Using sound

Sound is very important – an audience will forgive bad images, and may not even notice, but they will be less forgiving of errors with sound.

The soundtrack can give further impact to an event, an object, a person or a landscape. It can be made up of all, or a combination of:

  • The spoken poem.
  • Ambient sound (background or atmospheric sound) and sound effects.
  • Sound effects – something that’s on the screen or something off screen.
  • Music

Think of your soundscape as a landscape. It has layers – immediate, mid-distance, far away – don’t accentuate every sound in the scene, build with layers of sound.

Finding the right voice

  • It goes without saying, but practice reading your poem, and practice recording it until you are happy with it.
  • The right voice gives tone and point of view to the work.
  • It may not be your voice. Be willing to give it up. Let the new work find its own voice.

Sound Effects and ambient sound are used for

  • Simulating the reality of something explicit on the screen – such as the sound of footsteps as you see someone walking along a path.
  • Creating something that isn’t actually there or adding to something that is – such as a screeching owl as night falls.
  • Creating atmosphere to enhance emotion or tension – such as erratic breathing, heartbeat, a murmuring crowd.
  • Unless for a very good reason, the viewer should not be conscious of the sound effects.





  • Many very fine poetry films do not have music.
  • If you do want to add music to your poetry film, choose it very carefully. Make sure that the music enhances or compliments what is on the screen.
  • Consider collaborating with a musician on an original composition.
  • Adding music too soon to a poetry film can make it seem more complete than it really is.
  • No music is far better than the wrong music.

Where to get sound from

  • Record it yourself.
  • Royalty free downloads (see Online Resource Handout for where to find Creative Commons licensed sounds and music).