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What Education Do You Need to Be a Sound Designer?

sound designer in front of a workstation

The role of the sound designer is multifaceted and highly specialized, and to the outsider looking in, it might seem like a completely foreign skill requiring indecipherable calculations. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Countless individuals have started their career in sound design by enrolling in a creative arts college and completing a film and sound design degree programs.

It takes a special type of person to be a sound designer; but no matter who you are, the first step to making that dream a reality is to pursue the right education. This should be great news to any aspiring sound designer because these are steps that anyone with a passion for film and sound design can take.

Why Do People Become Sound Designers?

Whether it’s in film, television, or producing videos, people dream of becoming sound designers for a myriad of different reasons. For some, it’s a lifelong passion. Maybe the sound effects and music in their favorite movies stood out to them where it can just go over the heads of more passive audience members.

Audio producers first gained an interest in their craft through a love of music, repeatedly listening to their favorite band’s albums to pick out every nuance of the mix. No matter what gets a young audiophile’s interests piqued, it can easily go from being a casual interest to a hobby, which can then turn to an obsession and, in some cases, a lucrative career.

One thing that just about every sound designer has in common is a proclivity for creativity. Regardless of the branch of sound engineering you enjoy, you’re sure to find creative individuals with original ideas. Not just anyone can maintain such a level of artistic expression day after day; while some who are less passionate might be able to get by at first, they’re sure to get burnt out once they’ve been at it for a while and the initial excitement wears off.

Those who truly are creative minds, however, have little difficulty in finding ways to keep their passions fueled while at work in sound design. If you are someone who has the “ear” for sound design, which really comes down to a combination of artistic intuition and technical knowledge, you’ll always be looking for that next perfect sound effect or an even more immersive soundscape. For those types of individuals, the work becomes a reward in and of itself.

What Education Does Someone Need to Be a Sound Designer?

By this point, it should be clear that anyone hoping to enter into one of the many fulfilling and diverse areas of sound design has to have the right kind of education to even stand a chance in making this a career. There are simply too many industry standards and technical terms for a person to absorb all on their own.

Further, there is a need for hands-on learning experiences that require professional and academic settings to be facilitated. It’s one thing to read about how a mixing board works and the general rules and guidelines of creating a good mix; it’s another thing entirely to be physically there in the studio, working with artists and other engineers in real-time and having a massive number of expectations laid on your shoulders.

The best route to take for anyone who aspires to break into sound design is still to enroll in a film and sound design degree from a creative arts college. There, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded individuals who will keep you immersed in the experience of your education and push you ever farther toward your passion. It is always great to have academic peers to bounce ideas off, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding and love of audio than you ever would have on your own. Students often leave these programs having made lifelong friends: colleagues with whom they can later collaborate and network.

The Film and Sound Design Program Education

A film and sound design program provides students with the opportunity to earn an occupational degree that readies them for the real world of sound design. All the skills you’ll need to succeed in this field are condensed into a curriculum that ends in an Occupational Associate of Applied Science Degree. Students can complete this entire program in two years, attending full-time.

One of the important skills you’ll gain over the course of these studies is working as a team. Seldom does a sound engineer work in a vacuum without the collaboration of other professionals, and so this program prepares students for the highly interactive, engaging, and communicative realm. Whether it’s working in small groups or with the entire class, it’s critical to hear the ideas of others and make your own voice heard in a way that others can relate to.

Experienced educators are there to take you through the necessary steps to gain the knowledge and experience that will carry you through every possible scenario in your professional life, both in and out of the studio. With specialized knowledge about the industry and sound engineering, they’ll be able to quickly course-correct any basic mistakes to prevent you from having to unlearn a lot of bad habits.

In addition to everything related to the education you gain throughout the course of a sound design program, you’ll also walk out of the college with a broad and extensive portfolio that showcases who you are as a designer and creator. This gives potential employers an easy way to see just what you’re capable of, and it gives you something clear and concise to prove your expertise.

As a part of this program, you’ll experience what it’s like to produce a film of your own. This means working as a group to devise storyboards, filming, then editing and producing the raw footage and sound. The process of creating something tangible that everyone can watch, enjoy, and critically analyze serves as a valuable foundation and building block to gaining a better understanding of what the real-life process of sound design is like.

The entry-level skills you’ll learn include everything from recording to post-production to design, covering every aspect of the film business. You’ll learn all about shaping content and telling more relatable and concise stories in your design, be it a small independent project with next to no budget or a huge multimillion-dollar blockbuster.

What Jobs are Available to Those That Graduate?

Graduates leave school with a diverse world of opportunity opened up to them. Regardless of your special interests are in the audio world, there’s a career that’s perfectly suited to your unique skills and aspirations.

Sound Mixer

This is the person who is in charge of the whole department recording all of the sound during a film. It’s a big responsibility because it encompasses not just the dialogue, which is the main aspect of their work, but also the atmospherics and effects. Sound mixers work right alongside the producers and director to ensure that everyone has a clear idea of the film’s vision. Since every director works in a slightly different way, sound mixers often must collaborate to find out how to best capture the sound for the picture.

Audio Engineer

These professionals work closely with the equipment and machinery that’s used for recording and other production purposes. Synchronization is highly important in film to get the audio to sync up precisely with the onscreen action. Audio engineers use their advanced tools to reproduce music, effects, and voices both at live events and in studio settings. They are often the person in the middle between the sound mixer and the equipment itself, so they must not only operate their machinery seamlessly but also be in seamless communication with the mixer and other colleagues.

Boom Operator

Boom microphones are an indispensable part of getting clear audio in a wide variety of filming situations, and they wouldn’t be possible without the people who operate them. While it might seem to some that boom operators are just like any other film hands on a crew, there is a massive amount of importance, artistry, and skill that goes into the role. These operators must know the precise way to hold their specialized microphones to get them as close to the action as possible without hovering into the shot, all the while maintaining the physical strength to do the job.

Assistant Editor

In order for the lead editor to do their job productively and efficiently, they need the assistance of someone who will make their life easier. The ideal assistant editor does everything they can stay in lockstep with the head editor, anticipating their needs before being asked. Assistants also must have the confidence and experience to know when it’s the right time to put forth a suggestion that enriches the film.

Video Editor

Once all the raw material has been captured, the video editor has to put all the best pieces together like an extremely complicated puzzle. It takes numerous artistic decisions throughout the process of eliminating or trimming scenes that don’t work or finding the best take out of many. Decision-making skills and the ability to work under pressure are essential for this type of work.

Film and Sound Design Program

Ready to learn more about becoming a sound designer? 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.