What does a Sound Designer do?
Sound Designers combine all the elements (music, background noises, dialogue, effects, and other atmospheric sounds) into one unified soundscape that forms the sonic backdrop for a film.
Sound design commonly involves performing and editing of previously composed or recorded audio, such as sound effects and dialogue, but it can also involve creating sounds from scratch through synthesizers or other instruments.
In animation, Sound Designers create the soundscape. In animation, there are no natural sounds to work with (as there would be when filming live action) so everything in sound in animation is created from scratch by Sound Designers.
Sound Designers decide which sounds to use to create the right atmosphere and communicate the story and characters to the audience. They discuss with the director the kind of effect they want and then find creative ways to achieve this.
Most Sound Designers are experienced sound editors who may even supervise the work of the entire sound post-production process, in addition to having a specialized creative role in putting together the entire sonic aspect of the production.
Good communication skills are needed, along with imagination and creative flair to produce original sound elements and effects.
What's a Sound Designer good at?
Be able to imagine a soundscape that doesn’t exist yet, translate ideas into sound, create bespoke sounds to enhance the storytelling
Have a good understanding of the characters and the story and design sounds which communicate these well, understand the importance of timing, when sound design is necessary and when not
Record sound, have extensive knowledge of ProTools and other audio design software
Understand the director’s vision and be able to articulate creative and technical ideas, have productive discussions and address constructive feedback, work closely with the dialogues and always keep the music in mind
Be able to work to tight deadlines in post-production
Who does a Sound Designer work with?
Sound Designers work closely with the Director and Editor. They might also work with the following people:
Supervising Sound Editor
Supervising Sound Editors work directly with the filmmakers to structure and advise on schedules and creative styles. They liaise closely with the picture editor. They build the team of editors responsible for creating the film’s soundtrack. Supervising Sound Editors organize the effects (FX) and Foley recording sessions. They provide the creative input during the mix and ensure the final mix and various versions are delivered.
Sound Effects Editor
Sound Effects Editors work closely with the Sound Designer and Supervisor. They create backgrounds using specific sounds, such as clocks, wind, birdsong, cars passing. They create the ambience that can be altered to work with the dialogue and music.
Dialogue Editors are responsible for editing the recordings of the script and synchronizing this with the animation.
Bigger studios might have specific Foley Artists who create everyday sounds which are then added to films during post-production. It can be challenging to record every small sound that happens in a scene while you’re actually on set (keys rattling in a door, footsteps, a spoon clinking inside a cup, someone typing on their keyboard, etc). Sometimes, these sounds have to be recreated or included after the fact. For example, when actors do a fight scene, they aren’t really hitting each other, so there are no punching sounds to record! The job of a foley artist is to find something that can sound convincingly like a real fight to the audience (while avoiding real violence, of course!)
Music Editors determine where music is needed in the film and the style and purpose of the music. Sound Designers will collaborate with them to make sure their sound effects work well with the music being written by the Composer.
How do I become a Sound Designer?
Most Sound Designers begin as Production Assistants in post-production or audio post-production houses. They work their way up to Assistant, Mixer or Sound Editor and spend many years perfecting their craft.
Educational requirements: Education options range from 1-year diploma programs to bachelor’s, post-graduate, and master’s degrees in sound design. Art schools, film schools and universities offer programs in the industry.
For more tips on finding job opportunities, lists of training programmes, and other great resources, check out our Career Resources page.
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