Nathan Madsen, resident composer-sound designer for Madsen Studios LLC and NetDevil has published in the Angelo Panetta’s Blog three articles talking about three common mistakes that young sound designers make in his first projects on sound design.
Don’t be too literal. I’m using the word literal in two ways: the sounds themselves are too literal and the events supported are too literal. When I first started at FUNimation I didn’t have much experience with sound design. I was mainly hired because my music was good and the team felt that I would be able to learn sound design quickly and become productive. At the start I would only support major events in the trailer: sharp contrasts in mood, pacing, large motions like combat, explosions and the end tag. I was being too literal with the footage. “Well, I only see three large events here, so I’ll throw in a subtle ambience bed and call it a day”. This type of approach is prone to leave gaps in the experience and can create uneven playback of the sound design, which will be covered in more detail in the second segment of this article. [Continue Reading…]
Avoid islands of sounds surrounded by silence. Silence has its place in media, sure, but you don’t want to over use it. By only supporting obvious events and elements in my early trailers and media I was ending up with this effect:
sound —– silence —– sound —– silence —– sound —— silence
This wasn’t helping my media move forward with momentum. It was like a car sputtering along the road trying in vain to make it to the goal. How is that going to help sell the story and create a rememberable experience? Now that I’m more experienced with sound design, I notice this same issue when evaluating young (or new) sound designer’s work. When working with media try scoring sound elements that are of various layers: up close sounds, distant far away sounds. The goal of your sound design is to create an experience where I can know most of what’s going on without the visuals. I can understand the mood, environment and most of the actions by just hearing the sounds. [Continue Reading…]
Construct your sound design like you would a piece of music. As I said in the first paragraph, many composers end up doing some freelance sound design at some point in their career. Most of you already know how to write a great song, but let’s think about what goes into an effective score: harmonies, rhythms, melodies and contrast. Having a piece that does the same rhythm and harmony over and over can get really annoying and repetitive fast if not prepared correctly. Consider Ravel’s Bolero and how repetitive that piece of music is. That’s about 13-15 minutes of basically the same idea over and over again! If Ravel wasn’t careful about his orchestration and moving that ostinato around in various configurations of the orchestra, would it be as effective? Would it still be considered a masterpiece of 20th century music? Doubtful. I’ve found that some young sound designers don’t consider how to develop their sound design piece. I was guilty of this at first and a co-worker helped me realize this flaw. He asked me “how are you prepping this large moment?” The truth of the matter is I wasn’t. So I started looking into ways to make a large moment have more impact. When I started thinking about sound design as a piece of music, suddenly it took on a life of its own. I began to consider how often I am giving this sound to the listener. Should I change it with this other sound? Should I return to a familiar sound passage later on much like you would return to the starting theme in music? What is the orchestration of my sound and how does it change throughout the scene or trailer? Should it remain the same the whole time? It that really effective? Does it have progression? Just as you wouldn’t want to score a piece of music using the same chord or same intensity, try and make your sound design have some ebb and flow to it. Some tension and relaxation. Some development. Sound design is just like musical composition, but you’re using different instruments! [Continue Reading…]