What is Sound Design for Film?

Portrait Of Female Sound Recordist Holding Microphone On Video Film Production In White Studio

Can you remember the last time you were watching a movie and found yourself completely immersed in what was happening? In a professionally produced filmgoing experience, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the emotions and storyline happening onscreen. But have you ever wondered how much of that is a result of the visuals versus the sounds? Of course, the two are intrinsically linked in an audiovisual presentation, but it might surprise you just how much the mesmerizing effects depend on the sound design for film.

What is Sound Design for Film?

The scope of sound design in film is broad and highly multifaceted. It includes everything from recording audio, manipulating the sound to create the perfect ambiance, acquiring pre-existing sounds and effects, and generating new audio elements using sound production software. Those who enter this field must have a firm grasp on all elements of the job to perform it well.

Whether it’s building up the tension in a dramatic scene or giving a sense of romance between two characters, sound design has a huge influence on the overall emotionality of a film. If you’ve ever seen footage of a movie with the sound effects removed, you already know just how dry the visuals immediately become. It can be hard to even tell what you’re supposed to feel when looking at a scene without the right sounds. Ideal sound design is there to complement the images on the screen without distracting the audience away from them, so there is an exceptionally fine line that sound designers have to walk in order to do their job well.

What Do You Learn in a Sound Design Program?

When you enroll in a program focused on sound design, you’ll be immersed in the world of audio production in a way that’s hard or even impossible to achieve by learning on your own. Being surrounded by peers with the same interests and mindset as you will help you to push your creative aspirations and technical skills to new heights, always giving you new ways to challenge yourself. You’ll also come away with friends and industry connections that are invaluable as you move forward into your chosen career path.

Highly experienced educators teach a curriculum that covers what you need to know to succeed as a sound designer. You’ll get the hands-on experience you need to build up your confidence and allow you to experiment and make mistakes before you’re out there in a professional capacity. There will be many opportunities to ask questions and hear directly from those who have been in the industry, to know what it’s really like to work in sound design.

Everything from recording, post-production, and design are covered, giving you a holistic view of the filmmaking process. You will have the opportunity to create your own audiovisual projects from scratch, allowing you to see the intricacies that go into every step of the process. The entire time, you’ll have the clear guidance of well-trained educators to guide you in the right direction and keep you from picking up bad habits or misconceptions about the filmmaking industry.

When you have finished with a program in sound design, you’ll have more than just the skills needed to succeed; You’ll also have the portfolio and professional recommendations to land an actual job in sound design. The assignments that you work on throughout the course of a sound design program won’t just to get you through to graduation and improve your grade point average, these are real skill-building projects that show off your creativity and technical abilities, which you can use to get ahead in this highly competitive field. Your ability to back up your claims of being talented and well-suited for a given role with a tangible portfolio gives you a huge leg up over the masses of applicants who didn’t take a sound design course and don’t have anything to refer to.

Jobs Available After Graduating from a Film & Sound Design Program

Once you’ve completed a program in sound design, there’s a world of opportunity that’s open for you to explore. Due to the multifaceted mix of skills, you’ll acquire, sound design graduates can fit into a variety of roles that relate to what was studied. This allows students to find the exact job that fits their personality and unique skills.

Sound Designer

This important job in film production has many individual responsibilities. All sounds that accompany the onscreen action are taken care of by this audio specialist. Not only do they need a strong intuition about what audiences will expect to hear, but they also need effective communication skills to collaborate smoothly with their many colleagues on the production. This includes the director to ensure that their sound work is following his or her vision, as well as the editor, sound supervisor, and production mixer to have a clear sense of the direction that the film is taking as it goes through the many stages of the editing process. Since sound design is such a central aspect to the entire production of a film, the sound designer usually ends up acting as a type of manager for the sound department.

Sound Mixer

This job is sometimes referred to as the production sound mixer or the location sound mixer. In the hierarchy of sound designers on the job, this is at the very top of the totem pole. Their work is critical during both the production and pre-production phases of creating a film. While the filming is in progress, the sound mixer oversees all recording, making sure that every sound is captured along the way. Once the production stage has ended, the sound mixer then has the complex and nuanced task of balancing the resultant mix and recording new effects and dialogues to be seamlessly added in afterwards.

Boom Operator

An important member of the sound department, the boom operator is there to operate the recording equipment and make sure it’s placed in the ideal location to capture optimal sound quality. For every take in the filming process, the boom operator is there finding the perfect place to hold their microphone and get the full scope of the sound that’s happening onset.

As you may have already guess, the type of microphone that boom operators use is the boom microphone. This special type of mic is held over the actors in the scene to get as close as possible to them without interfering with the shot. The microphone is operated using what’s called either a boom arm or a boom pole, and while this makes it easier to maneuver and distributes the weight in a more manageable way, boom operators must have enough upper body strength to handle the long periods of steadily keeping their equipment in place. They also must have a good sense of how low to hold the microphone to prevent it from drifting into the shot, as most people are familiar with seeing in film bloopers.

Production Coordinator

For those who have a management-oriented mindset, this is an excellent job choice. The production coordinator is the one in charge of the entire production office, making sure everything is organized in a way that makes everyone’s job easier. They’re also an important part of ensuring all the right supplies are available and in usable condition. Essentially, the production coordinator makes sure that everything in the film production process works like a well-oiled machine.

Things like work permits, visas, and other staff-related logistics surrounding the cast and crew also fall under the purview of the production coordinator. If there is travel involved in the making of the film, they’ll handle all the accommodations and ensure that everyone is where they need to be at the right time. When a script inevitably goes through revisions, they’re in charge of getting the most updated version to everybody in the cast and crew who needs it. They also take care of schedules for filming and track who is doing what job with comprehensive cast and crew lists.

Key Grip

For all the non-electrical gear that are used to support production on a set, directors and other crew members rely heavily on the key grip. It’s their job to take care of everything from camera rigs, which are used to keep cameras stable and get them to the perfect angle for the ideal shot, to lighting rights, which provide special lighting effects to make for the best possible scene. Key grips deal with many other types of rigging, which are pieces of equipment that are essential in lifting and positioning the numerous tools that filmmakers use to get the shot that the director has in mind.

These are just a few key examples and is by no means an all-inclusive list. Within film, there are countless jobs to available for the completed product to be polished and fully produced. No matter what your specific skills are, there’s certainly a job in the sound department of a film that you’ll thrive in.

Film and Sound Design Program

Now that you know more about sound design in film, ready to learn more about working in sound design? 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.