Sound Designer & Director – Working Together

The true sound designer must be immersed in the story, characters, emotions, environments, and genre of the film. With their contribution the audience will be led down the path in an integrated, yet most often subconscious manner toward an experience itself. Using all the tools of music, psychology, acoustics, and drama, the art of orchestration comes into play, selecting the right sound for the right moment. The sound designer performs a balancing act between making the best aesthetic choices and the technical parameters of completing the film on time, in budget, and with the tools and personnel at hand. 

(Sonnenschein, 2001)

The one reason why sound design and more importantly sound interests me is that it’s another path where narration, character and a universe can be created all from an audio perspective, allowing the audience to gather not only a conscious understand but also on a sub-conscious level, allowing for those who are willing to engage on a deeper understanding.

As well as intellectually telling a story I also have to make sure I am engaging on a conscious level, I have to allow this world to live, physically (to a degree) everything has to make sense. When our character (Bea) is walking on gravel, we have to hear the stones under her feet. When she is next to the river we hear the river. Although what can seem a simple and obvious process you have to make sure you give yourself enough time to make sure nothing gets past, unheard.

As I had recorded sound on location I already had an idea on what type of sounds I would need to collect, however I still needed to meet with Andrew to discuss the film in full. Straight away I got a real sense of the need to collaborate instead of me being there for technical reasons, we discussed briefly before hand that we really wanted to tell the story or at least portray the text within the film through sound. This would entail a relationship between both Sound Designer and Director, understanding and listening to ideas they had, here we could then work towards getting something that not only sounded great but meant something narrative.

We started with ideas on what he wanted, as well as what I thought we could work with. I explained to Andrew that after revising the first draft of the film there was a lot of room for clever sound work. I am really aware and hate the idea of throwing music over something to gain emotional control, I would rather go for a more intellectual and moral way in regards to sound.

One major aspect that Andrew wanted to discuss was the opening sequences, here these consisted of several shots within and around a ship. Andrew expressed that he really wanted this to sound real, I guess when ever working with something that is CGI/Animated, you almost rely on sound for it to become real. To enhance the idea of reality, in Sci-Fi this can go two ways.

One you can work around any problem with an almost “bullshit” excuse, it’s sci-fi. Anything is possible, this for me is troublesome as I feel it’s my job to create the real. Therefore I went for option two, creating the real. For this however I needed to understand how the ship ran, what ship was it, what material it was made of.

This gave me some idea on what sounds I needed to gather, Andrew explained that it wasn’t powered by fire but almost a release of energy, a burst of pressure that allowed the ship to be thrusted into space. Once in space it would control movement by the switching of power from each side. This meant that I should work with energy type sounds. Along with the ship I wanted to work with the stasis module in the same way. Although with a little change, we decided that the stasis module was almost jet like, not made for space travel but for planet atmosphere.

In knowing this I wanted to start building an idea of the ship, I wanted to find some inspirations from past films, which I did.

I feel this resembles something similar to what Andrew was looking for. We realised that we had spent some time looking at the ship, I decided that I would create a sound map in the following days so we can discuss the sound throughout the entirety of the film


Sonnenschein, D. (2001). Sound design. 1st ed. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions.

Starship Troopers. (1997). [film] USA: Paul Verhoeven.



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