Skip to main content
Publish date:

BOOK REVIEW: The Sound Effects Bible

A friend of mine, Biagio Messina, who’s a super-talented TV producer and filmmaker, once told me: “The easiest way to make something LOOK good… is to make something SOUND good.” (I may be paraphrasing, but that’s how I remember it.)

And he’s right.

A few weeks ago at work, we shot a sketch with a fight scene which—when I watched it the first time—felt completely weak and uninspired. But as soon as our editor, Jorge, unleashed an orgy of sound effects on it—punches, bones crunching, etc.—it was wonderfully hilarious.

In this moment, I learned three lessons which—to be honest—I learn over and over and never remember as well as I should…

LESSON #1: Jorge is an awesome editor.

LESSON #2: Biagio was right and always is. And...

LESSON #3: Whether you’re working on a reality TV show, a short film, or a 6-hour miniseries, sound effects are one of the best ways to bring something to life and make it sparkle. The world’s most dazzling visual effects are often worthless if they don’t have the appropriate sounds to make them pop.

Having said that, I’ve always known very little about how sound guys work their magic. I pick up some lingo here and there… and I’ve done a few radio pieces… but for the most part, I’m a sound idiot.

And—at the risk of making a gross generalization (which I’m gonna go ahead and make)—I think most writers are probably in the same boat.

Which is why Ric Viers’ new book, The Sound Effects Bible, is such a helpful tool.

Now, I’m gonna be honest… this is not a book you curl up with and enjoy in a single sitting. It's also not the book you read to stir up your creative juices or think differently about your writing.

It's exactly what the title says it is: a thorough introduction, a reference book, to the practical world of creating and using sound effects.

...Which means this IS the book you read if you’re producing your first film
and must learn how to produce sound effects… or if you’re starting your
first job as a post-production P.A. and want to learn more about the
post world… or if you’re a writer/producer and need to communicate more
articulately with your post department… or even if you’re an
experienced sound guy and just want to keep an easy-to-read manual handy.

The book begins with an overview of the “science of sound,” discussing frequencies, amplitudes, decibels, etc. If this sounds like stuff you learned in junior high science class, you’re right… it is. And while the last thing I would EVER want to re-read is my junior high science book, The Sound Effects Bible takes this information and helps you apply it practically, in the recording and usage of sound effects, in ways your junior high science teacher never did.

Viers goes through microphones… different types, how they work, which to use for different kinds of recording. He talks about recorders… how they’ve evolved throughout history, differences between digital and analog, how to set up a recorder correctly. He even walks you through designing your own sound effects recording studios and Foley stages.

For me, the most fascinating chapter was “The Ten Recording Commandments,” which outlines exactly how to record top-notch sound effects. I’ve never before had to record any sound effects… and I don’t foresee needing to do it any time soon… but I love getting in-depth peeks into other artists’ creative processes, and Viers does such a good job of detailing his “commandments,” I felt like I could do it this afternoon.

The book also has a corresponding websitewww.soundeffectsbible.com—that includes the actual sound effects samples discussed in each chapter, video tutorials, and a ton of other useful information. As of this morning, many of the coolest parts of the site (like the sound effects themselves) were still under construction, but once it’s up and running, the book and site together will be a powerful resource for anyone wading into the world of sound effects.

(I also hope Viers keeps the site updated with news on the latest sound effects developments, technologies, and resources, helping the book to be a constantly up-to-date guide to the world of sound.)

Anyway, if you're getting ready to produce a film... or work in post... or just want to learn more about one of the most important-- but often over-looked-- processes in film... check out the book and lemme know what you think...

In the mean time, here’s a tutorial video of author Ric Viers smashing a station wagon with sledgehammers and cement blocks (and if this is what sound effects guys do all day—count me in)…

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Ending Your Story Too Soon

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is ending your story too soon.

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes with Magic

FightWrite™: Fight Scenes With Magic

In this post, trained fighter and author Carla Hoch explores the process of writing fight scenes with magic—how to make the unbelievable believable, how limitations bring us closer to our characters, and more.

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

Invoice Template for Freelance Writers

If you're a freelance writer who is able to secure assignments, an essential tool you'll need is an invoice. In this post, Writer's Digest Senior Editor Robert Lee Brewer shares a very basic and easy invoice template for freelance writers to get the job done (and get paid).

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

3 Things Being a Broadway Wig Master Taught Me About Storytelling

A career behind the curtain helped Amy Neswald in creating her own stories. Here, the author shares 3 things being a broadway wig master taught her about storytelling.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Out of Control

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let things get a little out of control.

November PAD Chapbook Challenge

2021 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Next Steps

Here are the final steps for the 14th annual November PAD Chapbook Challenge! Use December and the beginning of January to revise and collect your poems into a chapbook manuscript. Here are some tips and guidelines.

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

NaNoWriMo’s Over … Now What?

After an intense writing challenge, you might feel a little lost. Here are some tips from Managing Editor and fellow Wrimo Moriah Richard for capitalizing on your momentum.

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

Ian Douglas: On Telling the Truth in Science Fiction

New York Times bestselling author Ian Douglas discusses how he incorporated implausible conspiracy theories to uncover the truth in his new science fiction novel, Alien Hostiles.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 589

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a yesterday poem.