water sound effects cover image

Make a Splash! Royalty Free Water Sound Effects for Film & TV

By Ezra Sandzer-Bell

Water sound effects range from the pitter-patter of rain on your roof to the impact of torrential storms and monsoons smashing against a ship. Even the loudest ones can bring a sense of peace as long as you’re listening from a place of physical safety. Meditation soundtracks often include the lapping of ocean waves or the quiet trickling of a water stream for this very reason.

As a video or podcast editor, finding the right water sounds for a scene can be tough. It depends on the kind of audio you’re sourcing.

For one thing, every audio library has its own file naming conventions and metadata. Take two simple terms like water drop and water splash. A library might consider the first term to mean small droplet sfx, whether it’s live foley recordings or digital sound design. But the splashing sounds could have a much broader dynamic range depending on their intensity.

The need for just the right amount of splatter after an impact is where you start getting into the weeds. That’s why people end up buying a sound effects library with nature sound templates and pulling from some of those presets.

Need some free water sound effects to get your own project moving? We’ve bundled up 20 royalty-free wav files here that you can check out.

If you like what you hear but need a bigger selection, sign up with Audio Design Desk for free and get access to over 70,000 sounds with unlimited downloads!

water sound effects album cover

Water Sound Effects

Foley, Nature

Released 05/17/2024 · 20 Tracks ·

#Track NameGenreKeywordsDuration
1Cast Water SpellFoley,NatureMagic...
2Charge Water SpellFoley,NatureMagic...
3Summon WaterFoley,NatureMagic...
4Swim MovementFoley,NatureSwimming...
5Hands Circles In WaterFoley,NatureSwimming...
6Waterfall RumbleFoley,NatureAmbience...
7Lakeside ForestFoley,NatureAmbience...
8Underwater GurgleFoley,NatureAmbience...
9Ocean WavesFoley,NatureAmbience...
10Object Plop in WaterFoley,NatureSplashes...
11Object Lifted Out of WaterFoley,NatureSplashes...
12Jump in WaterFoley,NatureSplashes...
14Object SplashFoley,NatureSplashes...
15Dunk Cup in WaterFoley,NatureSplashes...
16Stand Up From WaterFoley,NatureSplashes...
17Liquid Drips On PlasticFoley,NaturePouring...
18Glass Filling With WaterFoley,NaturePouring...
19Water Pouring Into WaterFoley,NaturePouring...
20Water BubblesFoley,NatureBubbles...

Water sound effects in television and movies

The beauty of water is the versatility of sound it can produce. Most of its timbral variation comes from combining of volume and force. A water stream gets louder when its volume increases and when the water flow gets stronger. There are several other sound worlds that exist in parallel, including various sizes of water bubbles, gurgling, splashing and so on.

In these next sections we will provide concrete examples from several classic films and TV shows so you can hear how they’re implemented by big budget productions.

Tomb Raider, Anaconda: Waterfall Sound FX

Let’s start with a couple of action-packed waterfall scenes. The massive walls of sound make the scenes more dramatic and awe inspiring. Later, in post production, the volume of that water flow is based on the proximity of the camera to the waterfall. 

As Lara Croft dangles from the edge of a cliff in this Tomb Raider scene, the film’s camera hangs suspended mid-air with her. The roaring waterfall is a constant reminder of her own vulnerability.

Notice the sounds that accompany the water. We hear a dramatic orchestral score, clarifying the danger that she’s in, punctuated by loud indications that her metal platform is breaking apart.

The main character in this Anaconda scene shows us a second angle. He goes behind the waterfall and hides from the snake. As a cavern, the space is resonant and relatively quiet despite the volume of water falling outside.

When the snake peeks its head in and parts the water stream, it yanks him out of the cave and throws him into a pool. An entire tree is knocked down and as it whooshes down, you can hear its massive crash into the water.

The Notebook, Truman Show: Dramatic rain SFX

You can use rain sounds in almost any context imaginable. One of our favorites is in The Truman Show clip above, where rain is used to highlight the artificial nature of Truman’s world.

A technical glitch causes rain to fall on him while he stands in one certain spot. If he moves, the water stops. In this way, the rain transforms from an ordinary weather phenomenon to proof of his unreal and fabricated reality. It marks a pivotal moment in Truman’s discovery about the truth of his life.

In The Notebook, rain serves as a narrative device during one of the film’s most memorable scenes. The lead characters reunite after years of separation and the rainstorm underscores the intensity and passion of their reunion.

Pouring rain acts as a metaphor for the release of pent-up emotions and unresolved love between the two. As they stand in the rain, drenched, their conversation and kiss offer a feeling of catharsis and rekindles their profound love.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Water splashing sounds

Water can splash at any size and volume level. Movies that center around water require audio collections to cover every small splish-splash sound to massive impact sounds on the ocean.

