What Makes Good Sound Design?

Published February 4, 2023

No matter how beautiful the visuals are, a film needs great sound design to provide an immersive experience to the audience. From background music to dialogue lines, sound design is a crucial component of filmmaking that can enhance the production value of any project. Even though it is mostly overlooked in favor of flashier disciplines, like editing or cinematography, this creative process is just as necessary and works with these elements to deliver a top-tier cinematic experience.

What Is Sound Design?

Sound design refers to developing and editing all the audio in the movie, including the speech, sound effects, ambient sound, and soundtrack. This meticulous work consists of a series of steps, ranging from synthesis to audio manipulation to layering, and is performed by or under the supervision of a Sound Designer.

What Is a Sound Designer?

The sound design team or sound designer elevates the overall creation intent and provides a complete auditory experience. They work with recording engineers, audio editors, mixers, and various other personnel to ensure that your project looks realistic and that the audience is drawn to it.

In the past, sound designers were often the last people arriving on the set and were mainly considered an afterthought. However, with the advent of voice interfaces, 3D audio, and the ever-expanding vogue of immersive experiences, their role is now no less than a necessity.

Whether working on set or post-production, these experts make the magic happen. They clean up the audio track from any unwanted or extra noise, add layers upon layers of SFX, and manipulate audio using various tools to transform a mediocre project into something truly cinematic.

Importance Of Good Sound Design

Visuals are the first cut in any project, but the sound design is just as important in storytelling and pulling people closer to the picture.

The power of a good sound design is undeniably evident. It tells the story where words fail, sets a tone to the scene, and hints at what is coming next. Most importantly, good sound design spurs emotions within the audience, be it love, sadness, joy, fear, or even contempt, which brings them closer to the movie and makes the whole experience unforgettable. And isn't it what filmmakers want?

Think of Jurassic Park, directed by Steven Spielberg– would it be the same if you removed all the sound? Or imagine your favorite horror movie without those chilling shrieks and creepy footsteps. Paints the picture, right?

Neglecting your film sound design means bad production value and a worse watching experience. Of course, videos can work without perfect sound, but they will be sub-par at most and would not stand a chance against other blockbusters. And in the competitive world of content creation, where directors are releasing hit after hit, are you willing to make this choice?

What Makes Good Sound Design?

Sound design is multifaceted, and sound designers are equipped with various tools and skills to make the process as smooth as possible. Many factors and elements play a role in a good sound design.

Developing A Vision

The work of a sound designer begins from pre-production and runs through post-production. To kick-start this highly creative and intuitive journey, the sound designer studies the script with the director and asks them about their views and expectations. Some directors already have particular visions regarding the aural landscape, while others are more open to collaboration. The designer may also visit the set or attend rehearsals to develop their vision and determine appropriate music and sounds.

Creating Unique Sounds

Designing audio elements is a specialized and highly technical job requiring high creativity to tackle real and creative sound design challenges.

Real film sound design is the creation of sounds mimicking how they would occur in reality, such as ocean waves or birds chirping. Designers' goals when working on such audio elements is to make them sound right for their environment. To do this, they can either record the sound by replicating the scene and making a field recording or using unrelated tools to make a unique sound.

But what if a particular sound does not exist? This is where creative sound design comes in.

Creative sound design is the production of sounds that are outside reality and have no recognizable sound to use as a basis, such as that of zombies or aliens. Crafting them requires expertise and ingenuity. You can create these sounds using digital tools like filters and oscillators, by manipulating or layering different recorded sounds, and, at times, by merely using everyday items such as soda cans and cutlery.

Again, creativity and experimentation is the key. You would be surprised to know how some of the most legendary cinematic sounds were produced from wholly unusual means.

Examples of Good Sound Design

Different genres call for different approaches. Do you want to put the audience on the edge of their seats? Bring tears to their eyes? Or do you want them to feel the tension during a particular fight scene?

A good sound design is the only way of achieving this and building a world beyond the viewer's eyes.

History is filled with films that take this art to the next level. For starters, let's talk about the iconic roar of the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, which rattled audiences to their core. Gary Rydstrom created that using a mix of animal vocalizations of tortoises, horses, and crowned cranes. And the specific sound of the T-rex breaths? Well, that was just the sound of air escaping a whale's blowhole.

The Star Wars franchise further raised the standard for the best sound design through its wonder-filled and exhilarating soundscape. From the electric zoom of the lightsaber to Darth Vader's menacing breathing, the series invented a plethora of unique sounds through the combination of saber sounds, TV interferences, and moving mics.

Of course, this list isn’t complete without mentioning Halloween, one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The entire score of the movie was composed by the director John Carpenter himself. He experimented with stabs and synth, something never done before, to create a dreamlike, propulsive sense of dread that continues to terrify the audience today.

Conclusion

Great sound design is what makes a movie work. From the subconscious hum of strip lighting to the growl of a car engine, it creates realism and carries the entire project in one flow. So, next time you start your film production, remember to call in Score a Score to amp up your project and make it extraordinary.