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How Do I Get Started in Sound Design?

Man sitting in front of his sound design work station

Do you have a passion for sound in film? Do you idealize George Lucas for creating THX in 1983 for Return of the Jedi? Or maybe you are a Dolby Digital person. Either way, becoming a sound designer is easier than you think. The first step in the journey is completing a film and sound design program at a creative arts college. This will prepare you for your new adventure into the world of film, tv and video game sound design.

Sound design is used in many different industries and at a multitude of organizations. As a sound designer, you will mix sound that is already recorded, create original sound, employ Foley artists to bring the action on screen to life and use computer software to create sound effects. Whether it is a film, tv show, promotional video, or video game, as a sound designer you will create a world of sound for your audience to enjoy.

What is Sound Design?

Sound design is what brings a film to life. It includes sound effects, Foley, dialogue and music. It is the sound of a lightsaber being waved in the air, the conversation of two actors, and an upbeat track accompanying a romantic comedy. Sound design helps create imagery in the audience’s mind and enhances the visual storytelling of film. If you have ever watched a silent film, you know why sound is so important.

What Does a Sound Designer Do?

As a sound designer, you are the person in charge of the sound for a film, video, or other media production. You will work with the boom operator to capture dialogue, the composer to create a soundtrack, and the Foley artists to put sound to the visuals on the film screen. As the sound designer, you create sound effects that add texture to the film and create ambiance. You sink up the dialogue with the actor’s lip movements and you set the tone of the scene with the various elements of sound.

As a sound designer, you will study the film’s script, sit in on pre-production meetings to understand the director’s vision and work closely with the director throughout the production to offer feedback on dialogue that will need to be touched up in post-production. You will also advise on the best way to hear the actors, how to adjust the acoustics of the film set and configure microphones to better capture dialogue. You are the oil that keeps the film machine running smoothly.

Who Does the Sound Designer Work With?

The many people on the film crew that you will work with include the director, audio engineer, dialogue editor, ADR team, boom operator, music editors, composer and Foley artists. You bring all the sound for a film together in post-production. You will need a set of skills to work well with others in order to complete the project on time and on or under budget.

What are the Skills that a Successful Sound Designer Needs?

There are many skills you will need to become a successful sound designer. You will pick up many of these skills during a film and sound design program and continue to improve and expand them throughout your career. Some of these skills include ear training, creativity, technical savvy, communication, attention to detail, and problem solving.

Skill #1: Ear Training

Part of a sound design program teaches ear training. It is important for you to understand what you are hearing so you can differentiate between every nuance and subtlety in the sounds you are making. Ear training allows you to identify different musical elements like notes, intervals, chords, chord progressions, scales, pitches, cadence and rhythm. Ear training will help you make better music, sounds and effects. You will also be able to compose music faster and create what you hear in your head on the first try. Ear training is essential to becoming a successful sound designer.

Skill #2: Creativity

If you are naturally creative, you will be able to recognize good ideas and be better at solving problems. Opening up your imagination allows you to be more creative and that gives you more options to work with in sound design.

With creativity, you will be able to better express yourself and look at new ideas in different ways. During a film and sound design program, instructors will challenge you to be more creative and help you explore original ideas. You may even invent a new way of making sound.

Skill #3: Technical Savvy

Much of your job as a sound designer involves working with hardware and software. You will become familiar with all the industry standard equipment during a film and sound design program. Even if you have never used sound software, classes will start at the beginning and by the end of the program you will be an expert. You will learn the basics of sound design, use different virtual dials and knobs, set up tracks and pick digital instruments. You will learn everything you need to create sound for films, tv shows or video games.

Skill #4: Communication

As a sound designer, you will work with a full crew on a film set, from the director to the boom operator and everyone in between. Having the ability to communicate efficiently and effectively is important for the success of the film project. Your assistant will need guidance, the director will need feedback and the boom operator should be able to look to you for advice to properly record the dialogue on set. You will also be responsible for reading scripts and adding notes for different sound elements. Communication as a whole is an important skill to acquire and improve. Nothing is worse than a frustrated crew or having a misunderstanding that delays the release of the film.

Skill #5: Attention to Detail

Ensuring that you have all the elements of the sound in order and placed at the correct times within the film takes excellent attention to detail. Every sound is important in a film. From the subtle swish of two actors passing each other, to the volume of the background noise during a scene. If you miss anything, your audience will know.

Skill #6: Problem Solving

There are always problems that happen during post-production. If you have to refilm scenes it can be costly with all the actors, crew and locations. Having the ability to create sound effects, Frankenbites, or other sound to cover up a problem or add atmosphere to a dull scene is important. For every problem there are multiple solutions, you just need to find the right one.

Final Thoughts

Ready to dive into sound design? During a film and sound design program you will learn all the fundamentals you need to create sound for film. Take the leap and you will have your dream job on a film set or in a sound studio. Your skills even translate to audiobooks, radio, podcasting and video game creation. You have so many options when you get your degree in sound design. The sky is truly the limit.

Film and Sound Design Program

The Film and Sound Design program offers an occupational degree that immerses college students in the world and industry of film and sound design. IPR’s condensed program allows students to earn a multi-skill, multi-functional Occupational Associate of Applied Science Degree in as little as two years.  Students learn hands-on, entry-level skills in every aspect of the film business: story, preproduction, production, and post-production for video and audio. Work as a part of a team to produce your own film- from concept and storyboard, to production and editing – you’ll graduate with a portfolio of work to showcase your creativity and launch your career in the exciting Film Industry.

If you are interested in a career in film and sound design you should tour our Minneapolis creative arts college, see the labs and meet our staff. Call 1-612-351-0631 or contact admissions to make arrangements.