Why Tasos Frantzolas thinks every sound designer is a liar

At OSSIC, we are always inspired by fellow audio industry professionals who share our fascination with sound, and share that fascination with the world. TED talks never fail to showcase some of these amazing people, and this one in particular is one of our favorites.

In his TEDx debut, Tasos Frantzolas discusses how he views sound design as a language. As he goes through his talk, this world famous sound designer and co-founder of Soundsnap.com explains how sound, which he calls a tool, can be used to transport us to different places and even shape our mood.

In his talk titled “Everything you hear on film is a lie,” he describes how sound lies to each and every one of us. Sound designers and editors, through creativity and illusion, replace real sounds and create their elements to elicit a desired emotional response.

Frontzolas admits that sound designers lies and offers an illusion to Oscar Wilde. Quoting Wilde’s The Decay of Lying, Frantzolas invites us into the idea that “all bad art comes from copying nature and being realistic, and all great art comes from lying and deceiving and telling beautiful, untrue things.”

Throughout his talk, he brings up several instances where the veil is lifted on the sound design. He opens up with playing the sound of sizzling bacon with the scene of rain. He plays the same scene twice with the two different tracks and prompts the audience to question what one is the “bacon” track. After a brief moment, he lets the audience know that both, in fact, were a recording of cooking bacon, and it totally works.

What Frantzolas is talking about here is sometimes called the the Mcgurk effect, and it refers to how our brain process uses visuals to help process how we perceive sounds.

One may think, a sound designer’s job is to fill a movie or game up with sound. He made one thing clear: “there is no such thing as silence.” He argues that there are so many other things going on in a scene, whether that the sound of the room or the beating of the character’s own heart.

“Ambiences work in a most primal way. They can speak directly to our brain subconsciously. So, birds chirping outside your window may indicate normality, perhaps because, as a species, we've been used to that sound every morning for millions of years.”

“Now, sound effects can tap into our emotional memory. Occasionally, they can be so significant that they become a character in a movie. The sound of thunder may indicate divine intervention or anger.”

Frantzolas passion for sound design shines through, and his way expressing how sound brings value to content, of all kinds, resonates with us. If you are interested in learning more about Frantzolas and his efforts in sound design, check out his interview released last fall.