Short & Sweet: Legacy of the Pop Sound Effect in Cinema

By Ezra Sandzer-Bell

Celebrations at every stage of life begin with a pop! Uncorked bottles of champagne and party poppers startle us into the present moment in order to better enjoy it. Yet the same sound can be tragic, from the accidental popping of a car tire to the bursting of a birthday balloon.

Who would have thought that a simple sound could have so much meaning attached to it?

The importance of these popping sound effects is even more evident in films, TV shows and video games. In this article, we’ll share a variety of different scenarios where popping sounds taken on unique meaning.

To get started, we’ve curated a selection of 20 royalty-free examples below. You can download and use them to surprise viewers in your own projects. If you’re looking for even more sounds, check out our “Cartoon Vol.1” and “Motion Graphics Vol. 1” libraries in Audio Design Desk.

Balloons make a great pop sound effect

Popping Sound Effects


Released 05/18/2023 · 20 Tracks ·

#Track NameGenreKeywordsDuration
1Bottle Pop 2FoleyBottle...
2Bottle Pop 3FoleyBottle...
3Bottle Pop 5FoleyBottle...
4Bottle Pop 4FoleyBottle...
5Bottle Pop 1FoleyBottle...
6Balloon PopFoleyBalloon...
7Mouth Lip Pop 01FoleyMouth...
8Mouth Lip Pop 02FoleyMouth...
9Cartoon Pop 7FoleyCartoon...
10Cartoon Pop 3FoleyCartoon...
11Cartoon Pop 8FoleyCartoon...
12Cartoon Pop 4FoleyCartoon...
13Cartoon Pop 6FoleyCartoon...
14Cartoon Pop 5FoleyCartoon...
15Cartoon Pop 2FoleyCartoon...
16Cartoon Pop 1FoleyCartoon...
17Bubble Pop 2FoleyBubble...
18Bubble Pop 3FoleyBubble...
19Bubble Pop 4FoleyBubble...
20Bubble Pop 1FoleyBubble...

Pop sound effects in popular films

Early origins: Champagne bottles in silent films

Popping sounds have been a staple effect in sound design since the era of silent films, where they were used as part of live performances. Champagne de Rigadin (1915) famously used a pop sound effect as champagne squirted the main character in the face during a classic scene. Two years later, silent film actor Charlie Chaplin appeared in The Adventurer (1917) as an escaped convict who throws his hands in the air at the sound of an champagne bottle, mistaking it for gun fire.

Curious George (2006) and Up (2007) – Balloons that go pop!

The iconic Red Balloon (1956) was one of the first feature films to romanticize balloons and turn them into an object of love. The protagonist is a child who navigates the world alone, accompanied only by the colorful floating toy. At the end of the movie, he discovers a whole group of balloons and grabs hold of them, levitating up from the ground in a moment of magical realism and emotional elevation.

Curious George, an animated film from 2006, expands on this motif and gives it a unique twist. When the mischievous monkey grabs hold of several balloons and floats away on a whim, his caretaker Ted grabs another set of balloons and flies after him.

In the climactic scene above, George approaches a skyscraper lined with sharp pointy objects. His cluster of balloons make contact and the popping sound effects are rapid, marking a moment of extreme risk. Like the sound of rapid gunfire, the young audience recognizes that the character might die. Fortunately, Ted saves George at the last possible moment.

Pixar’s movie Up (2009) continued on the balloon cluster theme a few years later. A retired balloon salesman wants to escape the city and explore the world. He ties a massive collection of helium balloons to a small house and it lifts up into the sky to carry everyone forward on a journey.

Instead of playing on fear and attachment, the following scene from Up finds a way to transform popping balloons into a moment of comedy. A bird swoops in and swallows one of the balloons whole, causing it to burst inside its throat before being coughed back up. The scene uses the popping sound effect to startle the audience and make us laugh. With so many more balloons tied to the house, it represents a small loss with no real consequence.


Penelope, Grease – Sexy bubble gum pops

The sound and image of bubble gum popping has been used in cinema for decades as a sign of sensual power that draws attention to the character’s lips. One such example can be found in the clip from Penelope (1966).


The 1978 film Grease makes this point even less subtly, when a male character sticks his finger out and pops the chewing gum bubble of his romantic interest. The pop synchronizes with a snare drum from the background music. You can find a long list of bubble gum popping scenes here.

SpongeBob – Bubble popping sound effects

The cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants has used bubble popping sound effects in countless episodes to represent emotions ranging from joy to comical terror.

