How to Learn Sound Design Without Film School

You know film school isn’t for you, but you still want to learn about sound design? Look no further. You don’t need a film degree to learn about the theory and practice of film sound design. But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

Often an overlooked aspect of filmmaking, sound design represents a crucial component of any good film. Sometimes it’s easy to overlook poor visuals, but its harder to overlook poor sound recording and design. Let’s get into some basics below.

If you need funding to help you with sound design or anything else for your short film, check out our film funding opportunities.

Film Score

Electronic Film Scoring

There are a couple of key audio elements that make up full and rich sound design. The first being the score or film music. The most important tool to convey mood and tone is film music and score. Audiences respond to music swells, and cues and a good score will tell the story of the film even without the visuals.

One of the best ways to get a great score is to work with other artists and composers. If you have an original piece composed for your film you can avoid the issues of music licensing for film.

There are also plenty of online resources for free film music you’ll just have to do the arrangements yourself. There are also lots of film music magazines and film music history books you can read to learn more about film music’s history and purpose.

This knowledge will help you create your own score. Also, you can find scores that tell the stories themselves from movies and listen to them and try to emulate them. John William’s music is great at storytelling. 

Foley Art

Another important aspect of sound design is foley. Foley is the art of creating sounds in a studio that mimic sounds that are in the film world. Foley can help make the film world more believable and make the sound design fuller.

You can watch foley artists at work in this video.  If you’re interested in foley, you can reach out to some artists to see if they will talk to you or show you their studios.

You can also create your own foley studios. If you have a good mic and some props, you could do your own foley for a clip from a movie. That is a great way to practice, and it could be something you could put on your reel and a great place to start sound designing. 

Sound Mixing

Film Score Sound Mixing

Yet another important element of sound design is mixing. The audio mix is an important element in realism and it also functions to set tone and mood. The audio mix determines the relative volume and levels of every audio element in the film.

If your film is striving for realism, then a good sound mix will be absolutely necessary. No sound can be too loud or too quiet. All of the dialogue will need to be at the perfect level.

If you’re making a horror movie, the sound mix might play a part in the jump scares, or a low-pitched sound mix can contribute to the eerie tone of the film. If you’re making an experimental film, maybe the sound design is part of the experimental nature. In that case, you might not want a perfect sound mix.

Whatever the case may be, the mix is usually the last element of the sound design process, but it can be just as important as all other elements. Sound design software like Pro Tools can be very helpful for perfecting the mix.

Online Classes

Online Film Scoring Classes

You can study sound design in film school or sound design school, but many film schools have sound design courses and sound design degrees. Some of the best film sound design programs are listed here.

But that doesn’t mean you need to go to school to become a sound designer for film. There are plenty of great online classes and sound design tutorials from which to study up.

The most important tip for sound design beginners is to practice. Anyone can create sound design assets. You can record sounds yourself with a mic, or you can find free sounds online. Freesound is a great resource.

You can start making your own soundscapes from sounds found online. Sound mixes also don’t require visuals. Sometimes stories can be told only through sound. 

Seeking Jobs

Film Scoring Jobs

The best way to answer the question of how to become a sound designer is to become passionate about sound. The sound design in film is a critical part of the art of filmmaking. A simple sound design definition in film is the creation of the soundscape, it makes the film feel more real and creates a sense of offscreen space which is important for the realism of a film.

If you seek out the jobs of a sound designer, if you are passionate about the practice and study up on the theory, you too can be a sound designer.

If you need funding or prizes to help with your film—up to $10,000 and other prizes like Adobe Creative Cloud—submit to our funding opportunities.

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