The sound designer creates a film’s soundtrack. The soundtrack must match the movie’s genre and enhance the story.
Sound designers work in post-production and use sound effects, dialogue, and music to make the final track. It’s their job to create and edit these assets, making the job role both creative and technical.
On this page, you can find a complete film sound designer job description. We break down the job role including duties, education, career route, salary, and how to find work.
What is a Sound Designer?
The sound designer has an integral role in film editing. Although the editor cuts the picture, the sound designer creates the final audio track. A movie might have thousands of audio clips throughout the edit, which need organizing, layering, and mixing.
You can find sound designers in a range of industries, for example, film, TV, video games, radio, theatre, and live performances. So, this is an in-demand, varied role that requires a strong creative and technical skillset.
What Does a Sound Designer Do?
The sound designer can start work as early as pre-production. It’s their job to put together all of the film’s audio. The final track is a mix of all audio within a film, from the actor’s dialogue, sound effects (SFX), and the scene’s atmosphere.
On low-budget film sets, they work alone. However, the sound designer can also work alongside a team if the budget allows it. This team includes Foley artists, audio engineers, supervising audio editors, and ADR teams. They also work closely with the music composer.
The specific responsibilities of a sound designer will change per project. However, they always have a large creative say in how the audience views the film. On some projects, they even work closely with the director and other visual departments.
Sound Designer Job Description
The producer typically hires the sound designer. Some studios will employ them full-time, however, the majority of people in this role are freelancers.
If the director views the soundtrack as an important element, they might hire them when planning the film. In this case, the sound designer will work closely with all creative departments to design the film’s soundtrack. In particular, this will happen more in movies that need a lot of world building (e.g. Sci-fi and fantasy).
Film sound designers work in film, TV, animation, and video games. Sometimes there are needed for a few days’ work, while other times, they can work on projects for years. Unlike other film crew roles, this position has regular 9-5 work hours.
First, sound designers break down the script and meet with the key creatives. Meetings might mean discussing audio with the director and DOP even before they shoot the film. Next, the sound designer hires a team and creates the film soundtrack. However, on low-budget projects, they often start to work much later, even after the edit.
- Read and breakdown the script
- Attend meetings with the director
- Begin to create sound effects
- Help to hire audio editing rooms
The sound designer watches over the edit and creates the soundtrack. Every project needs a different approach to sound design. First, some projects re-record all audio and dialogue as ADR. The sound designer might also use computer effects or create new ones with Foley artists. Lastly, they edit all audio together into one final track.
- Create all audio for the film
- Record ADR and sound effects
- Layer and edit together all audio
- Complete a finished soundtrack
Education and Skills
The audio designer must learn a mix of filmmaking skills. To begin with, you can get a degree in audio recording, which likely covers a range of media from film to radio. There are also lots of courses and online classes that cover this topic. Keep in mind that education can only teach you the basics, and you still need work experience.
To find work experience, you can start with a traineeship in a post house or studio. Work experience in a studio will show you the basics of editing audio for the screen. The entry-level roles for sound designing are audio assistant or runner.
You will need various creative and tech skills to succeed in this role. Skills include full filmmaking and audio recording knowledge. The film sound designer must also learn to network and build contacts.
- Understand the filmmaking process
- Know how to use audio software
- Understand how to tell a story
- Be a team player and have leadership skills
- Networking and building relationships
Sound Designer Career Route
You can work up to this role, from runner to audio assistant. Also, it would help to gain work experience in a studio.
When you have enough knowledge and experience in this role, it’s time to apply for jobs. You might work full-time for a company or freelance. It’s more common for sound designers to freelance and work up from low-budget films to high-end film and TV projects.
Sound designers also have the skills to work across all aspects of media, including games, radio, and even virtual reality. It is high in demand skill with a growing need for people in this role. Once you have the experience, you can expect a long career in sound design.
Sound Department Job Roles:
- Audio Assistant, Runner
- Foley Artist, ADR Mixer
- Sound Editor, Music Editor
- Sound Designer
Sound Designer Salary
The day rate of all film industry crew members depends on the project type and budget. So, you get less pay for a low-budget indie film than for a high-end TV project. If you look at our crew rates, you can see how the rates change depending on budget and job role. Of course, your pay will also take into account your personal experience.
The film sound designer’s day rate relies heavily on their experience and the production budget. The IATSE union recommends a starting rate of $50 per hour. However, unlike other film crew roles, the sound designer is more likely to work regular work hours, so for a 5-day, 7-hour work week, they will make approx $1750 per week.
At the start of your career, you can find entry-level jobs on film job sites. As mentioned, the entry-level job roles for a sound designer are runner or audio assistant. However, you can start out by working as a general sound assistant or sound trainee on a film set.
Another route is to start working on low-budget film sets within the role. That way, you can learn the job role through hands on practice and work up to higher budgets. Even so, you must learn all elements of the job role, including working with professional audio software.
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To sum up, sound designers create the soundtrack of the film. They piece together sound clips from dialogue, music, and special effects. The role requires a strong imagination to create the effects and record them.
This job is an excellent career for anyone interested in audio design, music, and filmmaking. The combination of creative and technical means there is always something new to learn. Plus, if you’re a talented sound designer, you can work across film, TV, and game design.