Make Your Films POP With Sound Design

This is part four of my Resolve Basics series, where I’ve been showing you my post-production workflow in Davinci Resolve.

This week it’s all about audio. I’ll tackle my audio once I finished up the colour grading, you can find last weeks video on this here. I’ll also link to it in the description.

Audio is arguably one of the most important part of video. If the audio is bad, the viewer will switch off, whereas if the video is bad, the viewer is more likely to continue watching, providing the story is good.

Ok, time for an example. Sound design can take a scene from this (show example with no sound design), to this (Show example with sound design).

As you can hear, sound design make s a huge difference to each shot, so let’s jump into the tutorial and I’ll show you to do this.

Sub Mix

The first step of my sound design workflow is to create sub mixes for my audio.

Start by normalising the audio levels on your dialogue track. Highlight the audio tracks, right click and click on ‘Normalize Audio Levels’

I’ll create 4 sub mixes, one for Dialogue, called DX. One for my atmospheric sounds, called ATMO. One for music, called MX. And one for sound effects, called FX.

Now that I have created my submixes and color coded them, I’ll link them up to my audio tracks.

I name each of my dialogue tracks DX. If there are multiple tracks, I will number them. And I will also color code it to match the submixes.

I do the same for my ATMO, MX and FX tracks.

In the mixer panel, I deselect the main mix output, and select the corresponding sub mix, so that these tracks are linked.

You can then make modifications to the eq, dynamics and volume.

For Dialogue, I’ll modify the eq so that the voice sounds more full, and this varies depending on the microphone used.

I’ll also boost the dynamics by 10dB, turn on the compressor, and pull the ratio all the way to the right.

This compresses the audio, balancing out the levels across the track.

I’ll then pull down the volume by about -5dB.

For each of the other sub mixes, I’ll jump into the EQ and pull down by -5dB on the 1k frequency band. This will helps the dialogue track to stand out more clearly over the music and effects.

Finally, I’ll drop the volume down on the music track, by about -20dB, the FX track by about -10dB and the Atmo track by -10dB.

This will balance the audio out, and give you a good Start on your sound design.

Music

Now that the submixes are created, I’ll go back through on the edit timeline, balancing out the music to make it match each scene, increasing and decreasing the volume where nessecary.

Atmo

The next step is to add Atmospheric sounds. These are sounds that help to build an atmosphere for the scene, and could be:

  • Wind blowing through leaves in a forest

  • The interior of a car

  • Or machinery in a factory

Think of the ATMO track as the sound bed for each scene, setting the overall tone and feel.

Drag in your atmosphere tracks and balance the audio levels until you are happy with how it sounds.

FX

The final audio type you’ll want to add is your sound effects.

Typically I will layer multiple sounds together, to help pull the viewer in to the actions taking place in each shot.

Sound effects you use can be a mix of Foley, Impacts, Whooshes and other sounds that enhance the film.

If you’d like to learn how you can create your own foley, The Film Look have some great videos on this, so go check them out.

Some sound effect examples could be, the sound of keys klinking and a key turning in the lock on a door.

Another example could be a page being turned in a book, or footsteps on the ground.

The FX elements are the icing on the cake, they help pull everything together into an experience for the viewer.

Layer these up, but don’t got over board as this could start to become a distraction. You’ll also want to balance the audio levels so that they don’t overpower the rest of the audio tracks.

Your FX should be subtle, just there to add depth.

Finishing Up

Now that you have added all of your sound effects, you’ll want to watch through the film multiple times, adjusting the audio levels, and tweaking the placement of each effect. Do this until you are happy with the film.