March 18, 2011

The Art of Foley and Sound Design Part 2

This is a guest post by composer, engineer, and sound designer Anthony Bellotti, for more information on him and his work visit Bellotti Music.  Thanks for the great post, Anthony! 

Hello interwebs! So last time we dove head first into audio post production with a full coverage of Foley. Now you must be wondering, that’s only half the title isn’t it? Well today we will go into the other half of film sound creation. Sound design. This is a newer development but actually has a lot of different meanings. For all intents and purposes of post production we will be discussing sound design as the synthetic creation of sound effects to complement a visual medium. Phew, that sounds fun doesn’t it!

So basically, Foley came first, and is always preferable. But it’s not always feasible. Sometimes studios with fewer resources need to use digital means to create sounds. Also, big studios still need synthetic means to create some things (you couldn’t make Wall-E’s voice with a comb and fork!).

When doing sound design, one will work with a sound effects database and a DAW (almost always Pro Tools). You go through the movie linearly and dive for sound bites that are needed throughout the film. Say you have a park scene. Well, is it windy? Are there birds out? Are people walking their dogs? Is there a bum fight happening in the bushes? All of these questions must be asked by the sound designer. You are essentially creating the aural world of the film. And this is just one part!

Sound designers as I mentioned above, also must create things that cannot be created in this world. How do we make the sound of a wizard powering up his staff? You’ll need some electronic means for that one. It takes knowledge of synthesizers and a creative ear for editing. Even for simple sounds, you don’t just grab one effect and have it covered. Sometimes you have to listen through a full two minutes of some sound to find that two second clip that you really needed. And then it has to be layered with 15 other two second clips to get the exact sound you were after. It’s a very engrossing process. For Transformers 2 they had over 500 tracks of sound design!

Once again though, this stuff isn’t only for the big dogs. Even basic radio commercials need sound design and will still pay handsomely for it. At my first post production internship I did sound design for two different series of radio commercials. It was a lot of fun. The smaller studios are where you want to start out for this just like Foley. They’ll give you more hands on experience and you’ll learn way more.

So there you have it! It’s a lot to take in at once (and to explain in two posts) but I hope this taste will spark some of you to pursue a path of audio post production. It’s a magical world that creates far off fantasies as well as in-your-face reality.

Now don’t forget everyone! The world of audio post production has other points to it as well. Dialogue replacement (ADR), re-recording (mixing) and many other things fill out the world of post production. Sound design and Foley are just the best entrance paths and have the most possibilities so stay hungry and dream big!
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