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Don't sleep on the beat! Here's how to create the effect and how to incorporate it into your next video production.

There are basically three different ways to achieve the smash cut audio effect. You can switch from tone to silence, from silence to tone, or from tone to tone. All three work, but you use an acoustic smash cut (also known as a "slam cut") to jump between the two.

I will use two of my own short films as examples. Let us do this!

Creating audio smash cuts

This scene interweaves external noises, which are superimposed with cuts to form muffled internal movements. Image from "I speak without a voice" via YouTube.

In my latest short film – “I speak without a voice” – we start with the whimper of a dog. Then a woman dug a hole almost immediately. This works for a horror movie as the cut actually acts as a shock.

I want the audience to really get involved with the sound of the dog. We then make a hard cut out of several superimposed sounds – dirt crunching and moving, thunder and a hard crack of something breaking – as it presses into the earth, which (if done right) should startle the audience.

So we're going from a low decibel reading to something really hard. We also do a sound-to-sound cut (or, if you will, loud to loud) in which we integrate the sound of nature (rain, thunder, wind) into the background. In the horror film realm, it's neither intense nor scary. It could actually work just as well in a drama, comedy, or science fiction film.

The next effect we'll be working on is sound. First, download some sounds that you think will work well with the graphics. Here are hundreds of sounds you can get right now for free:

Once I have my sounds, I take the ones working with the scene, layer them in the previous scene a couple of times, then cut hard into the next scene. So if you implement one of the three cuts – tone to tone, tone to silence, or silence to tone – these are your pre-cut and post-cut effects.

In addition to the three different cuts, there are now some essential elements to consider.


Changing the sound frequency is useful when changing from the outside scene to the inside scene of the vehicle. Image from "Freelancer" via YouTube.

You want to make sure that the audio you cut with matches your visual imagery. For example, in my short film "Freelancer", I cut a hard cut into a rainy scene that really moves the audience into the environment.

You want to create an environment in which you can edit. It helps to bring the composition into a manageable, organized production. So in this scene I did the door slam that I left muffled a bit in the movie and then made a hard cut against the rain splashing on the hood of the delivery truck. We move from silence to sound, which quickly brings us into this environment and attracts the audience's attention.

It was important to make sure I had a sound to cut on – the rain hit the metal outside of the van. Then we silence a noise and cut the loud rain hitting metal directly into the quiet interior of the van – essentially as an acoustic bang.

Increase your production value

Danai Gurira in the black panther

Some cuts in this chase contain smash cut audio. Image of Black Panther via Walt Disney Studios.

These effects are spread across many of your favorite movies, TV shows, and series – from Stranger Things to Black Panther. With this technique in your pocket as a director, editor, cameraman, etc., you can increase much of your production by thinking ahead in the editing suite. By using these techniques, they will not only help you practice your editing, but will also help you record and plan the props you will want to incorporate as you cut from scene to scene.

Auditory Smash Cuts are incredibly beneficial to the overall production value and creativity of your final product. So what are you waiting for? Try it!

Cover picture via Igoron_vector.


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