SFX Techniques

SFX Techniques

SFX Techniques | Learn 6 best practices for cinematic sound design

One of the best ways you can enhance your visual projects is to use the power of sound. It’s essential to start with the highest-quality effects, but as with any tool, they need to be used with intention and purpose.

In the following 12 minute tutorial, you’ll see how we’ve used the Anticipation, Statement, and Archetype SFX libraries across many of our most popular videos and learn 6 big ideas for cinematic sound design. These are the tried and true techniques we’ve used for years at Lens Distortions.

Click play on the video below, enter your email address when prompted, and get ready to deploy the power of sound in your own projects.

Anticipation SFX

Bright, optimistic sound effects for inspiring projects.

Statement SFX

Modern, confident sound effects for bold projects.

Archetype SFX

Powerful, iconic sound effects for weighty films.
Start Here: 6 Best Practices for Cinematic Sound Design [12 Minutes]

After entering your email address, you’ll be able to watch as many times as you’d like. The supplemental content below accompanies what you’ll learn in the tutorial video. 

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01 Sound Motivation

Identifying where to use sound effects is the single most important part of sound design.

Opportunities are everywhere from the first frame of a video to the last. In addition to on-screen action, you can find sound motivation in things like timelapse and speed-ramped shots, transitions, title cards, and added visual effects. Watch 15 seconds of this Anticipation SFX trailer and you’ll notice all kinds of visual cues paired with sound.

Example from the Anticipation SFX Trailer

As you can see, the slightest movement paired with abstract sound can be just as powerful as matching an action to its literal sound.

In this next example from our trailer for Statement SFX, you’ll notice some obvious sound motivation from the windmill, which was paired with some whooshes. The shot of the woman immediately following the windmill is actually a far more important shot but it lacked sound motivation of its own.

To solve this, we created our own sound motivation by adding a Classic Light Hits overlay, which we paired with an effect called Drop Whoosh. All this together gave the shot a visceral feeling.

Example from the Statement SFX Trailer

Watch the tutorial at the top of this post for a closer look at some of the primary sound motivation in the Anticipation SFX and Statement SFX trailers.

02 Using Contrast

Cutting between fast and slow shots or loud and quiet sounds creates contrast, which is a great way keep your viewers engaged. In this trailer for Maven glass overlays, notice how visuals and sound work together in the quick intense shots to grab your attention and make the film more dynamic.

Example from the Maven Glass Overlays Trailer

Below is a visual representation of the contrasting clips from the Maven trailer. The orange clips are the quick, intense sounds that break up the slow, quiet parts of the video.

03 Punctuating Edit Points

It’s not always obvious, but sound is often what makes a cut between shots feel so big. This overview video for our Modern Light Hits pack moves along pretty subtly until the motorcycle scene hits you with a wall of sound.

Example from the Modern Light Hits Video

The video above combines all three techniques we’ve covered so far. We have sound motivation from the headlight popping on combined with the Modern Light Hit overlay that we added. We have contrast between the quiet theme music and the motorcycle action shot. And finally, all of this culminates at a single edit point. The combination of visual and sound is what makes the moment feel as big as it does.

Watch the full “6 Best Practices for Cinematic Sound Design” tutorial to see how we stacked sounds from multiple libraries to create the raw power of the edit.

04 Repeating Sounds

Using the same sound in repetition can be a great way to build intrigue and cue your viewer that something is coming. In this trailer for Anticipation SFX, notice the repeating note that gradually gets louder and louder.

Example from the Anticipation SFX Trailer

As you can see below, we actually combined two variations of the “Big Moment” sound effect that repeat as the sequence goes.

Toward the beginning of the video, the “Space” variation is louder and it sounds far away because of its reverb. Over time, the Space variation fades and the normal version of the clip becomes more prominent, which creates a sense of the sound getting closer.

You can also use repeating sounds to create entire rhythmic soundscapes. Notice how the sounds repeat and build together to create momentum in this video for Statement SFX.

Example from the Statement SFX Trailer

It’s important to keep frequency ranges in mind when building sequences like this. Watch the full tutorial at the beginning of this post to learn more. If you’re interested in using this technique extensively, our Endurance Underscore Library was actually specifically designed for this exact purpose.

05 Setups and Resolves

In this video for Luminary glass overlays, notice how we use sound to build up intrigue before launching into the theme song. But the most important part of this sequence is the strategic absence of sound… the silence just between the setup and resolve.

Example from the Luminary Video

Your job as an editor is to take your viewer on a journey and sound is an essential tool for making that journey interesting. Using sound, you can literally design how your viewer will feel. This video is a great example of how sound design doesn’t have to be complex, it just has to be intentional.

06 Staying Organized

Our last tip is less about execution and more about preparation. Making the effort up front to organize your sound libraries will save you a ton of time over many projects. 

If you’re using Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro X, consider importing all of your sound libraries into a master project that you always keep open. Then, as needed, you can drag and drop sounds into whatever project you’re currently working on.

Here is a snippet from our full 12-minute SFX Techniques tutorial showing how to do just that.

