Why is there so little written about sound design?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mark Kalzer, Sep 27, 2006.

  1. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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    Being a studying film student, I am astonished that I am in my 4th year, and almost nothing has been taught regarding sound design. Most we got was a discussion about the very introduction of sound, and the restraining effect it had on performances, and the later integration of it stylistically in 'His Girl Friday' (A great film I might add.)

    As I perused the books at the Toronto reference Library, (When I should have been reading about political science of course!) I saw plenty of books about all the usual topics, Scorsese, Hitchcock, cinematography, but why is there nothing on sound design? Even if there is stuff written on it, which I'm sure there is at least in some small corner of a library somewhere, why is so little written on it, something that has been a part of film for well over 80 years now.

    When I think to films like 'Requiem For a Dream', films that really use today's advanced surround sound systems aggressively, I really wonder why. Perhaps part of it could be that 5.1 may still be seen by many academics as a sheer gimmick, used for cheap amusement park like effects to wow the audience. Indeed, I'm a projectionist at Carleton University, and nowhere do we have 5.1 sound, just lots of stereo setups instead. It could also be because sound, even more then the visual is so dependent on the equipment it is played back on. Whatever the case, sound is clearly still an undervalued part of the film experience. So many people I've known love to listen to loud music, but expect their movie volume to be peaceful and toned down, of course leading to extreme annoyance at the dynamic range of today's DTS and Dolby Digital sound tracks.

    Still, I am convinced this area needs exploring. A friend of mine here says he might do his masters on it, (I'm too dumb and impatient to do a masters, so it's up to him) so why is so little academic written on it? I mean, we talk about sound so much around here.
     
  2. nickGreenwood

    nickGreenwood Second Unit

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    Good question, Sound Design, Sound Engineers and all of those people responsible for sound on films do their jobs and it's important.
    We wouldn't have the awesome effect of Draco sounding like he's actually flying around you in Dragonheart if it weren't for these guys.

    As to why not much is written on it, there aren't many people that wake up one morning and say "Hey I'm going to be a sound designer!" but there are a ton of people that wake up one morning and say "Hey I'm going to be a screenwriter or a director!" they are the ones that get the most credit. I think it's more or less just a popularity thing unfourtunetly.
     
  3. Brian Sheffield

    Brian Sheffield Stunt Coordinator

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    I would say it's because of a general lack of interest in sound design, or an untapped market for publishers.

    Maybe you should write a book on it and see which it is.
     
  4. Mark Kalzer

    Mark Kalzer Second Unit

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    Indeed, one of the counter arguments I heard from one of the film students here, one who is a sound designer in training (by that I mean, self taught) was that the best soundtracks are the ones in which you do not notice their presence, but I do not buy that argument. When we see so many films in film studies which radically disrupt the experience with editing or photography, (basically almost anything by Godard) I do not see why sound should be respected differently. I think a soundtrack like 'Requiem for a Dream' is a huge part of the experience, (This student though found that film to be excessive, wanting for a more subtle portrayal of the drug addiction experience.) but it too could be seen as a distraction. I don't think it is though.
     
  5. BrettV

    BrettV Stunt Coordinator

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    "students here, one who is a sound designer in training (by that I mean, self taught) was that the best soundtracks are the ones in which you do not notice their presence"

    I agree with the statement only when pertaining to a dialogue editor -- not the overall sound track. The Mix (in my opinion) should be dynamic and flowing; beautifully enhancing, but never distracting or taking away from the film experience.

    I love that you guys are talking about this, though. Great post sound is incredibly underrated. The budgets are always tiny compared to the rest of the film and miracles are constantly expected.

    haha. Edited to add why I really posted.

    Two excellent books -->

    Practical Art of Motion Picture Sound, Second Edition (Paperback)
    by David Lewis Yewdall (Author)

    Sound for Film and Television, Second Edition (Book & CD-ROM) (Paperback)
    by Tomlinson Holman

    BV
     

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