4 Tricks to Great Sound Design
Great sound design demands a sheer array of creativity and the utmost attention to detail. Here are 4 steps you should be aware of before you start the process.
Oscar-winning sound designer and editor, Walter Murch, once compared creating amazing sound with the art of cooking — you need to know which ingredients to add which to leave out so you don’t damage your creation. Following that exact same logic, then Sound Design is quite a lot like baking an apple strudel — it’s all about the layers and knowing which accents to add to make it look, or sound, delicious.
Most sound enthusiasts and indie filmmakers don’t have the budget to hire a sound professional; however, and although designing sound on your own can be quite the challenge, there are several steps that can help you tackle this part of your audiovisual project.
Here are 4 tricks that will help your sound design process without spending too much on it. But before, bear in mind these are the absolute basics, and we’re going to lay out the basic structure you can follow when you’re adding sound into your scenes.
1. Finding and recording the sounds you’re interested in
We make emphasis on “finding” because you can also find exceptional sounds in different audio libraries; however, most filmmakers prefer to record their own sounds. And that’s perfectly ok.
This part, nonetheless, is a little bit more time consuming and perhaps trickier, but sometimes, if you absolutely need to emphasize a specific movement or action, this might be the ideal way to go.
The aforementioned process is also referred to as Foley, where Foley artists gather to recreate sounds in a studio so they can match the visuals and the action being projected on a screen. It needs to be done well and almost invisible to the audience, making sure the sounds not only fit the scene but also ensuring they make sense.
Ideally, the good sound design should not stand out — the audience should not be able to notice it’s there. A good sound designer should be able to introduce different sounds and ideas that serve the visuals and enhance the story.
Now that you’ve found the sounds you want to include in your project, it’s time to lay them out in your timeline.
2. Developing your timeline
If you’re just getting started with audio post-production it is recommendable to layout your sounds in editing software such as Adobe Premiere so you can process them and edit them as you please.
Bear in mind this part of the process focuses solely on developing the structure of your scene sound-wise. Once you’re happy with what the sounds look like within a scene you can dynamically link them directly from Adobe Audition, where you can directly add effects and shape your tracks as your project requires.
Once you feel confident with what you have in your timeline, it’s always wise and good to take a step back and take a break so you can free your mind and perhaps realize something you haven’t checked off yet. It also a great opportunity to come up with new ideas that can support the overall storytelling of your project.
3. Add detail and color
When we speak about color we don’t mean color literally, but rather enriching some of the sounds you’ve chosen for your project.
This step is all about adding details in an intelligent way to make the most out of the sounds that will accompany your scenes and filling some of those potential gaps. Speaking of gaps, never underestimate the power of silence. Silence can be a really powerful tool in sound design and it can really add emphasis to specific sections or moments, and it can for sure deepen the tone of your film. Silence does not mean the absolute lack of sounds, but rather the intelligent use of some of the sounds you have at your disposal.
Good sound design is not about being super loud all the time — it’s about picking the right sounds for the right moment and knowing when to add silence to create a much more compelling effect so your story keeps the audience engaged all the time. But of course, this all depends on the nature of your project.
4. Find the right balance for your sounds
Balancing sounds is not just about finding the right levels for your soundtrack. You can combine multiple sounds to create “one single sound” for instance. Think about a fight scene: a punch is not just a punch — it’s the combination of several sounds that create “one single sound”.
And it’s in cases like these when you have to balance all your sounds and create different layers that fit well within the overarching sound landscape, because if you have different soundtracks that overlap with each other then your sound design starts to get muddy and difficult to handle.
And there you have it: 4 tricks that will help you create a much better sound design for your film. Remember: audio post-production will always vary from project to project, which is why reaching out to an audio post-production studio will always be a much better option if your project is rather complex. Try these out and let us know what you think!