Creating master projects in Premiere and Final Cut X

Original SFX
Breath life into your visuals with risers, hits, whooshes, and more.

Anticipation SFX

Bright, optimistic sound effects for inspiring projects.

Statement SFX

Modern, confident sound effects for bold projects.

Archetype SFX

Powerful, iconic sound effects for weighty films.

Anticipation SFX

Bright, confident sound effects for inspiring projects.

Statement SFX

Modern, confident sound effects for bold projects.

Archetype SFX

Powerful, iconic sound effects for weighty films.

Save when you purchase Anticipation SFX, Statement SFX, and Archetype SFX together.

Save when you purchase Anticipation SFX, Statement SFX, and Archetype SFX together.

Endurance

Endurance

Endurance | Build gripping underscores with cinematic rhythms, patterns, and textures
Introducing Endurance, a library of rhythmic underscore elements that blur the lines between sound design and soundtrack.

Our first two sound effect libraries — Archetype and Anticipation — provide the essential sounds for creating impactful moments in your films.

Endurance is the driving force in between those impactful moments.

Endurance SFX

Cinematic Underscore Elements

Build Cinematic Underscores
Underscores are sequences of sound that tie a film together. Your viewer is less likely to notice an underscore, but they’ll feel something is missing if it isn’t there. You might use an underscore as an alternative to music, as a light presence, or as a driving force to push your story forward.

Endurance is all about this third use. The library’s percussive elements, pulsing drones, abstract patterns, and organic textures were captured with the idea of drive and determination in mind.

Use these tracks to create an underlying sense of progress in scenes where your character is rolling up their sleeves, preparing for the big day, or resolved to reach a breakthrough.

Highly Versatile
The tracks in Endurance are designed to be layered together in endless combinations. They are more singular than music loops, but more systematic than individual sound effects.

Most of the tracks are between 30-90 seconds in length, allowing you to create underscores for an individual scene or an entire project.

There is a wide variety of patterns across the clips, but they all share a common tempo (90 BPM). This gives you the freedom to experiment, mix-and-match, and create unique soundscapes for your commercial projects or cinematic short films.

Overview

 
5 Distinct Categories
We curated the pack down to only the best and most useful sound effects. With 80 original effects across 5 useful categories, you’ll be able to quickly find the perfect sounds.
4 Useful Variations
Each track comes in four variations: Normal, Distortion, Silk, and Space.

Distortion is crunchy and impactful. Silk is deep and rich. Space feels super ambient and airy.

Professional Grade

Inspiring sound design is now attainable for filmmakers at every level of the game.

The sounds are professionally mastered and compatible with all major editing platforms, including Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.

Endurance

Cinematic Underscore Elements

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What’s New in Luminary for Video

What’s New in Luminary for Video

Luminary Glass Overlays | The definitive post-production counterpart to an iconic cinematography technique
Since the beginning, unique glass effects have been a hallmark of Lens Distortions. Luminary is the quintessential example of this signature style.

From delicate to assertive, these glass textures offer you a unique way to complement your subject, accentuate or soften parts of your shot, and add complexity to your film.

Luminary

Distinguished Glass Overlays

Signature Style
This pack contains some unapologetically bold looks for scenes where you’re really seeking to make a statement. But it also contains no shortage of nuanced and intricate elements for adding just a touch of subtle intrigue to your shot.

Luminary is the iconic glass shoot-through style from A to Z.

What’s New
Luminary now includes 90 glass overlays and is organized into 5 distinct categories to better showcase the diversity of looks.

We’ve created some new clips to make one of the most popular use cases (transitions) easier and added a few previously unreleased overlays to really round out the mix.

As always, we’ve meticulously curated the essential effects based on aesthetic and use case.

Explore the effect categories in Luminary and see some classic use cases in the brand new overview video.

We’ve also some created new tutorials for Final Cut X, Premiere, and After Effects, which can be found below.

Existing Luminary customers can download the new clips and category structure as a free update. Just use the original download links in your email receipt or account.

5 Distinct Categories
90 Effects Total
01 – Quick

Grab attention and create a sense of urgency with the clips in the Quick folder. These also work great as transition elements between cuts and also pair perfectly with speed-ramped shots.

02 – Bold

Make a statement with these gorgeous, refined glass overlays. Some are silky and soft, others are more complex… but all of them are perfect for framing your shots with light.

03 – Delicate

Based on the classic glass shoot-through technique, these overlays are perfect for accenting small, profound moments.

04 – Immersive

Wrap your subject in glimmering bokeh and light. Use these effects to create a sense of awe or magic.

05 – Intricate

Use these unique effects to add subtle glints of light to objects.

Existing Luminary customers can download the new clips and category structure as a free update. Just use the original download links in your email receipt or account.

 
Tutorial: Using Luminary in Premiere
Learn to how to frame your shot with glass using Luminary in Adobe Premiere.
Tutorial: Using Luminary in Final Cut X
Learn to how to frame your shot with glass using Luminary in Final Cut X.
Tutorial: Advanced Glints in AE
Learn how to create stylized glints and reflections in After Effects using Luminary.

