Sound design: opening a door


Sound design: Opening a door

Currently I’m working on the sound design for #yegfilm’s project GOOD CINEMA

I am not a professional sound designer but I like doing sound work, as I fully believe that sound is at least 50% of a movie, which some people find hard to believe.

But…try listening to a film without sound. It’s awful. And yet in many short films sound is left dangling  and unconsidered.

The reality is that viewers will accept poor visuals and good sound, but will not accept great visuals with poor sound. Considering how inexpensive it is to do good sound work in post, it’s just not acceptable to have poor sound.

Sound design for Good Cinema

Originally for GOOD CINEMA we were going to record sound on set, but it turns out that the location is right beside a railroad yard and trains arrived all night, one after another, as we were shooting, so recording sound became impossible. Also, the film has no dialogue, so not recording sound on set wasn’t a big deal. 

But this means all the sound work has to be done in post! Literally all the sounds are put in after we have shot. This is a common thing to do in large budget films—often there is only 2% or so of the original sounds in a film. Other sounds are created by foley artists, sound engineers, sound recordists, and a lot of dialogue is ADRed.

One example: opening a door

Here’s a clip from GOOD CINEMA of the door opening, once without sound and once with the sound design:

The sounds

1) The metal sound of the door initially opening - This is a stock sound from Sound Track Pro (STP)

2) The jingle of the door chain - This is a sound I recorded of a piece of chain I had lying around the house

3) The sound of the bell that is attached to the door - This is a creative commons sound borrowed from Free Sound as I don’t have a single bell in the house to record. This sound isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for now.

4) The door squeaking closed - This is a stock sound from STP of an oven door opening

5) The door shutting - This is another stock sound from STP

6) The street sounds that come into the store when the door is open - Stock sound from STP

This is a screenshot from STP:


I should also note that I tried to vary the door sounds—it’s not always exactly the same sound when the door opens, or the chain jingles, or the bell rings. I adjust them a little to keep it from being repetitive and noticeable.


There are several sites on the internet that go a bit deeper into sound design, and Soundworks is one of them. I suggest listening to them all to get yourself PUMPED for sound design! It’s inspiring to listen to how much fun these sound designers have making a film great.

Here’s a post about the sounds of ZERO DARK THIRTY that tries to answer the question as to what a stealth helicopter sounds like…

Great things about sound design

- If you don’t have a great sound, you can just go out and get one

We can’t (usually) reshoot the film, but we can replace any sound with a better one. It’s a great way to improve a film without touching the expensive visuals.

- Doesn’t require expensive software

I am using Sound Track Pro, but any digital sound editor should work. I took a day class on sound design at FAVA once with a professional and he used a piece of software that was probably 8-10 years old.

- Doesn’t require a powerful computer

Sound editing doesn’t take up as much computing resource as editing video does, so an older computer or laptop will do just fine.

- Is actually a very creative discipline

While people often fail to notice how awesome the sound is in a movie, I think because it’s so subconscious, most of the sounds in a film have actually been “interpreted” by a creative individual—the idea isn’t to present the most realistic sound, rather the best possible sound to contribute to the film, as defined by an actual artist.

- Recording sound is basically free

I just have a little Zoom H4N. I can take that thing anywhere and record a sound (as long as it’s not a performance) and it’s free—no licensing, no musicians to pay…just record the sound as best possible and take it home. 


Posted by: yegfilm on Fri, Dec 28, 2012




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