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What Is Sound Design? The Story of An Unsung Hero

Have you ever watched a movie and thought “This film would be nothing without its sound design”? Sound design is the unsung hero of many productions, adding depth and realism to movies, TV shows and other video content with music, sound effects, and dialogue. In this blog post, we will explore what sound design is and how it can take your video to the next level.

What Is Sound Design?

Sound design is the process that involves a sound editor recording, editing, mixing, and designing audio elements for various types of visual media. This includes using foley sound, dialogue, sound effects, recorded audio and sonic textures to create immersive environments and moods for viewers. A professional sound designer uses their expertise to bring the story to life and enhance the emotional impact of a scene.

Why Is Sound Design Important?

Creative sound design is crucial in making a movie or video content feel more realistic and engaging. As one Australian animator recently said, “with animation, what we’re seeing doesn't actually exist, but the sound design makes us believe it does”. And it’s true. The soundtrack adds depth to the visuals by creating atmospheres and environments that draw the viewer into the action. 

A good sound designer knows how to use audio elements to set the tone of the story and heighten the drama or suspense of a scene. This can be achieved through the use of dialogue, music cues, and sound effects, which can create emotions that visuals alone cannot convey.  Music is also a powerful element in immersive sound design because it is the foundation upon which the sound effects, dialogue and visuals are layered.

How Do You Create Effective Sound Design?

Effective sound design requires skilful manipulation of various audio elements, including music and sound effects, ambience, and previously recorded audio. This process can be time-consuming and costly, but options are available for those who may not have Hollywood budgets but want to create quality content. 

Most video editors have some sound design skills, but in many cases, their time is better spent focussing on the visual elements rather than the sound edit. Because they do it all the time, an experienced sound designer will work very efficiently. What might take a video editor six hours to do in an edit suite could be done by a dedicated sound designer in two at their studio.

What Is Foley?

Foley is the ‘reproduction and recording of everyday sound effects added to enhance audio quality. It is named after sound effects artist, Jack Foley, an American sound recording artist from the early 1900s. A Foley artist is someone who records such sound effects.

Library Or Foley Sound Effects?

While having access to a large sound effects library is a good starting point, many sound designers have created their own sound effects libraries over time, recording location effects. 

This is particularly true for Australian sounds, as many commercially available effects libraries have been recorded and compiled overseas. Australian sports and animals are obvious weak points and are non-existent in many libraries, which is why many sound designers carry around a Zoom recorder and are ready to press record at a moment's notice!

For example, here’s a compilation of unique Australian real-life sound effects that our sound design team has recorded and used in various visual productions.

Examples Of Sound Design

Sound design is a crucial part of any successful film or video project. As we’ve said, it will bring the vision to life by adding emotion to visuals and creating immersive environments that engage the viewer. 

Here are some projects we’ve worked on, for both live-action and animated visuals. Try viewing the videos with and without sound to see how powerful the sound design is.

Futzees - Animated Video

Vita Tree - Live Action Video

Tag Heuer - Live Action Video

Paintback - Animated Video

Bring Your Vision To Life!

Sound design is the unsung hero of many productions, but this doesn't have to be the story for yours.
Want to bring your vision to life? Talk to us about how we can help.

Abe Udy

Abe is the founder of Abe's Audio and started the business in 1998 from his bedroom with an old computer, fax machine, dial-up internet, and a microphone in his wardrobe. Today, he leads a team that provides audio production and voice overs to media, agency, eLearning, video & creative clients around Australia and beyond.

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