Take the film Pirates of the Caribbean for example. Splashing tends to happen during moments of heightened activity that mark a transition.

During the short video below, one character jumps from the row boat and we hear a human-sized splash. Within moments, a shark attacks the boat and it also can be heard splashing in and out of the water.

During a separate battle from the film involving ship-to-ship combat, cannonballs launch and hit the water and wood of the boats. As the ships are being destroyed, their large wooden parts fall into the ocean. Those splashes are barely audible, but they’re visible.

At the height of that destruction, the camera angle changes to a perspective underwater, facing up. A body falls down and hits a tarp on the surface, but the audience hears the thud and splash through a muted, underwater ambience.

Underwater, My Cousin Vinny – Water dripping

The sound of water dripping is basically neutral in its meaning, though many have adverse reactions when they hear it indoors. An icicle dripping onto the snow would not bother someone hiking along a trail. But indoors, a steady water drop means your faucet or pipes may have a leak. Unlike other problems in life, it’s hard to ignore the trickling of running water!

Above is a scene from My Cousin Vinny (1992), where a dripping water sound effect was used as a comedic element. It prods the character’s discomfort and sleeplessness. A seemingly trivial nuisance, it becomes a symbol of his struggle to adapt to unfamiliar surroundings, and comically highlights his growing frustration and sleep deprivation.

In the scifi film Underwater (2020), the sound of a single water drop takes on a vastly different meaning. The sound effect is drenched in reverb, creating tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. Sure enough, a massive burst of water breaches the ship from the deep ocean and the film descends into chaos.

Creating Transformative Reverb Effects with Water Impulse Responses

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Using water to create impulse responses (IRs) can result in truly transformative reverb effects. Underwater IRs are especially great for understated and ambient effects. An impulse response captures the size and characteristics of a room or space and applies it to your own sounds. Many DAWs have convolution reverb plugins that allow you to create your own from samples you provide. Here’s a detailed guide on how to create and use water-based IRs for unique reverb effects.

Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. Recording Impulse Responses with Water

  • Equipment Needed:
    • Hydrophone (underwater microphone) or a waterproof dynamic microphone.
    • Portable recorder with high-fidelity preamps.
    • A controlled water environment (e.g., a pool, aquarium, or even a bathtub).
  • Recording Technique:
    • Place the hydrophone in the water. If using a dynamic microphone, ensure it is securely waterproofed.
    • Generate an impulse sound, such as a hand clap, balloon pop, or a short burst of white noise, close to the water surface.
    • Record the impulse sound and its reflections in the water. Capture multiple takes to ensure you have a variety of IRs to choose from.

2. Creating the Impulse Response File

  • Editing the Recording:
    • Import the recorded impulse sounds into your DAW.
    • Trim the recording to isolate the impulse sound and its natural decay. Remove any unwanted noise or artifacts.
    • Normalize the audio to ensure a consistent volume level.
  • Exporting the IR:
    • Export the trimmed and normalized recording as a WAV file, which is commonly used for IRs due to its high fidelity.

3. Loading the Impulse Response in a Convolution Reverb Plugin

  • DAW Plugin Recommendations:
  • Loading the IR:
    • Open your convolution reverb plugin in your DAW.
    • Load the exported water IR file into the plugin. This process varies slightly between plugins, so refer to the plugin’s manual if necessary.
    • Adjust the plugin settings, such as wet/dry mix, decay time, and pre-delay, to tailor the reverb effect to your needs.

4. Applying the Water IR Reverb to Your Sounds

  • Subtle Ambient Effects:
    • Use underwater IRs for subtle, ambient effects on pads, synths, or atmospheric sounds. This can add a unique, immersive quality to your mix.
    • Experiment with low-pass filtering the reverb output to emphasize the subdued, underwater feel.
  • Transformative Reverb:
    • Apply the water IR reverb to more dynamic sounds, such as vocals or percussion, to create transformative effects. Adjust the wet/dry mix to blend the reverb with the dry signal seamlessly.
    • Use automation to change the reverb parameters over time, creating evolving and dynamic soundscapes.

5. Advanced Techniques

  • Layering IRs:
    • Combine multiple water IRs with different characteristics to create complex reverb textures. Layering IRs can produce a richer and more immersive effect.
  • Processing the IR:
    • Before loading the IR into your convolution reverb plugin, process it with EQ, compression, or modulation effects to tailor its tonal qualities and dynamic response.
  • Creative Uses:
    • Use water IRs not just for reverb but also for sound design. Apply the IR to create unique textures and ambiences that can serve as the foundation for new soundscapes.

By following these steps, you can create and utilize water-based impulse responses to produce truly unique and immersive reverb effects, adding a distinct character to your audio projects.

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