Are you having trouble transitioning from one scene to the next? Maybe you feel like there’s something missing in the cut. Or maybe the cut is just far too abrupt and distracting. Sound bridges are an incredible editing technique that can be found in nearly every film you’ve seen. What is a sound bridge in film and how is it used? In this article, we’ll take a look at various ways filmmakers use sound bridges to tell their stories and move them along in an engaging way. 

What is a sound bridge in film

Sound bridge definition

A sound bridge, also called an audio bridge, is among many editing transitions that utilize sound to tell a story. Before we dive into the different types of audio transitions that filmmakers use, let’s take a look at the sound bridge definition to get a general understanding of the technique. 

SOUND BRIDGE DEFINITION

What is a sound bridge in film?

A sound bridge is an editing technique used to transition from one scene to another through sound. Sound bridges, also called an audio bridges, allow filmmakers to transition in or out of a scene by "bridging the gap" with audio. Sound bridges connect two scenes allowing audio from a succeeding scene to play over the preceding scene before the next shot is shown. The technique used to achieve this is known as a J-cut. 

What is a sound bridge in film used for?

  • Create intrigue or drama
  • Decrease abruptness of a cut
  • Connect two scenes via sound

What is a sound bridge in film

Types of sound bridges

There are various types of audio bridges depending on what sound is being used to carry over from shot to shot. Check out this video by Film Editing Pro that analyzes the different types of sound bridges and why they are used. 

How to Transition Between Scenes with Audio Editing

1. Dialogue sound bridge

A dialogue sound bridge allows the dialogue from the next scene to play prior to a visual cut to the next scene. This is often used as a means to connect the lines of dialogue to the image of the preceding scene.

Dialogue sound bridges smooth out the transition from scene to scene. It can also be used to reflect a character's thoughts, as a means of foreshadowing, or to engage the audience’s curiosity. Take this scene from The Wolf of Wall Street, one of Martin Scorsese’s best films.

Matthew McConaughey’s iconic improvised sound is used as an audio bridge to draw curiosity into the next scene. 

Wolf of Wall Street Sound Bridge

2. Sound effect sound bridge

The next type of sound bridge is the sound effect sound bridge. This type of sound bridge carries the sound design or sound effect from the succeeding scene over the first scene.

This can create both drama and intrigue depending on the sound effect that the audience hears. What is that sound? How does it connect to this scene? What is about to happen? You can see this in action in the opening scene transition of Saving Private Ryan.

Elements of sound in film  •  Saving Private Ryan

3. Music sound bridge

Lastly, there is the music sound bridge which, you guessed it, uses the film's score or soundtrack to transition from one shot or scene to the next. This is effective at creating anticipation in the audience. Quentin Tarantino uses this to perfection in the opening scene of Reservoir Dogs. Then again, the way Tarantino uses music so intuitively and effectively is no surprise.

Elements of sound in film  •  Reservoir Dogs

Music can elevate the pace of a film. Using it to transition between scenes is an effective way to immediately ramp up the pace and have the audience wondering what will happen. 

What is a sound bridge in film

When to use a sound bridge

You might be wondering “What is a sound bridge in film used for?” The answer is that it depends on what you are trying to achieve. Audio bridges should be intentional. Using them on every scene transition can make them less effective.

1. Draw focus to a sound

Audio bridges are effective at directing the audience’s focus on a specific sound. This is especially true for dialogue sound bridges. If there is a piece of opening dialogue from a succeeding scene that connects to the prior scene, an audio bridge can bring attention to this important line. SPOILERS AHEAD!

In the movie Parasite, a key piece of information is the fact that the housekeeper is allergic to peaches. To underscore this vital piece of information, a sound bridge is used to transition between two scenes and utilize the dialogue as a voice over.

Elements of sound in film  •  Parasite

2. Create curiosity

Using a sound bridge for a specific sound effect can also entice curiosity in the audience about the following scene. What is that sound? What are we about to see? A great example of this can be found in The Matrix. Listen for the sound of the alarm clock as it grows louder and louder prior to the cut. 

The Matrix  •  Functions of film sound

3. Smooth out jarring cuts

Lastly, sound bridges are an effective and simple way to create smooth cuts. Cuts can often be jarring especially when there are a lot of sounds involved like crowd noises or ambient sound.

Using a sound bridge can smoothen these rough transitions out.

Remember, these are only a few reasons to use sound bridges. Filmmakers have found endless ways to use sound bridges to tell their stories. In There Will Be Blood, one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s best films, a sound bridge is used to smooth out the jarring jump in time between a dissolve. 

There Will Be Blood  •  Sound bridge example in film

If you are still wondering when you should use a sound bridge, ask yourself a couple of these questions. Is the cut between scenes abrupt and distracting? Is there a connection between the two scenes that the audience should be aware of? Can you generate curiosity about the next scene through its dialogue or sound effects? 

If you answered yes to any of these, try out an audio bridge. Sometimes you don’t know how effective a sound bridge is or when it is needed until you put one into your edit. 

UP NEXT

An overview of sound design in film

Sound effects are one of the most common types of audio editor used for audio bridges. They are also one of the aspects of post-production that can really make or break a film. Learn all about sound design, the role of the sound designer, and its impact on a film in our next article. 

Up Next: What is Sound Design? →
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