Sound Bridge: A Dynamic Storytelling Tool

A sound bridge can be a dynamic storytelling tool when it is skillfully constructed and strategically applied in audio post production.

Audio Producer working on sound bridge

This simple device, designed to link two scenes together, transcends its most fundamental purpose when it is ultimately used to create a connection with the audience.

A sound bridge uses sound to connect one visual scene to another. At its most basic, a sound bridge leads a viewer in or out of a scene.

Understanding Sound Bridge

One year, while attending the Savannah Film Festival, an annual event sponsored by the Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD), we took part in a screening of the film Big Bad Love, a movie written and directed by Arliss Howard. Howard is a director, writer and actor, perhaps best recognized for his work in Full Metal Jacket and more recently, Mank.

Howard shared insights about his work during a question-answer portion of the evening. What drew our attention was a discussion in which he shared a tool used in sound editing called the sound bridge. 

A sound bridge is a transitional device used in film to connect one visual scene to another through sound. At its most basic a sound bridge leads an audience in or out of a scene.

A sound bridge occurs when the sound of the next scene begins while images of the last scene remain on-screen or when a sound lingers as the next scene appears. Sound effects, narration, dialogue, music or a combination of these elements can be used to create the transition. That night, it was compelling to us to see the drama that can be achieved when a dynamic sound bridge is used to link two scenes together.

Using Sound to Create Drama

There is a scene in Big Bad Love where the sound of an oncoming train comes into play long before the train appears on-screen. We hear the train approaching but can’t see it—adding tension and mystery to the scene. The movie is transitioning from a lighthearted scene to one in which the audience is in the dark, anticipating something bad will happen. Here, the convergence of emotions is dramatic. This complex bridge pairs dissension with foreshadowing to create a powerful cinematic moment that engages the audience on many levels. 

Look for dynamic sound bridges in these short clips.* You sill find the tool used to provide insight into characters in some scenes, create drama or move the story forward in others.

A Dynamic Storytelling Tool

A skillfully constructed sound bridge can build momentum within a story, give an indication of something to come or provide insight into a character. This simple device, created in audio post to link two scenes together, eclipses its primary function once it is used to forge a connection with the audience.  When used strategically, a sound bridge becomes a dynamic storytelling tool that cues the audience and invites them to share the journey and help build the story with you. 

Look for sound bridge in classic films, such as The Graduate or Cinema Paradiso, or in television series, such as Madmen or The Night Of. Sound bridges can be found in short films, mini documentaries and brand stories as well. You’ll find they are used in a myriad of ways in media today. Software advances have made this sound editing technique more achievable in audio post production. As sound editing moved from an analogue to digital platform, sound bridges have become so prevalent, the trick now is to use the technique without the audience noticing.

*Note: This montage was made to further illustrate the use of sound bridge in film to connect one visual scene to another and the various ways in which a sound bridge can be used. Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for Fair Use for the purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship and research. Fair Use is use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of Fair Use.

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