The-amazing-spider-man-2-sony-pictures-releasing-uk_bannerAndrew Garfield stars as Spider-Man in Columbia Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-Man 2," also starring Emma Stone © 2014 Columbia Pictures

Sound Designer

Industries:
Film
Personality type:
Creative
Departments:
Sound

The lowdown

  • Creating sounds effects for giant explosions or car crashes
  • Creating more subtle sounds to enhance mood and feeling
  • Managing the sound post production process

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • Have a genuine enthusiasm for sound and film
  • Have a good understanding of acoustics
  • Have an expert knowledge of sound recording and editing techniques
  • Have excellent listening skills
  • Have creativity and imagination
  • Be able to work conceptually
  • Have excellent communication skills
  • Be able to work under pressure to tight, changing deadlines
  • Have good organisational and financial skills
  • Understand the relevant health and safety laws and procedures

What does a Sound Designer do?

A Sound Designer (previously known as Sound Effects Editors or Special Effects (SFX) Editors) is responsible for providing the sound for screen action. Depending on the film’s budget, Sound Designers usually start work at the same time as the other Sound Editors.

On a big effects film, this may be before shooting begins. On a modest budget production, it could be when the Director and/or Executive Producer have approved the final picture edit (picture lock).

The first task for Sound Designers is to identify the three main kinds of sound effects needed. These may be gunshots, clocks, doors closing, dog barking (spot effects) or rain, wind, traffic, birdsong (atmosphere effects). There are also specialist sound design effects such as dinosaurs, aliens, spaceships or computers. Sound Designers source these different sounds and often create and record original new material.

The spend time manipulating the original recordings using synthesizers, samplers and audio plug-ins. This is a highly creative, experimental part of the job. For example, they might use a slowed down voice in reverse with added reverb to create the roar of a dinosaur.

When they have all the desired sound effects, Sound Designers lay them all onto a computer using the latest software. The next step is called the Premix, when the Sound Designer works with the Re-Recording Mixer to smooth out all the effects tracks. This is followed by the Final Mix. This is when dialogues, ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement), Foley, atmosphere, music and special effects tracks are blended together.

Most Sound Designers are also Supervising Sound Editors, so they usually oversee the “deliverables”. These include the Music and Effects version of the film which allows the dialogue track to be replaced with different language versions.

Sound Designers may be employed by Audio Post Production Houses, or work on a freelance basis. They usually hire a room close to the picture Editor(s) and may use their own equipment. Sound Designers work long hours to meet a demanding schedule of deadlines.

Will I need a qualification?

You will need a minimum B.Mus (Tonmeister) qualification or equivalent for an entry-level position. You can also do postgraduate courses in film and television sound. HND courses are also available.

If you are considering taking a film production course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the film industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a career in film:

Film production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

Post production courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick

What's the best route in?

You will learn on the job, starting in a junior role. If you have a background in music you can learn editing skills in television production. On films you might get work as a Runner in picture or sound cutting rooms, or in an audio post production facilities house. With experience you can go on to become Assistant Re-Recording Mixers or Assistant Sound Editors. In this role you will assist experienced Sound Editors. Once you have learned your craft, you can move up to Supervising Sound Editor, then Sound Designer.

You could apply to be a trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Interested? Find out more…

Websites

Publications

  • Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects Cinema. Edited by David Sonnenschein (Michael Wiese Productions)
  • Film Sound: Theory and Practice by Elizabeth Weis and John Belton (Columbia University Press)
  • Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen by Michael Chion (Columbia University Press)
  • Sound on Sound
  • Music Tech Magazine
  • Audio Media Magazine
  • Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects Cinema. Edited by David Sonnenschein (Michael Wiese Productions)
  • Film Sound: Theory and Practice by Elizabeth Weis and John Belton (Columbia University Press)
  • Audio-Vision : Sound on Screen by Michael Chion (Columbia University Press)

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