Dumb Things About Sound Effects We Only Believe Because Of Hollywood



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Vote up the dumbest sound effect tropes

It’s impossible to overstate the impact Hollywood has on the public imagination. Due to their ubiquity, movies and TV have reshaped many things about our everyday lives, and one of the most notable of these is how we think things sound. 

Whether it’s the clear ring of a sword leaving a scabbard, the cry of a kookaburra in a jungle, or the overused Wilhelm scream, dumb tropes have wormed their way into the public consciousness to such a degree many people no doubt think they’re actually real. However, as is so often the case when it comes to the making of the movies, there’s more than a little deception involved with the creation of some of the most famous sound effects.

  • 1
    92 VOTES

    Swords Make A Schwing Sound When Drawn From A Scabbard

    Anyone who has seen an episode of Game of Thrones, The Rings of Power, or any number of other historical or fantasy series is familiar with this particular sound effect. Some warrior will draw their sword from its scabbard, and the air will fill with the clear, metallic chime. This will often happen regardless of just what the scabbard in question happens to be made out of, whether metal, leather, or something else. 

    As often happens with the movies, however, this is a misrepresentation of what a scabbard actually entails. This sound would likely only emerge if the scabbard itself was metal,  which wouldn’t be a wise choice, considering it could lead to a sword quickly becoming rusty.

    92 votes
  • 2
    96 VOTES

    Silencers Completely Negate The Sounds Of Gunfire

    Guns have long played a key role in movies so it’s not surprising to find various myths springing up around how they sound. Perhaps no gun sound misconception is as ubiquitous as the idea of a silencer totally negating the sound of a gun. Their use is particularly prominent in spy films–most notably the various entries of the James Bond franchise--and narratively this makes sense, as Bond often has to shoot on the sly. 

    Silencers do not work like this in real life, however. While silencers do muffle the sound of a gunshot somewhat, there is still a very loud sound involved. In fact, even this muffled noise is loud enough to cause hearing damage if one is exposed to it for a prolonged length of time. The silenced shotgun in No Country For Old Men is a suitably menacing weapon for the terrifying antagonist Anton Chigurh but it's simply not possible. There's also the fact the Remington 11-87 wasn't even designed until 1987 and the movie's supposed to have been set in 1980

    96 votes
  • 3
    94 VOTES

    African, Asian, And South American Jungles All Sound Alike

    From the very beginning, the jungle has been an important location for the movies, appearing in everything from Tarzan to Raiders of the Lost Ark. In almost every instance, there’s a moment where the audience hears a particular bird cry. It doesn’t matter where the particular jungle is located–whether in Asia, Africa, or South America–this particular bird call will almost always be heard. As with so many things in Hollywood, however, it’s a bit of a misdirection.

    The sound, it turns out, comes from a bird known as the laughing kookaburra. It’s unclear just where this particular conceit originated, though many people seem to think it originated with the very popular series of Tarzan films. Regardless of where it originated, it’s pretty clear the sound of a kookaburra is very out of place in anywhere but its native Australia. This hasn’t stopped it from appearing in even relatively recent films such as The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

    94 votes
  • 4
    67 VOTES

    You Can Hear Explosions In Space

    Anyone who has seen the Star Wars films knows they are filled with titanic space battles. One need only think of the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope to have the entire scene come to mind, complete with sight and sound. It’s a rousing moment, and it helps to sweep the viewer up in the excitement of good’s triumph over the evil Empire and its monstrous military might. 

    In reality, however, space is a vacuum, and so it lacks the necessary materials for sound to move through and be received by the human ear. This is, moreover, the same reason it would be unlikely to see flames after an explosion in space. And, while the early Star Wars films didn’t get this particular phenomenon right, this hasn’t been true of some of the later installments. What’s more, other films, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, do actually manage to be true to life. 

    67 votes
  • 5
    66 VOTES

    Tires Always Squeal At High Speeds No Matter The Surface

    The sound of tires squealing is one which crops up in all sorts of genres, in both film and television. All it takes is for some person going at a high rate of speed to either slam on their brakes or accelerate at a high speed in order to produce this ubiquitous sound. What’s more, in Hollywood it doesn’t seem to matter just what kind of road is involved: whether dirt or asphalt, tires will squeal. This is particularly evident in series such as The Dukes of Hazzard. 

    This phenomenon is, of course, an invention of Hollywood far removed from everyday life. To begin with, tire squealing is usually a sign someone is very close to an accident. For another, since the actual sound itself is often the product of the rubber’s contact with the pavement, something which would be unlikely to occur on a dirt road. There’s no denying it, however: this sound effect does add excitement and immediacy to a sequence.

    66 votes
  • 6
    55 VOTES

    Bombs Whistle When They Fall From Planes

    Anyone who has watched either a WWII film or a Looney Tunes cartoon (particularly one featuring Wile E. Coyote) is familiar with the alleged whistling sound bombs make when they are dropped from an airplane. Usually, the pitch would decrease as the object approached, usually with a shadow falling over the ground as the bomb got closer. 

    While there is some truth to this particular auditory phenomenon. During WWII, the Germans would often equip their bombs with a whistle, in order to inspire an even greater amount of fear in those who were standing on the ground. However, there is still inaccuracy in how these bombs appear in films and television. Due to the impact of the Doppler Effect, the pitch would actually increase in frequency as the object drew closer to the person on the ground. However, the opposite would be true for the pilot, which may help to explain this particular conceit on the part of filmmakers.

    55 votes