Sound Design: What the Heck do you do?

If you're like me, you probably don't have a great idea of what Sound designers actually do. I mean, yeah they design the sounds. But, what does that actually mean? What goes into that? I'm making it my job to give all of you as clear of a picture as I can of what goes on in the studio, but to do that I had to get my hands dirty myself. 

The other day, my producer and lead sound designer suggested I go with him while he worked to do field recordings. We were both excited for the awesome picture opportunities and I was stoked to see him do his thing. It was just going to be a nice fun little walk through the woods for some sounds. I had no idea what I was in for. 

So, Alex and I drive out to a local creek to record some awesome sounds for the game. It was about 97 degrees, there were mosquitoes (and people) everywhere which meant we had to keep going deeper and deeper into the woods to get clean sounds. And then on the way back, SOMEBODY (okay it was me) fell into a thorn bush. We spent probably 30 minutes just walking to get to and from the spot we ended up recording at and about as long recording sounds. Which doesn't sound too bad, unless you've been out in an Alabama summer in jeans hiking for an hour. Just what our sound designers go through to get the raw sounds is amazing. 
After they get the sounds, almost all of them have to be edited to be usable in whichever medium the sounds will eventually be used in. 

"You have to be able to know how to sculpt a dynamic atmosphere of sounds," Alex Haisting, the lead Sound designer said. This means that you have to think of everything your audience might hear. Breathing of the character? Nature sounds? The sound it makes when you run on grass? Then music? All of that goes into every single second of the game. Bad sound design can completely pull a player out of the immersive experience of the game, and that's exactly what we don't want. 

"The music is what sets the mood, it's what makes horror.. well, horror." 

Next time you watch a horror movie or play a tense game, mute it. Watch it or play it like that. Is it as good? As scary? No. 

And that's what sound design does. It brings the medium to life and immerses you into a totally new world.

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