The scene above opens with SpongeBob and his friend Patrick in a dreary and colorless environment. When he pushes down on the soap dispenser, bubbly pop sound effects are coupled with a dramatic change in the color of the scene. The characters enter a state of childlike joy and ecstasy as the bubbles fill the room.

Soap bubble sounds usually have a soft and effervescent quality. Sound designers will use several different pitches for each pop to make the texture more lively and colorful.

In the second example shown below, Spongebob slides chaotically through Bubbletown. Each bubble pop is clearly defined and closer to a ballon, but with a less explosive timbre. One-off sounds like this are often used for mobile notifications and social media clips, to grab attention without being too startling.

Real Genius, F/X2 – Popcorn sound effects

Popcorn sound effects resemble the effervescence of soap bubbles, but with a different sonic texture. They have more of a snapping and crackling tone. The 1991 film F/X2, shown below, used popcorn to distract a bad guy while the main characters escape.

Popcorn sounds tend to accelerate as time passes and more kernels heat up. In the 1985 comedy Real Genius, shown below, an alien laser canon burns through a house stocked with popcorn kernels. As they cook, individual popping sounds are coupled with the an expanding bag sound. Eventually the pop sounds merge together in a unified white noise resembling an ocean wave

Creating and Recording your Pop Sound Effects

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Popping sounds can add a unique and engaging element to your audio projects. These sounds can be created using various techniques and enhanced with audio effects to achieve a professional and well-defined result. Here’s a detailed guide on how to create and process popping sounds.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Popping Sounds

1. Capturing Popping Sounds

  • Using Bottles, Jars, or Tubes:
    • Tap your hand on the top of a bottle, jar, or tube to create a variety of popping sounds.
    • Experiment with different containers to capture a range of tonal qualities and resonances.
  • Using Your Lips:
    • Use your lips to create popping sounds. This method allows for a wide variety of unique sounds with different pitches and textures.
    • Experiment with different mouth shapes and pressures to produce various popping effects.
  • Recording Tips:
    • Use a high-quality microphone to capture the sounds clearly. A condenser microphone is ideal for capturing the nuances of popping sounds.
    • Record in a quiet environment to avoid background noise and ensure a clean recording.

2. Processing with Multi-Band Compression

  • Multi-Band Compression:
    • Apply multi-band compression to the popping sounds to control dynamics and enhance definition.
    • Plugin Recommendations: FabFilter Pro-MB, Waves C4, or MeldaProduction MDrumEnhancer.
    • Split the sound into multiple frequency bands and compress each band individually to achieve a balanced and well-defined sound.
    • Adjust the threshold, ratio, attack, and release settings for each band to control the dynamics effectively.

3. Shaping with EQ

  • Using EQ:
    • Apply EQ to shape the tonal quality of the popping sounds.
    • Plugin Recommendations: FabFilter Pro-Q 3, Waves Q10, or MeldaProduction MAutoDynamicEq.
    • Use a low-pass filter to remove any unnecessary high-frequency noise and a high-pass filter to eliminate low-end rumble.
    • Boost or cut specific frequencies to enhance the desired characteristics of the popping sound, such as adding presence or warmth.

4. Adding Reverb for Space

  • Creating Space with Reverb:
    • Apply reverb to give the popping sounds a sense of space and movement.
    • Plugin Recommendations: Convology XT, Waves H-Reverb, or Logic Pro Space Designer.
    • Choose a reverb type that matches the context of the sound, such as a small room reverb for intimate, close-up pops or a larger hall reverb for more expansive, ambient pops.
    • Adjust the wet/dry mix, decay time, and pre-delay to achieve the desired spatial effect.

Tips for Effective Popping Sound Design

  • Experiment with Different Sources: Use various containers and mouth techniques to capture a wide range of popping sounds.
  • Careful Compression: Use multi-band compression to control dynamics without squashing the natural character of the sounds.
  • Detailed EQ: Shape the sound precisely with EQ to enhance the desired characteristics and remove unwanted frequencies.
  • Appropriate Reverb: Choose reverb settings that match the context of the sound, creating a sense of space and depth.
  • Attention to Detail: Fine-tune each processing step to ensure a polished and professional result.

By following these steps and tips, you can create well-defined and engaging popping sounds that enhance your audio projects. Experiment with different techniques and effects to develop your unique sound design style.

Ready to get started? Download the royalty-free samples provided in this article and pick up a copy of Audio Design Desk for free to access an even greater collection of sounds. You’ll find it’s easier to swap in different audio files when you use our award winning sound design DAW.