Exploring the World of Sound Design
Imagine being able to create a sonic world around you. Decide how things should sound, where they are or how loud they would be, and make emotions in whoever the listener is. That is precisely what sound design is all about. The world of sound design is a creative and technical process that involves capturing, manipulating, layering and integrating audio elements to enhance the overall experience of films, television, video games, podcasts, theatre productions, and more.
While filming, most audio recording focuses on recording dialogue and capturing the actors’ performance, but when we watch the movie, we hear much more than dialogue. There are clothes moving, footsteps, wind, birds, cutlery and even cars or spaceships. Sound design helps us to immerse ourselves into the story and live in those fictional worlds for hours. A common question asked, is where are all those sounds coming from and who decides what is essential and what is not? Here’s a little breakdown of the process and world of sound design…
WHAT DOES A SOUND DESIGNER DO?
Sound designers are the engineers responsible for collecting and placing all the sound effects in the production. They are behind every audio experience, creating emotions beyond the dialogue. As we explained in our previous article, Foley Artist Behind the Scenes of This Intriguing Job, sound effects are any sound other than speech or music made artificially for a production. They help create a realistic environment surrounding the characters. Sound designers often use a vast library of recorded and synthesised sounds to add realism and depth to the world portrayed in the production. These can range from footsteps and explosions to environmental noises like birds chirping or cars passing by.
Most of the time, less is more. A simple-sounding element on the screen comprises several layers of different sounds. This has to do more with perception than the actual sound. If you think about how wind or rain should sound and then go to a field to record it, you might realise that what you had in mind, and the audio file recorded have very little in common. That’s why when trying to evoke a specific feeling in the audience, sound designers will usually combine a range of sounds, textures and noises to make the production sound more “real.”
WHAT ARE The ESSENTIAL Tools?
While the DAW is the main canvas, sound designers use a wide range of tools to create the soundscapes of the productions. From recording their own sounds to using synthesisers or, thanks to modern technology and file accessibility, online audio libraries. There are even plugins and software specially crafted with sound designers’ workflows in mind that make creating blockbuster-ready monster sounds, gunshots or magic spells as easy as drag and drop.
THE KEY TO ACHIEVING Ambience and Atmosphere
A scene’s background noise or ambience helps set the mood and location. For example, a bustling city, a serene forest, or a futuristic space station all have distinct ambient sounds. Sound designers use room tones recorded on location during filming to create a sonic bed for the rest of the sound effects. But they also use reverb effects and pre-recorded ambiences to help place the audience in the scene.
HOW TO MASTER Foley
Although Foley could have its own category, it is an essential part of the sound design of a production. As we explained in our dedicated article, Foley is a sound effect technique of recording and performing sound synchronously with the picture. Foley artists use specialised studios with collections of items to record production-tailored sounds. The sound design department can then enhance these to further enrich the experience.
HOW DOES THE Music FALL INTO PLACE?
Sound designers collaborate closely with directors, producers, composers, and other creative team members to achieve the desired audio atmosphere and emotional impact. While composed music falls more within the realm of the composer or music supervisor, sound designers may still collaborate closely to integrate music seamlessly with the other audio elements. For example, the sound team of Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett worked very closely with music composer Hans Zimmer to create a complete-sounding experience for the world of Arrakis in the recently Oscar-winning movie Dune.
Eager to learn more about the world of sound design and start your journey in the audio post-production world? Our Advanced Diploma in Audio Post Production for Film and TV covers all the knowledge and techniques that a modern sound designer would need for a successful career in the ever-changing multimedia industry.