Sound Designers

“Words cannot express quite a lot of feelings, whereas a noise or tone or drone or sound, an accordion falling down a staircase, can somehow capture an emotion much better.” - John Lydon 

Sound is an important part of any film, show or play. It includes Sound Effects such as a door creaking, or the sound of traffic. Sound Designers are professionals who are involved in creating these sounds that are used in films and shows. They are primarily responsible for the all aspects of sound that used in a production, including dialogues and sometimes even the background score and music. Sound Designers use these sounds effects to create realism, mood, emotion and entertainment. Contrary to popular perception, their job is not limited to just recording sounds. Sound Designers are also involved in the mixing of sounds to ensure that the necessary sounds are audible and unnecessary ones are in the background.They need to be very creative and record sounds that sound like the visual rather than recording the sound of the actual event. For example, the sound of rain is created by dropping sand over a tin sheet rather than actually recording the sound of the rain as the latter does not sound the same as it should on the speakers. 

Choosing Sound Design as a career option can be very beneficial for people who have the right aptitude and skills. Sound Designers are freelance professionals who usually work on a project to project basis. You will find that a Sound Designer will normally work on multiple projects at the same time. Sound Designers are highly skilled professionals who record new sounds using microphones and other equipment as well as modify previously recorded sounds using computer software. For example, the sound of a dinosaur cannot be recorded in real life and has to be created using multiple sounds trough computer software. Sound Designers play a major part in the post production process of films, television shows and music videos. They are also involved in designing sounds for video games and theater plays.

What do Sound Designers do?

Sound Designers use sound to establish location, time and mood. They often work closely with Music Composers in creating a consistency in the overall sound of the film. Sound Designers help create realism by creating real – like sounds using the various aspects of sound including pitch, volume, duration, frequency etc.

One of the most important tasks that Sound Designers perform is to read the script and plan the type of sounds that should be used in the film. They work closely with Directors and try to understand their vision regarding the sounds of the film. This is an extremely important job as not all films sound the same. For example, the Sound Design of a period film will be very different from the Sound Design of a Science Fiction film.

As Sound Designing is primarily a part of the post production process, the movie has already been shot before the Sound Designer begins his/her work. This makes it important for Sound Designers to watch the film carefully and make notes regarding what types of sounds are needed and where. This can include rustling of leaves, traffic, doors or something unnatural like chimes or dramatic gushes of wind.

The main work of a Sound Designer starts once he/she has identified the different sounds that the film needs. Sound Designers use computer software to modify existing sounds and make them sound like the visuals of the screen. This is one of the main jobs of a Sound Designer and involves high level of creativity and technical knowledge.

More often than not, Sound Designers record new sounds that would suit the visuals of the film perfectly. This is the most important job of a Sound Designer. This is done in studios as well in outdoor locations with sophisticated equipment including microphones and sound recorders. These recorded sounds may then be modified further using software to sound more realistic.

Sound Designers are also involved in working closely with Music Composers to create a suitable background score for the film. Even though they are not generally involved in composing the music, Sound Designers give suggestions regarding the type of sounds and instruments to use in the background score.

Recording dialogues is another important part of a Sound Designer’s job. This recording of dialogues can either be done while shooting the film itself by attaching invisible microphones near the actors or can be recorded separately in a ‘dubbing studio’ once the film has been shot and edited. Even though Sound Designers do not record dialogues themselves, they give directions to their subordinates regarding microphone placements and volume levels.

Another one of the important jobs of a Sound Designer is to mix sounds and decide what should be audible and what should be less audible. Even though this is done by specialists in big projects, Sound Designers are required to do the mixing in smaller projects. They use computer software and high –tech machines to mix sounds and decide volume, pitch and frequency levels.

How to become a Sound Designer?

Sound Designers are not only required to create sounds but should also be able to handle silences as too many sounds can disturb the narration of the film. Becoming a Sound Designer is not easy as it a highly specialized and competitive career. You can be successful if you have the dedication and talent.

There are no educational qualifications necessary to become a Sound Designer, but most film schools require you to complete your basic education in order to be eligible. Also, basic knowledge in every subject can greatly enhance your knowledge of sound and help you become a better Sound Designer. Studying music during your school can also be very helpful.

Once you complete your schooling, you can choose any field as per your other interests. However, choosing fields related to Sound Designing such as Music or Mass Communication can be helpful. The ideal option is to join a Film School that offers a course in Sound Designing.

Sound Designing is a highly technical field and requires years of experience and knowledge. This makes it very important for aspiring Sound Designers to work as an intern or trainee in as many places as possible. Working as an Intern under an experience Sound Designer will help you gain vital experience and technical knowledge.

To become a Sound Designer, you will have to master various computer sound designing software such as Logic Pro and Protools. Knowledge in such software will be very beneficial for aspiring Sound Designers as it will help you expand your creativity and try new effects and innovate.

Practice is very important for any aspiring Sound Designer. You should work on as many student short films or small projects as you can so as to gain experience and create a body of work. Doing such projects professionally will help you expand your knowledge base and become an expert in Sound Designing.

Research is a very important part of becoming a Sound Designer. You need to study films and try to understand the types and kinds of sounds that are used in them. Read about the various uses of sound in films and observe the works of renowned Sound Designers all across the world.

Most Directors prefer to work with Sound Designers that they have worked with before and are comfortable with. As the amount of money and reputation at stake is huge, they do not tend to give chances easily to new Sound Designers. This makes it important for you to develop contacts and maintain relations so that people trust your creative ability and skills.


India has many institutions in which you can pursue courses in Sound Designing and related fields. For your Bachelor’s course, you can join St. Xavier’s Kolkata as it offers a great undergraduate program in Mass Communication and Videography. You will be awarded with a B.Sc in Mass Communication and Videography upon graduation.  You can also choose to join the Whistling Woods International, Mumbai and pursue their 3 year Bachelor’s course in Filmmaking. The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune is one of the most prestigious film schools of the country. It offers a three year post graduate diploma in Sound Recording and Design. You would need to choose Science as a stream in your Class 12th with Physics as one of your main subjects for this course. The Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), Kolkata offers a three year post graduate program in Cinema with a specialization in Sound Recording and Design.

What are the skills required to become a Sound Designer?

Sound Designers are required to be creative and innovative so as to use sound to convey emotions and messages. They should also possess great amounts of technical knowledge about the various aspects of sound including pitch, tone, frequency etc. Sound Designers should have a good ear and should be able to focus on sounds and their conveyed meanings. They need to have the ability to pay attention to details and keep some sort of consistency in the overall sound of the film. They should possess excellent communication and social skills so that they can develop contacts and collaborate effectively. Software and Musical knowledge is also essential for Sound Designers. They need to be able to meet deadlines and should also be able to understand and follow the Director’s vision. Sound Designers should have the ability to work in a team as well as make creative decisions on their own. Most importantly, they should be able to understand the nuances of sound and use their knowledge to add an extra layer of communication in the narrative.

Is this the right career for me?

Sound Designers spend most of their lives working in studios creating and modifying sounds. It is a highly technical career that can be very well paying if you can deal with the competition and long hours. Please keep in mind that even though the industry is glamorous, the job of a Sound Designer involves a lot of hard work and no glamour.

If your idea of a good job includes job security and a regular income and timings and if you’re not comfortable in working in a pressurized environment and constantly adhering to deadlines then this isn’t the right job for you. But if you yearn for creative freedom and genuinely have an interest in using sound to add the narrative of cinema and television, then this is the perfect job for you.

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