When you’re starting out, filmmaking can seem like a daunting task. Sometimes it feels like there are so many elements you have to worry about. One of the biggest things that can get overlooked is film sound design. Beginner filmmakers are usually preoccupied with the visual elements, and sound can be pushed aside.
Sound design, as defined by Audio Shapers [source], is the process of recording, acquiring, manipulating, or generating audio elements. It is employed in a variety of disciplines including filmmaking, television production, theatre, sound recording and reproduction, live performance, sound art, post-production, and video game software development.
One of the best ways to make sure the sound in your film doesn’t get forgotten is by hiring people on your crew who are in charge of sound— a sound designer and/or a sound recordist. If you’re a filmmaker looking for funding to hire such crew members, check out our funding opportunities for a chance to receive up to $10,000 for your production.
So let’s look at why this crucial element of filmmaking sometimes gets overlooked.
Visuals are King
In filmmaking, the hierarchy of elements often puts visuals at the top, and other aspects like the audio or film music are seen as an afterthought.
In reality, film audio represents an extremely crucial element of the filmmaking process. No matter what kind of film you set out to make, good sound design will elevate your project. Realistic audio design will help the audience believe the world you’ve created.
As an audience member, we react to sound on a subconscious level. If we hear a sound design with mixing that has been done professionally, we will intuitively feel like we’re occupying the space shown on screen.
If you’re making a horror movie, sound design and foley can elevate the suspense of your project. Instead of just using visuals of zombies or vampires, a frightening sound or suspenseful music cue can create the same reaction in the audience. Often, suspense created through sound instead of visuals feels more realistic to the audience because they interact with that sound on a subconscious level.
So some film school programs might teach you that the visuals are of paramount importance, but sound design school will teach you that visual is not always king. When beginning your project, remember that sound does not serve the image but is an artistic endeavor in its own right.
Even with sound being a crucial element of filmmaking, sound designers don’t get the same recognition that directors or even cinematographers get. Can you name your favorite sound designer? We didn’t think so.
Because audio recording might not be as glamorous as the other jobs on a film set, sometimes beginners can overlook its importance. Maybe sound designers don’t get top billing in the credits, but that doesn’t mean their jobs aren’t essential for making your film great.
The best thing to do is to learn about the importance of sound design. It has its roots in theatre sound design and has expanded to become its own industry. The first thing you can do is look into some sound design software. The industry standard is Pro Tools, and it’s free to download.
If you’re a hands-on learner, learning new software is the perfect way to teach yourself about sound design. There are also plenty of sound design tutorials you can follow if you get stuck.
Maybe you’re not a hands-on learner, and maybe you’d like to study up before jumping into sound design for beginners. There are plenty of sound design courses and sound design books you can read up on to learn how to become a sound designer.
If you really think that audio design might be for you, and you’re wondering where you can study sound design and where to learn sound design, there are lots of great sound design degrees you can go to school for.
All of this education on sound design will ensure that you can’t possibly overlook it when you begin your own project!
And yet still, sometimes audio still gets left out because there is not enough room in the budget to hire an expert. There are still plenty of free sound resources that can help elevate your film’s design. There is free film music out there. By using free music you also avoid trying to get music licensing for a film which can be a challenge.
Film Music Magazine hosts composition contests and film score mentorships. You can have an original piece composed for your film which would certainly elevate your sound design without breaking the budget.
A great strategy to ensure you’re able to execute great sound design in your film is by expanding expanding your budget. Check out our funding opportunities to get up to $10,000 for your film and your soundscape.
When starting your project and film, it can be easy to focus on visuals and not worry about audio, but it’s important for the tone of your film, and for the overall quality of your project. Film music has a storied and important history, and as a beginning filmmaker, it’s important that you don’t forget about it.