Pro Sound Effects Blog

Storytelling with Cinematic Sound Design

How to tell your stories effectively and creatively with cinematic sound design.

Pro Sound Effects is excited to have contributed to a recent Film Riot episode on cinematic sound design!

Dive into the deconstruction of sound design with Ryan Connelly from Film Riot, in collaboration with Mike James Gallagher from INDEPTH Sound Design, and learn how it can be an impactful storytelling tool. 

Typically, when most people hear the words "sound design," they think of big impacts, explosions, laser beams —momentary on-screen sounds known as hard effects. However these sounds can have more depth than simply representing or matching the visual.

To illustrate this, a gunshot from Terminator 2: Judgement Day can be seen with thoughtful layered sound design. In order to frame this impactful moment when the Terminator shoots, the sound design is reinforced and integrated with storytelling purpose:

“When sound design is executed perfectly, it's much more than just ear candy. It's a narrative device with infinite potential."

Sound design has an arc in a story like every other element of film — as Walter Murch puts it, it is "everything you hear" – whether it's James Cameron's idea of "Hyper-Real Bigger than Life Sound," or even just rich and characterful everyday sounds like doors opening and closing.

To this point, Academy Award®-winning sound artist Mark Mangini (Mad Max: Fury Road, Blade Runner 2049) explains his fascination with door sound design and the opportunity it presents to express ideas and emotions:

“You'd think that sound designers and sound editors would obsess about the big stuff. But I can tell you that when we geek out in private, we geek out about door closes, and how hard they are to get right, and all the emotive qualities that you can trowel into the door."

In 2017, we partnered with Mark Mangini and Richard L. Anderson to create The Odyssey Collection – developed from their private sound effects library collected while creating the sound for over 250 Hollywood feature films and TV shows. This interview is an excerpt from our Sound Effects Master Class with Mark Mangini – created in collaboration with SoundWorks Collection.

Looking for cinematic sound effects to help tell your story?

Make your projects sound better with SoundQ – our sound library workflow software featuring sounds from Mark Mangini and more award-winners. Find any sound in the cloud library of 800,000+ and drop straight to your timeline.


With more examples from iconic movies like Terminator 2 and The Matrix, the video goes on to explore different cinematic sound design techniques and tools ranging from contrasting dynamics, how pain can be displayed sonically, and how to create sonic themes and arcs over the course of the film.

Even if your film is not action or sci-fi, you can still make the most of tasteful, hyper-real sounds to draw extra reactions; sound design is not limited to just one moment or scene.

To be cinematic is to be bold with sound — so go the extra mile!

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