What started as an inside joke has become something of a compulsive faux pas: the Wilhelm Scream, a canned shriek that was first cleverly inserted into films as a wink and a nod between sound designers, has gotten a bit out of control. At least some sound designers are now disguising their Wilhelm Screams.
But leave it to online chronicles to compile the use of this signature shout. “Ah,” say you, “but I have to watch more than one YouTube compilation to see all those Wilhelm Screams in one place. I want to show them to my sound design class, and I have to, like, open three tabs.” No more. Now, thanks to the folks at Cinexcellence.com, we have the mother of all Wilhelm Scream compilations. It’s thrilling. It’s spine-tingling. It’s about time for sound designers to cut it out with the Wilhelm Screams, already. (Via Coilhouse, who offer some further reflections.)
Then again, perhaps the Wilhelm Scream has transcended being only an oft-repeated sound effect. It’s got a “hardcore melodic” band taking its name. It’s got a song by indie darling singer James Blake, below. There’s even an iOS app. (Review: “Operates exactly as advertised. Continuously funny. If I am ever shot with an arrow while sitting atop a horse, I am finally prepared. My family is very proud.”) Feature request for version 2.0: I want to see a mode in which the alligator drags a character offscreen, true to the pre-Private Wilhelm use of the sound effect.
And it’s certainly not the only thing sound designers have stolen from Ben Burtt.
Anyway, if you want to learn more about sound design – like how to create some new screams – I wholeheartedly endorse Designing Sound, for which CDM donates servers (and which otherwise only requires me to sit back, read, and enjoy):
In more somber news, Jamie Hardt on Designing Sound offers some thoughts on the influence of former Sony president Norio Ohga, eulogized in particular for his contribution to the rise of a CD:
Which will last longer, the CD or the Wilhelm Scream? I’m no longer sure.
Updated – more on sound design cliches:
Commenters point us in the direction of some great resources on sound design cliches in general.
The Sound Of Cliché [The Enthusiast]
Wilhelm, meet Castle Thunder, Mighty Roaring Cougar, that damned red-tailed hawk (whoever killed Wilhelm, please, be my guest), ahistorical telephone rings, and even a doctor’s page that seems to recur everywhere.
This doesn’t even get into the Sins of the BBC Sound Effects Library.
http://filmsound.org/cliche/ goes beyond just those signature sounds to compile all the sound design technique cliches, some of which defy physics, common sense, and good taste.
Sheb Wooley may be the most influential American pop culture figure you never heard of, having given us the world’s most popular scream and the songs “Hee-Haw” and “Flying Purple People Eater.”
Wilhelm, move over. Howie Scream is in. (That article on Wikipedia needs cleanup, sound design gurus.)