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What is the basic philosophy of sound design?  

Cedric  Denooz:  
 I'm french, I'm sound engineer in a post production studio: specialized in advertisings, and we've recently opened a sound design: department, where I'm working.: Of course in France sound design is a new idea, and unfortunately not correctly: (on my own advice) interpreted: 

Today, big productions realized how they could push the: frontier of film making, thanks to computerizing they're visualizing: new ways to get rid off money problems. by tradition (thanks to our: nouvelle vague) french productions were specialized on "cheap productions": (with some exceptions) but, to my idea we've got a big delay with: the actual way to do it.: Advertising are a good way to experiment new technologies and new possibilities,: that's why french sound design companies are especially working on it. 

But I think that we need to learn from people who's got the experience to: first,  convince producers of the importance of sound design philosophy, and second to avoid to do mistakes which could increase our delay. 

I ask you these questions:  

- What is the basic philosophy of sound design?  

- Do we have to built studios including foley artists, editors, sound effects, in the same company? 

- Do we have to buy all sound effects libraries, or do we have to make it by our own?  

Randy Thom:  
Sound Design is still a new term in the USA, as well as in France.  And to be honest, there is very little agreement about what it means. Ben Burtt and Walter Murch brought the title 
to our consciousness in the late 1970s, mostly through their work on (respectively) "Star Wars" and "Apocalypse Now." 

In film and video there have always been people who "designed sound" in various ways.  Composers obviously design sound.  But production mixers design sound too.  When a production mixer makes the decision to expend the enormous effort necessary to get useable tracks on location with mics on booms, rather than take the path of least resistance and put radio mics on the actors, he or she is making a sound design decision, and a very important one. 

The term sound design is used most often to refer to the process of fabricating "special" sound effects, whether the raw sounds for that process come from new recordings, sounds from existing libraries, or a combination. But that is only one small part of the larger vision Walter and Ben had in mind when they did their groundbreaking work 25 years ago.  Their idea was that many films could benefit enormously from having a sort of "Director Of Sound," with responsibilities somewhat analogous to that of the film's 
Production Designer or the Director Of Photography.  Someone who, working with 
the film's Director, Writer, Editor, etc. could try to figureout how to coordinate the film's appeal to the ear. This has been a very difficult vision to bring into common practice. 

Most Directors have (because most film schools don't teach them otherwise) a fairly narrow view of what is possible in terms of using sound in their films.  And those who have grand ideas about how sound might be used tend to have no idea how to bring those ideas into the reality of the film making process.  They don't know how to allow sound to influence creative decisions in the other crafts.  They too often verbalize their grand ideas in post production, when it's much too late to realize them fully. 

So, sound winds up being a sort of decoration applied to a pre-determined structure which was designed with little or no consciousness of how to incorporate sound in the first 
place. So, we have loud movies.  Movies in which the music, sound effects, and dialog clash more often than they enhance each other. We have ingeniously crafted sound effects.  We have a dozen or so composers making enormous sums of money attempting, mostly in vain, to write two hours of great music in three weeks.  We have lots of people calling themselves sound designers who don't deserve the title.  But we have very little sound design in the fullest sense of the word.  Because the Industry isn't ready for it.  Not the Film Industry, and not the Video Industry, and certainly not the Computer Industry. 

Because, like you, none of us is quite sure how to do it. But it's out there to be done.  There are vast areas to be explored in movie sound, video sound, and computer sound. 
Things none of us has dreamed of yet. And I'm not only talking about new technology. I mean new creative ideas, storytelling ideas. New ways to collaborate, new ways to make visual and aural information enrich each other and become indistinguishable as an experience. 

Sound is NOT there to "help the visuals."  That's kindergarten film making.  Anyone who says that "film is a visual medium" is being foolish and naive.  Sound, when given half a chance, is no less important to the audience's experience than the pictures.  And it doesn't 
have to be as loud as a train wreck to do it. I've been hired to write a book on creative approaches to using sound in media storytelling, and I'll be working on it for the next few months. But it's up to you, Cedric, as much as me, to flesh out this vague idea we have called "Sound Design." 

Read more about Randy thoughts in.. Designing A Movie For Sound  

The term 'sound design' might be new but the idea has been around for centuries. As early as Greek theater, Shakespearean plays and even to the 1933 version of King Kong  - where Murray Spivak created awesome sounds by going out in the field and recording lions, tigers and other natural beasts, bringing the sounds into the studio and speeding them up, slowing them down or whatever. 

Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now) just 'coined the phrase'. People are just afraid to use the term as they fear they may be laughed at because it's a fairly new term. The truth is, many of us sound professionals have been 'designing' sounds all along and may not have known it. The only problem is, however, the term has been applied too loosely (but there's no official criteria for using it). 

My point is this: low budget or high budget a sound designer is only limited by his/her imagination. Another thing: it's wise to gather sound fx libraries as well as record your own. Not only can you manipulate the library sounds, but you can compare the acoustic information on them to any sounds you may create on your own. 

P.S. I'm a sound fx designer in Canada who creates custom sound fx. 
I'm also writing a book on sfx including a complete history of sfx and recorded sound  //Buck. 

 Edited excerpt from CAS Forum: This Thing Called Sound Design on May 31, 1998   

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