• Victoria Altern

What does fear sound like? 2.0

Our group was tasked with re-doing all the audio for a short film called Darkness Calls. This means we had to really dive into the world of fear, tension and suspense. There are visual ways to create these feelings but a lot of what makes us scared in horror films comes from the sound design formula of the horror genre. "No other genre can manipulate it’s audience with sound design the way horror can." (Music, n.d.)

We started with a spotting session and decided what logistically needed to be included. Afterwards we had some freedom to get creative and make it unique. Some sounds we had to replace because the atmos' gave the wrong impression, such as cars driving past every now and then when the scene of a camping trip is meant to be secluded. We also thought about adding in subtle sounds that trigger a sense of 'creep' such as a wolf howling or an owl hooting. I provided the group with a phone ring, one that needed to sound like it was coming from an older dial phone instead of a mobile was important too - details, details. There's a scene where he turns into a demon and then coughs up, what would best be described as demon goo, onto her and the sound needed to be more intense in order to be more convincing, so I provided muddy footstep foley which worked perfectly with some layering of the original sync of that part.

As a child I was always a bit too intrigued with the creepy sound guitar strings make just above the nut and below the tuning pegs where the strings are taut. As soon as I knew we had to compose for horror, this popped into my head and I thought it might be a good foundation for the score. I brought my guitar in and we recorded it in the Tascam studio with a ZoomH5 stereo recorder. Aaron then cut it up and layered it to get some cool effects. This would only be for certain parts to create dissonance and to enhance the progress of chaos, as it prompts the the viewer to 'get ready' and this causes suspense.

I had an idea, one that has been used many times for demonic voices and rightly so. To duplicate his voice after he becomes a demon so we have 3 identical audio clips of his dialogue. We keep one as his own voice, detune and pitch down the other and then detune and pitch up the third one. This creates the effect like there are multiple voices coming out of him at once and can honestly be one of the most disturbing sounds. We executed this well as a group because Aaron knew the right plugins and Olivia had a good feel for when it was too much or just enough.

I feel really good about where we have taken the sound design. We've been able to work so well together as a team and all of our ideas have been a good mix. The score could have used a bit more time but we did the best we could in the time that we had. We definitely enhanced the quality of the experience by improving the sounds that weren't convincing enough, adding in SFX and Foley that were crucial for the film to make sense (definitely needed a phone ring as the characters are dependant on its whereabouts and a voice answering on the other side was equal parts logic and creativity), cleaning up the dialogue to be as clear and forward in the mix as possible which always enhances the intimacy between the viewer and characters and therefore enhances the emotional response within a viewer and just overall brought the quality of the experience up in general by using good quality audio. The cherry on top will be in our mixing session when we really get to bring it all to life with effects and automation.


Baker, A. (2018). Making Creepy Music Give You Goose Bumps. [online] Scientific American Blog Network. Available at: [Accessed 15 Feb. 2020].

Music, 2. (n.d.). How to Create Terrifying Horror Film Music. [online] Mixdown. Available at: [Accessed 15 Feb. 2020].

Shehan, E. (2020). Sound, Screams, and the Score: An Exploration of Sound in Classic Horror Slashers. The Carleton Graduate Journal of Art and Culture, 5, p.3.

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