What is a Sound Designer?
A Sound Designer is responsible for creating the soundscape for a TV, film, theatre or animation production.
What is the job?
Sound designers have overall responsibility for everything an audience hears during a production, from sound effects to the voices of the actors. They usually start to work at the same time as the Sound Editors, which might be after the picture lock or even before production starts, depending on the film budget.
It the decision of Sound Designers to decide which sounds to use in order to create the right atmosphere and communicate the story and characters to the audience. Whilst it is their decision to decide what sounds to use, they will discuss ideas with the Director to get an overview of the effect and atmosphere that the director wants to create.
First, they identify what sounds they need, which may be spot effects (gunshots, crashes, doors closing…) or atmosphere effects (wind, rain, reverb…). The Sound Designer can then create sounds from scratch, and this may be digitally on a computer (synthesis) or through recording real life sounds (Foley). Many Sound Designers will record real life sounds of something and then use it for the sound of something else – to give one example, frying bacon may be used for the sound of rain. On top of this, a Sound Designer may layer and combine different sounds in order to create the desired effect.
As well as creating the sounds, Sound Designers will also be responsible for adding these sounds to the film itself. They will use timecodes given to them by the Director to make sure that the sounds are added to the correct place. Once all the Sound Effects are made, the Sound Designer works with the Re-recording Mixer to pre-mix the effect tracks before proceeding to the Final Mix, where Sound Effects, Dialogues, Soundtrack and atmosphere are blended all together.
The role of Sound Designer is particularly essential in animation due to the fact that there are no natural sounds to work with (compared to filming live action) so every sound must be created from scratch by sound designers.
- Good communication skills
- Flexibility to work in a team with a wide range of different people
- Ability to multi-task, as you may be working on several projects at once
- Creativity and imagination
- Good at storytelling and having an understanding of the characters they are working with
- Experience using software to record sound
- Organisational skills
- Ability to collaborate with directors
- Ability to work under pressure
Salary & Working Hours
Sound Designers are usually freelancers, although it is possible to be employed by companies. Sound Designers often negotiate their fee per project, and this can vary enormously, depending on your experience and the type of project you are working for. A typical rate might be £25 per sound effect, or £500 per music track. A typical annual starting salary may be around £18,000 initially, rising to around £23,000 once you have a few years experience under your belt – but this will vary depending on the industry sector.
Working hours will obviously vary depending on how many projects you choose to work on; however when tight deadlines are approaching, you should expect to be working longer hours.
How To Become a Sound Designer
The path to becoming a Sound Designer can vary. You might train in audio recording, start out in an apprenticeship, or take a broader film production degree and then specialise in sound.
The job of Sound Designer is a job where people often work their way up via junior, assistant and technical roles in sound recording and editing. You may start as a Runner, then progress to an Assistant role, then to Sound Editor and eventually to Sound Designer. This is a highly competitive career, and so you will need lots of relevant experience. Work experience in a sound-related or video-editing setting would be highly useful. Even gaining experience by getting involved with the sound design or production for amateur productions will provide you with some of the required skills, and will all show that you have an interest in the role.
Where Can It Take You?
The advancement and promotion opportunities for a Sound Designer will depend on the projects you work on and how much experience you have behind you. The more experience you have, and the more people you have networked with, the more chance you have of advancing in your career. As mentioned before, it is a highly competitive career, but for those who wish to advance further, positions such as Senior Sound Designer or Audio Director are a possibility.
Become a Sound Designer
If you are ready for the next step in your career, why not take a look at the latest Sound Designer vacancies on our jobs board? You can view our latest vacancies here.