Have you thought about how to incorporate sound design into your work? It might be time you started. Your life as a creative is stressful enough already. There are so many things to keep track of! You have to figure out the client's needs, come up with a concept, find an exciting way to incorporate their message, hit deadlines, not to mention creating the visuals they asked for in the first place! The conception of an ad campaign or film has a ton of moving parts. Creatives and producers can sometimes forget about sound design in the early stages of the process. Incorporating sound design from the beginning of your process ensures it will not be an afterthought. Excellent sound design can impress demanding clients, and the best part is they might not even realize why. Here is why you shouldn't let sound design be an afterthought.
Let's start with the basics. You may already know a little bit about sound design, but we want to make sure you understand everything that goes into it behind the scenes. There might be more than you expected. First, let's understand the types of sound we can find in all sound design.
This is a pretty obvious one. It can evoke emotion in ways that other things can't. We're sure you can remember an iconic film score. That is music doing its job. You or your sound designer can find music on stock websites, or you can have it scored for a specific project depending on its length.
These may or may not be in your project. If you are working with motion graphics, you may not have any talking characters. If you do, recording clear, clean dialogue is essential. You want the audience to understand what your characters are saying. You may also consider adding something like VO to your motion graphics project or film. This will also need to be recorded clearly and mixed.
SFX is incorporated into pretty much every action on screen—everything from footsteps to clothing rustling. If a character takes a drink, a sound designer might add in things you may not think of, like the sounds of swallowing or ice cubes clinking in the glass. These things can be recorded using a foley process or added from a sound designer's extensive SFX library. All of these things together start to build the framework of sound design. Using these elements, a sound designer then has to enter the post sound process. If you keep reading, we'll give you more insight into how that works.
Working with sound can come with various challenges, and it has a post-production process all its own! Just like animators and editors, sound designers have their own process as well. This includes syncing up whatever audio was already recorded, recording ADR, putting in sound effects, recording foley, and more. Once all of the audio tracks are cleaned up and added to the project file, the sound designer gets to work. Using software specifically made for sound design, they'll mix it all, so the levels hit just right. We have to remember that visuals are only half of the experience when someone watches something. The rest of the work all needs to go into sound design!
Audiences react to sound on a subconscious level. For example, you may not have noticed how many dogs are barking in a TV show or film until you get a dog, and they start reacting to those sounds you never heard before. The work that goes into sound design creates a three-dimensional world for the audience to react to. Music and sound effects can elevate your spooky motion graphic, film, or advertisement to full-on scary! Sound supports the visuals and gives the audience something to latch on to. The trick is, if sound design is done well, you may not notice it right away, but we can almost guarantee a client or audience will notice bad sound work.
If you are a motion graphic designer, a creative director, or a producer, you spend a ton of time and money to make sure your visuals are spot on. Why would you waste all of that time and money on a project that you will just throw a stock track on and ship it out to the client? If you work hard on the visuals, you want the entire project to convey a feeling and a tone. You want the sound to work with your visuals and tell the story you set out to tell. Most of the time, a stock track will not be enough to keep your audience members engaged. There is a reason people remember jingles, commercial mnemonics, or even the sound of a lightsaber. Those things impact an audience. Just because it is not seen on screen doesn't mean it's not felt.
If you are working on a motion graphics project for fun and have complete creative control, this is where sound design can really shine. A sound designer with free rein in an animated world can bring so much joy. This type of sound design will open up your animation up to possibilities you may not have ever imagined.
Sound design for film is an entirely different beast. If you are making a film, whether it's VFX or live-action, you need a dedicated sound team to bring it to life. There is likely a ton of dialogue, SFX, and scoring that needs to be done to elevate your film. To go back to a point we made before, if you spend all this time and money on the visuals, if you ignore the sound, we can almost guarantee your movie or short film will not turn out the way you want it to.
The script will inform the kind of soundscape required for your film. Look through the script for any written action. If two people are drinking pop, the sound of the pop tops breaking and the fizz of the liquid, once the air has escaped, will likely be in that scene. If the film is more experimental, working with a sound designer will make designing an emotion or mood that much easier.
As you may know, silences can be awkward. This can either work in your favour or work against you. If you want an awkward silent moment in your film, a sound designer can work with you to figure out what fills that silence. Here's a trick, it's usually not turning the SFX and music down to zero. There will likely still be something like 'room tone' and the sound of uncomfortable movement to emphasize that moment. The understanding and expertise required for sound design go beyond what you think you hear in your everyday life. It's adding to that to build an entirely unseeable world.
It would help if you thought of your sound designer as another collaborator on your project. They are there to get creative with you and find new and exciting ways to tell your story that you might not have thought of. A sound designer's expertise can take your project from good to great.
In the beginning stages of a project, you should research sound designers for motion graphics or sound designers for film. Most sound designers will likely have a reel that you can look at to get a feel for the work they have done in the past. Try to hire a sound designer you trust and like early on in the process. This way, you know they will be available and ready to work on your project when the time comes.
You should also ensure you and your sound designer have clear and consistent communication. We are in the creative world of making something from nothing. If you are clear about what you want for the project, there shouldn't be any issues when things get wrapped up.
Depending on the project and the restrictions provided by the client, you may need to provide previous versions of a commercial or animation so they can start working off of that. If a client has a specific mnemonic, sound, or jingle, you'll be tied to that creatively, but a sound designer can develop new and creative ways to work with the rest of the sound.
If your project is more personal, or there is more creative lee-way, this is where things get fun. They may ask you to provide references of music or tone. You likely already have these for your film's look and style, so keep sound references in mind as well. A sound designer will figure out what the overall vibe of your piece is. They will work with composers to figure out what music will fit best. During the creative process, they might even try something out that seems like a bad idea on paper, but when you hear it in your film melded with the animation or action, it could work better than you imagined. Sometimes it takes seeing and hearing something together to realize it's the right fit for your project. A sound designer should be considered another creative you bring into your project. They are there to help and make your life easier.
As a producer, you should always have a line item in there for sound design at the beginning of a project. If it's a motion graphics project or live-action, the visuals will have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to the story without good sound design. This can be a difficult task. Unless complete silence is part of the creative, you should make sure you have budgeted the proper amount of time and money for sound design.
The more expensive your project is, the more money you should allot for sound design. One of the best ways to make a project seem cheap is noisy dialogue recordings, little to no SFX, and a stock track. Your client or investors will not appreciate a final project that looks great but sounds horrible. Another way to look at budgeting for sound design is to look at the length of the project being created. Sound designers can tailor to your specific project. For example, YouTube pre-roll or anything under 10s may not benefit from an individualized score. Just because there's no music does not mean there is no need for sound design. SFX, in this case, will be even more important and impactful.Think about the McDonald's mnemonic. You may already have it in your head without even listening to it. This kind of animation sticks with you and your audience. That recall is what you are budgeting for.
If you want to learn more about post-production sound and how it can help your film or motion graphic animation drop us a line! Our studio has an assortment of audio post-production professionals who want to help you make the best project possible. We can walk you through the audio post-production process and figure out what works best for you and your team.