The Basics of Sound Design for the Editor
Sound design is something that rarely comes up in discussions about editing. I’m not sure if the film editors just don’t think about it, or if they assume it’s someone else’s job. During the video production, editors work with video, so they don’t have to worry about audio, right? Editors have to worry about everything, actually. But I’ll stick with sound design for now.
Let’s get something straight — something not enough people emphasize about this topic. Sound design is fun. Full stop. You, yes, you specifically, like it very much and are very good at it.
Let’s get something straight — something not enough people emphasize about this topic. Sound design is fun. Full stop. You, yes you specifically, like it very much and are very good at it.
How do I know that? I know because you pointed your hand like a gun and said “bang.” You told a story and instead of saying “it exploded” you made the noise of the explosion with your mouth. You read a book and imagined the music of city traffic and the blazing roar of dragon fire. That’s sound design, and you’ve likely been doing it your whole life.
It’s such a natural thing we hardly think about it when watching movies. That’s pretty amazing because as far as sound goes, nothing you hear, aside from dialogue, was recorded during shooting. Sure, if we’re talking about voices, some of that may have been recorded on set, but only a fraction. All of the sound effects are inserted later during the video editing and production. Except in very rare cases, every footstep, every punch, every creak, crack, and crumble are completely separate from what you are seeing on screen. If that sounds like it would be difficult to do, it isn’t. Not these days, anyway. Now we have sound libraries we can download from the internet, so anyone can do it.
Of course, studios still record their own sound effects the same way they’ve always done even before movies. In fact, the art of sound design is most apparent in radio plays where the story was told entirely with sound, music, and voices. When The Shadow opened a door, there was a man on the set using a creaky cabinet to make the noise. It never occurred to anyone listening that they weren’t actually hearing him enter a room.
But it’s not just about realistic sound effects, either. After all, what would the inception trailer have been like without it’s signature BWOOOONNNNNGGG? There are a great many varieties of dramatic, punchy, musical sound effects designed solely to make an impact on the mood.
This is something you must know you’ll need to do if you’re getting into editing. Don’t worry about how to do it. It will come naturally. You won’t be skilled at it, but the learning curve is about as steep as a Florida driveway. It won’t be long before you discover the thrill of making visuals with audio. If you need sounds, freesound.org is a great place to start. Adobe also offers a free sound effects library, and there are many others out there to purchase if you’re willing to look. You always have the option to record the sounds yourself, of course. Whatever you do, just remember that if you’re having fun, you’re doing it right.
You can learn more about sound design and video production at Center for Creative Media’s video production school. They also offer acting school program and production management programs. At CCM, you’ll have the opportunity to learn hands-on and get experience on the job like very few other film schools.