Luminary

Distinguished Glass Overlays

Features

  • Includes 90 curated clips
  • 5 Distinct Categories
  • Compatible with all major video editing apps, including Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.
  • 4K ProRes: 15GB
  • 4K H264: 2.1GB
  • 2K ProRes: 4.5GB
  • 2K H264: 450MB
  • Royalty Free

View License Agreement

Features

  • Includes 90 curated clips
  • 5 Distinct Categories
  • Compatible with all major video editing apps, including Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.
  • 4K ProRes: 15GB
  • 4K H264: 2.1GB
  • 2K ProRes: 4.5GB
  • 2K H264: 450MB

View License Agreement

Luminary 2K

$99Buy Now

Luminary 4K

$129Buy Now

Luminary 4K

$129Buy Now

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Luminary 2K
Luminary 2K

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Noah Shulman – Cinematic Power

Noah Shulman – Cinematic Power

Cinematic Power | Filmmaker Noah Shulman shares his intentional approach to visual effects
We’ve been fans of visual storyteller Noah Shulman since 2015 when he shared with us how he used Lens Distortions on his commercial project To The Core, which profiled veterans of the US Marine Corps.

Today Shulman works as Creative Director at Vantage, Mic’s branded content studio. After working with brands like Nike, Ford, Coach and Vogue, this year he released his passion project, “Built By Pain,” which chronicles the comeback story of MMA fighter Brendan Barrett.

We asked Shulman to sit down with us and talk about his thinking behind this original work.

In your mind what’s the biggest difference in the creative process between a typical commercial project and a cinematic one like Built by Pain?

The biggest difference is time and time alone.

Having time allowed me to foster a natural connection and trust with Brendan over many phone conversations. After hours of talking about his life story it became apparent that everything came back to the shattering of his hand, which ended up becoming the anchor of the story.

What I learned is that trust between subject and filmmaker allows the most vulnerable moments to unfold.

On the flipside, the disadvantage of working on a personal project is being your own client and critiquing your own work. The hardest part is taking a step back and knowing when it’s complete.

 

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Introducing Finishing LUTs

Introducing Finishing LUTs

While most LUTs out there are heavy-handed at the expense of quality, Finishing LUTs offer a lighter touch and are rigorously stress-tested to work well across a wide variety of footage and lighting conditions.

SFX Techniques

SFX Techniques

One of the best ways you can enhance your visual projects is to use the power of sound. In this 12 minute tutorial, we take you behind the scenes of many Lens Distortions videos to see the tried and true techniques we’ve been using for years.

Statement Sound Effects

Statement Sound Effects

Cutting edge brand pieces, innovative product launches, and revolutionary campaigns evoke more emotion by using meaningful sound design. Statement SFX gives you the essential sounds to make your mark.

“For me, Lens Distortions are the highest quality, most natural-looking effects.”
What surprised you most about the world of MMA fighting?

The goal from the start was to use a violent sport to tell a human story.

I think it was less of a surprise and more of an affirmation to uncover everything that goes into training and fighting from a mental, physical and emotional standpoint.

I wanted to share a human story that people could relate to and be inspired by, regardless of their knowledge of MMA.

How did you ensure that relatable story came out on camera?

Telling the subject to “put on a show” in a space, or place, that doesn’t resonate with the past can be a slippery slope. This is why the trust and vulnerability was key to pulling out the emotions we wanted on screen.

For example, Brendan never saw the photos of his past, images of his shattered hand and his grandfather until he unveiled it on camera.

“The more subtly I use the effects, the more natural they look.”
In the trailer the willpower of Barrett is palpable. The sound, lighting and cinematography all work together to dramatically express his massive physical and emotional presence. How did you approach the visuals to capture that visceral physicality?

For me, the sound was just as important as the visuals. We didn’t capture sound on set, so everything had to be well-thought out and well-crafted in order to really draw you into the scene. I wanted to treat everything, except the narration, with an almost ethereal, dreamy state which, to me, ties it into the past.

Because the approach was already very cinematic, I wanted to keep the visuals as raw as possible; FX needed to be limited. The kaleidoscopic shots and a few of the transitions with double overlaid images all tie back to the dreamy feel of a memory.

What was your technique for those kaleidoscopic shots?

Very simple. I shattered a mirror on set and filmed through a long lens. No special FX needed!

Your use of Lens Distortions effects in this film are subtle but hit particular emotional notes. For example, we love how you combined some of our glass overlays with the double overlaid images at 2:24. How do you balance live effects with tools like ours?

There needs to be justification for any visual tool or effect.

For me, Lens Distortions are the highest quality, most natural-looking effects. Adding your glass elements to shots where I couldn’t achieve the look live allowed me the flexibility to adjust the visuals in post as needed.

I find that the more subtly I use the effects, the more natural they look.

“Know your voice. Hustle. Learn. Create.”
You’ve been doing professional video work for quite a while now. What editing products have become your “go to” tools for achieving incredible high-quality results?

I try to stick to the basics: Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator.

I would say experience, intuition, openness and feedback are the most important tools.

Know your voice. Hustle. Learn. Create.

See more of Noah Shulman’s work at noahshulman.com.