The above Ad will no longer appear after you Sign Up for Free!

What does "sound design" mean?

Discussion in 'Sound, Music, and Intercom' started by miriam, Dec 3, 2007.

  1. miriam

    miriam Active Member

    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Up the wall
    In the context of a show?

    I thought sound design meant what to use and where to place it. But when I thought of the design part of it, that did not really fit in so well.

    Light design and scene design I understand to mean how to execute the director's vision. But how does sound design do that?
     
  2. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

    Messages:
    9,431
    Likes Received:
    1,826
    Location:
    Saratoga Springs, NY
    For sound design, you are tasked in creating the audible tone for the show. For some shows, this is just pure re-enforcement of voices, for others it can be a complex scoring of the show which means writing music/recording/etc. Sound design is by far the most hands on design of any of the specialties, though one could argue that costume design is more hands on. To be a sound designer you must have an extremely good grip on the technology you use. Sound designers usually do the speaker/mic placement/patch plots. The line between sound designer and Audio Engineer is an extremely small line in most places. With sound design you can go as artistic or as bare bones as you like, and as the show can support.
     
  3. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

    Messages:
    806
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Redwood City, CA
    I think this has been covered by other threads, but one way to sum it up --

    There are four roles that probably span the spectrum of what sound "people" do:
    - Sound Design
    - Sound Engineering
    - FOH/Monitor mixing
    - Backstage

    Sometimes each role is handled by different people, sometimes all by the same person. The Sound "design" role, however is probably the closest to the artistic side of the production, and the one that primarily interfaces with the Directors and other production stafff.
     
  4. wolf825

    wolf825 Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

    Messages:
    1,155
    Likes Received:
    93
    Location:
    Eastcoast USA
    This is only a small part to sound design but others have mentioned other parts. Think about the sound you hear in a movie--same thing--only you don't neccesarily need to score the entire show with some kind of music in the background at all times. To best describe what you do in designing sound for a show--you listen and think about what parts there are to a show that need enhancement from audio..what "fits" and what does not...you discuss with the director how they "hear the show" in what they imagine or want for the show or certain scenes. Yes sound design can mean in a simple show that it is just sound reinforcement for voices and music balance...but it can be a lot more then that and very much go beyond a few telephone or radio FX--sound helps set a tone to a show. Say if you are doing a scene in a scary woods--the background sound of wind or rustling leaves or crickets in the distant background and then a sudden crack of thunder to surprise or shake things up--that can go a long way to delivering a fuller experience for the audience and convey more of the tone of the show.

    Sound can also establish a 'time' period for a show--whether futuristic, current or historical...by using music from a period or music popular in that time or astyle that relates to that time...or if no music known was from that era you can improvise and take the sentiments or moods for the show and select similar or write original music that conveys that sentiment for wherever it goes or is needed.. If you are doing Hamlet or Macbeth--the preshow and intermission music are not going to be instrumental music of Elton John..but something that sets a tone for that era and the moods of the show.

    Sound can add effects and humor to a show....enhancing an actor's mannerisms or providing help for slapstick or a reactionary effects..telephone or prop sounds and background noise is just the tip of where you can go in sound. How you plot all this out is in designer meetings, watching rehearsals and reading script notes.. Listen and watch--then think how you "hear it" in sound which would bring it out or add in what is required or called for.

    Sometimes a fun and interesting way to learn to "see with your ears" is to close your eyes or blindfold yourself and listen to a TV show or movie you know well--picture it in your mind but follow only by listening to it. Then try the same exercise with a TV show or movie you have not seen before or know what is going to happen--try to listen to follow the story. With movies & TV its more important for sound design to continue and enhance scenes and dialog and so on...but the same can convey in a lesser aspect to sound for theater shows. But just because a stage show does not always enhance a fight scene with "battle" type music underscoring like a movie, it does not mean sound is not critically important for a show...

    Also sound design can go a lot towards a lot of technical means and requirements--placement of speakers, routing of the mixes, selection of equipment and mics' and so forth... Its a lot bigger thing that just picking a few dog barks off a CD and calling it "art" than most folks think it would be...

    -w
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2007
  5. miriam

    miriam Active Member

    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Up the wall
    I think I got confused because in the shows I have known, the director designs the sound, and then gets someone else to execute their design. I will definitely pay more attention to the sound atmosphere.

    I am going to do a show in March, I know the director, she is just finishing up the script. She will email me a copy if I ask. If I want to design sound, what type of things should I look for while reading the script, and what types of things should I ask her regarding how she hears her show? She will choose the music for the dances, but she may let me do the effects part of it.
     
  6. mixmaster

    mixmaster Active Member

    Messages:
    274
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    Iowa
    Miriam,
    As stated before the line between sound designer and sound engineer is a fine line and more often than not, handled by the same person. If you have a script (your lucky if you do, usually I find myself designing as I go) look for things that you would consider background or "audio scenery". Consider the settings. If the show is set in a park, outdoor noises like birds and bugs would help set the scene. In a city, find car sounds or traffic noises. As you read the script, think about the actions that are going on. If the script calls for someone to drop plates, a good designer would have a sound cue for the crash of dishes. In theory, any significant action would have a sound associated with it. As a designer it is your job to develop all these sounds into a cohesive show. On some shows, it may even be the designers job to find stuff to make sound cues with also. I once had to design a show with an old time radio scene. I ended up building a mock-up of an old radio, and supplying music that matched the time period for the radio to play. You should also consider pre and post show music, background themes, and live musicians if you need them for an orchestra piece in operas or musicals.
    Your director may have a lot to say about what they want to hear in particular scene. Or, they may let you run with it. Of course, some scripts have certain cues already in them. That doesn't mean you are limited to those cues though. In my experience, playwrights who direct their own plays tend to have very specific ideas about what they want.
    Once your show is designed, it needs to get distributed to your audience's ears through a correctly assembled sound system. That would be the soundengineer's job. As a sound engineer you would look at the designers information and the venue the event is being held in and come up with a sound system that can accurately reproduce the material. This includes the right playback devices, a console with enough inputs and outputs, the right number, size, and design of the speakers and many other things.
    Then you need an A1 (head sound tech)to actually run the show, and an A2 to help the A1 find the donuts......:grin:
    Best of luck
    Think about it like this. A designer (weather a sound or light designer) thinks about what some thing should sound like, or look like and is part of the creative process. An engineer's job is to make the designers dreams a reality.
     
  7. jkowtko

    jkowtko Active Member

    Messages:
    806
    Likes Received:
    50
    Location:
    Redwood City, CA
    Where you fall on the spectrum also depends on your skills, talents and equipment.

    For example, I'm an engineer by trade so I'm fundamentally more of a Sound Engineer than any of the other roles, however I have an ear for "what sounds right and what doesn't" so as an FOH mixer and to some extent a sound designer I do okay. And with Goldwave in hand, a Marantz PMD660 solid state recorder and access to the internet sound sites, I am able to come up with most FX on my own.

    However, I ALWAYS work with the Director and give them the first opportunity to identify what they want to be heard during the performance. More often than not they'll defer some of the items to me -- most commonly pre-, post- show and intermission music, and FX.

    I also lean on our musical director (who is also a composer and has his own digital studio) to manufacture music clips when we have the need -- which I don't have the talent for.
     
  8. miriam

    miriam Active Member

    Messages:
    102
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Up the wall
    Thanks. I will get back when I have read the script with more specifics.
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice