Should I Use Sound Effects In My Documentary?
Documentary Sound Effects
Question: I know it isn't common to use sound effects in a documentary. I want to use the sound of a ticking clock on a shot of students taking an exam as it adds tension to the scene. Should I use the sound effect as it is or distort it so its more like music?
Desktop Documentaries | Answer
Hi Ben.. it's absolutely fine to use sound effects in your documentary. You are making a film and creating an emotional experience for the audience.
This is where a documentary is different from news gathering. Definitely in news, music and filmmaking techniques are not typically used or allowed in a purely journalistic endeavor. Facts and just the facts.
But for a documentary, there's a lot of more wiggle room. As a former television journalist turned documentary filmmaker, I learned this first-hand.
Think about all the documentaries that include recreations and special effects such as Man on Wire and King Corn. Even my own documentary, Briars in the Cotton Patch, has recreations. For example, I used the sound of a gun shot to create a sense of danger.
As long as you are remaining ethical to the story and not trying to trick the audience into believing something that isn't true, you are totally fine coming up with creative storytelling techniques that help make the experience more interesting or entertaining for the viewer.
Does that help?
Anyone else have ideas or feedback for Ben? Please leave comments below.