You don’t have to sync the sound to the image — allow the buyer to do that for you. If you decide to do this, let me know — we are always looking for new ways to cross sell our media types.

Bringing Footage to Life

The future of storytelling will be unearthed from the past. This idea specifically relates to the use of archival footage to either support a contemporary story or be used as the main footage component to a historical narrative.

Often, the archival footage that you search for exists without a soundtrack or with an audio track that’s inappropriate for your storyline. A simple diegetic sound can make all the difference in seamlessly stitching the fabric from one transitional scene to another. Similar to using the “Popular” filter for contemporary images, filter your search for Archival content and re-introduce the sounds of the past into your collection and to our buyers.

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The World Around You

Be aware of the sounds that surround you, such as a turntable needle landing in the grove of a record, a colleague tapping a computer keyboard, the clicking sound of a computer mouse or the touch tone of a phone. Please give us a heads up on what you’re working on. In the meantime, we’ll continue to support your efforts by providing the quickest route to our buyers with the freshest and most relatable sounds in the industry.
Top image: Sun Rays Shine Behind Microphone in Nature by SoundGorilla