These are the notes on a lecture we gave on sound design, pitched at animation students.
HISTORY OF SOUND DESIGN:
In motion picture production, a Sound Designer is a member of a film crew responsible for some original aspect of the film’s audio track.
The terms “Sound Design” and “Sound Designer” were already in use in theatre and were introduced to the film world when Francis Ford Coppola directed a live production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives at the American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in San Francisco where sound designer Charlie Richmond was resident, while the final cut of the The Godfather was being edited in 1972.
In the original film world meaning of the title, as established in the 1970s by Coppola and Walter Murch, a sound designer is an individual ultimately responsible for all aspects of a film’s audio track, from the dialogue and sound effects recording to the re-recording of the final track. The title was first granted by Coppola to Murch for his work on the film Apocalypse Now, in recognition for his extraordinary contribution to that film; in this way the position emerged in the same manner the title of production designer came in to being in the 1930s, when William Cameron Menzies made revolutionary contributions to the craft of art direction in the making of Gone with the Wind.
FACTORS CONTRIBUTING TO DEVELOPMENT OF SOUND DESIGN
* Cinema sound systems became capable of high-fidelity reproduction, and particularly after the adoption of Dolby Stereo. These systems were originally devised as gimmicks to increase theater attendance, but their widespread implementation created a content vacuum that had to be filled by a competent professional. Before stereo soundtracks, film sound was of such low fidelity that only the dialogue and occasional sound effects were practical. The greater dynamic range of the new systems, coupled with the ability to place sounds to the sides of the audience or behind them, required more creative decisions to be made.
* Directors wanted to realize the new potentials of the medium. A new generation of filmmakers, the so-called “Easy Riders and Raging Bulls”—Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and others—were aware of the creative potential of sound and wanted to use it.
* The new filmmakers were inspired in no small part by the popular music of the era. Concept albums of groups such as Pink Floyd and The Beatles suggested new modes of storytelling and creative techniques that could be adapted to motion pictures.
* The new filmmakers made their early films outside the Hollywood establishment, away from the influence of film labor unions and the then rapidly-dissipating studio system.
As many of these new filmmakers worked in the San Francisco Bay Area, the strong meaning of film sound designer has become associated with films made there, and the production companies situated there, such as American Zoetrope, Lucasfilm Limited (and its subsidiary Skywalker Sound), and The Saul Zaentz Film Center.
WHAT IS SOUND DESIGN & WHERE DOES A SOUND DESIGNER FIT IN?
Sound design is a conceptually creative/technical field. It covers all non-compositional elements of a film, a play, a music performance or recording, computer game software or any other multimedia project. A person who practices the art of sound design is known as a Sound Designer.
ELEMENTS THAT MAKE UP FINAL FILM:
VISUAL LAYER – FINISHED PICTURE
AUDIO LAYER – DIALOGUE / VOICE OVER
FOLEY / SFX (Deepens Immersive Experience)
MUSIC BED (Sets Emotional Tone)
MASTERING (Compression, Surround etc)
WHY IS SOUND DESIGN IMPORTANT FOR ANIMATION?
Sound design is extremely important for animation. If it is working well, nobody will notice. If it is going badly wrong, it will detract from the animation, no matter how good it is.
Much animation deals with creating imagined universes. A dense and well thought out sound design and music bed can lend these environments credibility.
Animation Production Roles:
HISTORY OF SOUND DESIGN:
WHAT DOES DIFFERENT MUSIC DO? – SETS EMOTIONAL TONE.
EXAMPLE OF DIFFERENT SOUNDTRACKS TUTORIAL:
EXAMPLES OF EXCELLENT SOUNDTRACK / SOUND DESIGN WORK:
LINKS AND RESOURCES:
FREE SAMPLE RESOURCES: