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Topic: Are sound design and music converging?

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  1. #1

    Are sound design and music converging?

    Hello all,

    Lately I am pondering if the position of composer and that of sound designer are converging. I'm not talking about John Williams rolling up his sleeves and going diggin' into Hollywood Edge for some footsteps and door slams. I am talking about the fact that more and more directors are coming to me and asking if I would be interested in also doing the sound design.

    I am honestly not a big fan of sound design work....foley and ADR can be tedious and not very rewarding (the goal is to disguise your work as if it's all natural location sound), but I am starting to get a funny feeling that this trend is not going away.

    In the videogame community, there is a long history of sound designers also being the composers on a game (and vice versa). Even in titles where money is not an issue like Halo 2, the composer was also the sound designer.

    So what is going on?

    I have a bit of a unique background in the sense that I have had such a close working relationship with a top notch sound designer that I know quite a bit about it. But I can't imagine that many composers are experienced or qualified enough to take on that role. Yet more and more directors and producers (and not just the el cheapo ones) are asking for composers who can do the sound design.

    Any thoughts? Is this a result of the consolidation of technology and the way films are made (ie. directors become editors with FCP, editors become compositors and vfx with Motion and Shake, and so on)?
    >>Kays
    http://www.musicbykays.com
    Music Composition for Feature Films, Television and Interactive Entertainment

  2. #2

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    I have been declined a position as a composer before, for a well paying job, because I am not that incredible of a sound designer, and they wanted someone who could do both. In the end, the game came out okay, but the music sucked. They didn't want someone who could both one thing great, they wanted someone who could do both.

    I am not sure if they are converging, only time can tell, but I do know that many jobs are looking for someone with experience in sound design.

    Beeson

  3. #3

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    Quote Originally Posted by midphase
    Hello all,

    Lately I am pondering if the position of composer and that of sound designer are converging. I'm not talking about John Williams rolling up his sleeves and going diggin' into Hollywood Edge for some footsteps and door slams. I am talking about the fact that more and more directors are coming to me and asking if I would be interested in also doing the sound design.

    I am honestly not a big fan of sound design work....foley and ADR can be tedious and not very rewarding (the goal is to disguise your work as if it's all natural location sound), but I am starting to get a funny feeling that this trend is not going away.

    In the videogame community, there is a long history of sound designers also being the composers on a game (and vice versa). Even in titles where money is not an issue like Halo 2, the composer was also the sound designer.

    So what is going on?

    I have a bit of a unique background in the sense that I have had such a close working relationship with a top notch sound designer that I know quite a bit about it. But I can't imagine that many composers are experienced or qualified enough to take on that role. Yet more and more directors and producers (and not just the el cheapo ones) are asking for composers who can do the sound design.

    Any thoughts? Is this a result of the consolidation of technology and the way films are made (ie. directors become editors with FCP, editors become compositors and vfx with Motion and Shake, and so on)?
    Interesting topic.
    I've done sound design, and like you it isn't something that excites me for the most part (though there are exceptions - one thing I actually would like to do is put together a 5.1 or 6.1 surround sound package that really gets the most out of what it can do - so many sound designers seem to underuse the possibilities...)...

    I would agree that this is probably a result of technological consolidation as you say.

    The main point I would like to make though, is that if you are in a situation like this - where you are the only audio person - then take advantage of it! Do something more than average, integrate sound and music in a more interesting way than is usually done. Get in there and do something original. And arrange your work so that the music can actually be heard properly for once. It can be done, a thing which a non-composer sound designer probably will not understand.

  4. #4

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    I know where you're coming from as its happened to me a few times this past couple of years in the UK. I wouldn't ever have attempted sound design before as it is indeed a specialist one, but as it does seem to be more and more the norm to expect a jack-of-all-trades role in film, tv and beyond it would be foolish I suspect to either turn your back on it and risk shutting doors or accepting it and not have the knowledge to do the work successfully. I suppose that's why its a good idea to be part of a team.

    But it could perhaps get to the point where you feel like you may not be doing the thing you wanted to do. Its happened enough that I've spent too much time on sound design and not enough on the composition and have preferred to extend into other areas of music such as teaching. Better to stay true to yourself than to tread in shoes you don't want to be in. There's always going to be people who embrace doing the composition/sound-design/mixing/mastering package with enthusiasm so you either roll up your sleeves and muck in or go elsewhere more productive to yourself as a composer and musician.
    Trev Parks

  5. #5

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    Quote Originally Posted by jc5
    Get in there and do something original. And arrange your work so that the music can actually be heard properly for once. It can be done, a thing which a non-composer sound designer probably will not understand.
    That's very good advice. If you have the knowledge and the freedom on a project then its worth the effort. Problem is that that freedom isn't always permitted.
    Trev Parks

  6. #6

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    Colleges offer BM in Sound Design and BM in Composition as separate degrees. Most all of the sound folks I know are exceptional musicians, but none of them professed to be extraordinary composers, and vice versa. I think yer right Kays, sign of the times.

    Sorta like those types of folks that walk into our studio setups for the first time and assume that we are engineers, even after I've answered their question - "yeah, i make music with all this stuff..." In their minds, it seems as though they think I should just be using a piano/desk/staff paper setup if I'm a composer. And sometimes, even after I've explained that I would not be a great candidate to "master" their bands' music, etc, they press on or call a few days later asking for another similiar type of work.

    It's hard to get across to some people that there is in fact a big difference between an engineer and a composer... and it's a MUCH blurrier line between a sound designer and composer for them, so I guess I can see how this will happen more often.

    Perhaps it would be beneficial to plug SD friends or aquiantences if you suspect that the check-writers are gunna ask for both from you. (Of course, they're prolly asking for both cuz they don't want to pay two people, but maybe something could be arranged.) And I could think of crappier situations than to have a close working relationship with the sound designer of a film. Chances of the mix coming out to your liking may improve alot!

    btw - just taking the opportunity to say - the SD for Doom 3 absolutely floored me, to the point that I didn't miss music in the game at all. There was none, and I didn't care - which is a first for me... also, I got no problem admitting that I was too afraid to finish it. scary scary scary...

  7. #7

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    I dunno... if you can do it and you're willing to do it why not and make some extra dough. It could result in a more cohesive approach in the long run. Of course, it's only going to be on smaller projects- the major projects there's just too much to do in any event. I'd be surprised if it becomes a norm though- they require different talents. Sure, some could but there's no need to expect it any more than to assume a composer is the right guy to mix his own stuff.

  8. #8
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    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    I had the opportunity to sit in with a big budget SD guy for a bit. This was years ago when i was trying to make the transition from 'rock band guy' to 'guy with a job in music'. Well, after that experience I was fully aware that I wanted no part of SD... way to tedious for me. I just don't get any satisfaction out of it, the way I do with music.

    Idunno, I guess I'll see how the future plays out, but I always tell people "that's not my thang". I just feel they'd want it "all" done with the same deadline they'd give you had you just been doing the music. And that's not what films with decent budgets do, so I'm not sure how common it will become?

    I have no clue what the game world is looking for... no interest in Games, never played any of them.




    KID

  9. #9

    Lightbulb Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    Quote Originally Posted by jc5
    Interesting topic.
    I've done sound design, and like you it isn't something that excites me for the most part (though there are exceptions - one thing I actually would like to do is put together a 5.1 or 6.1 surround sound package that really gets the most out of what it can do - so many sound designers seem to underuse the possibilities...)...
    Agreed - this is a great topic. I'm kind of in the opposite position. I **LOVE** sound design, and feel that if I have control over how all of the sound is presented (SFX, dialog, foley, and music) then I have a great chance at putting my best musical "foot" forward. I've done two indie shorts where I ended up with the sound design credit simply because of all of the things that I fixed in the "final" mix that I received. But then again, I come from equal doses of classical and electronic music while in college, spending time both in a conservatory atmosphere and a recording engineering program. It definitely requires both sides of the brain, and a healthy dose of calendar management, technical objectivity and even greater political savvy than when doing music alone, so it's not for everyone.

    As far as surround mixing is concerned, unless you're really sure about the type and quality of the surround system you're dealing with, you're basically looking at providing some 'air' around the audience along with a few spacial effects and particularly LFE. The *last* thing that a director wants is for people to be thinking about what's happening AWAY from the screen, so unless it's some serious OC (off-camera) effect that someone on-screen reacts to (and the camera pans to it immediately to answer everyone's question of "what the heck was that?") then you're going to give people a less-than-satisfactory experience. I've heard it from director after director, surround is good for properly centered dialog and thumping people in the chest with the explosions...

    Hopefully that will change, as surround formats settle out and a more consistent experience can be had. But until then, highly developed surround mixes with whip-saw pan-and-ramp moves will be reserved for Spider-man movies and the like. Just my $.02 - eager for someone to prove me wrong.
    Houston Haynes - Titan Line Music

  10. #10

    Re: Are sound design and music converging?

    I think its crossing over all the time. I make it clear to my clients that I compose and thats it. I'll outsource sound design if need be.

    Having said that, my latest gig involves a little sound design. Im creating ambient, mood building sounds for the levels in a game.

    Its not exactly hardcore sound design, but it is still sound design.
    ---------------------------
    - SCA - Sound Studios -
    www.sca-soundstudios.com
    ---------------------------

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