SUMMARY OF SOUND DESIGN READINGS & EXAMPLES
People have been predicting the end of radio since the end of World War II, television came, then the internet but radio persist. Why? I believe even though the content on radio and the format has fundamentally changed, the medium is vital to our lives precisely because it does not dominate all of our senses. Listening to the radio is passive, it can be done while your working on homework, or driving or at work…. In fact I’m listening to a podcast right now. If you’re looking for a direct route to the brain, sound works.
Although the great theater craftsmanship of the old radio shows from the 1930 and 40s have given way to music genres, sports, news, talk and disk jockeys (I don’t think they use actual discs anymore do they?), great storytelling is still integral to radio. And podcasts, the child of the internet and radio is where storytelling thrives.
First, like any project, we need good elements to build our story so lets start with some sound recording basics. In “The Bare Bones Camera Course For Film and Video” Tom Schroeppel provides guidance on how sound works on surfaces, microphones types and selection and planning. Advising us to capture sounds as closely and cleanly as possible with the broadest possible frequency range, he suggest using the same microphone to record all of a single persons lines. Jumping from one device or mic to another will affect sound quality and probably create more work than needed.
Sound design is planned. If you are planning a video shoot, consider your sound as you frame the shot and stage the area. During production, you need to think like a builder: recording your voices, sound effects and presence separately then putting them all together in post production. Be organized, label all your files and keep a sound log, these habits will save you time while editing your final piece.
When you select your elements, it is important to understand your syncsound and voiceovers. Sync Sounds are sounds that will need to be in sync with the images on screen such as a persons mouth moving, an instrument being played or any other action that may cause a sound like a car crash or waterfall. Voiceovers are vocals that are heard but the source is offscreen. Schroeppel recommends taking a few moments and recording ambient and wild sounds you will be using in your project. For example, if you are working on a news story featuring factory work, it may be a good idea to record the noises from the machines and the floor work sounds apart from interviews.
Every builder needs a good architectural plan. In his six part series “Engaging Episodes” Kevin Anderson explains how pre-production is the key to great results. Although the truly great podcasters make it look spontaneous and easy, a quality podcast is actually quite scripted. He calls it the “invisible script”, a loose plan of sorts that a dynamic personality uses as a framework for audio. A little improvisation, a little editing adds the magic. Remember that to engage your audience, you are telling a story and the messenger is important, let your personality come through. Our voices don’t just come from our mouths, they emerge from our spirits.
Brand your podcast, sum up what your podcast is about in a few words and that should explain “why” anyone would want to listen. Read, Rewrite, Rehearse…and you will be good to go! Good luck. Check out the series in the resources links below.
Research to inform
And now, here are some great examples of the power of sound design. I selected three types, long, medium and short forms for your pleasure and a little why I chose them. Enjoy!
Long Form – Cinematic Sound Design
See With Your Ears: Spielberg And Sound Design
Sound design is powerful. I was wowed by this piece. It is informative and entertaining, Nerdwriter not only shows you the power of great sound design, he also demonstrates by offering altered versions of the scene, jumping back and forth between the narration, description and scenes. It really drove the point home about how sounds, not just dialogue, tells the story, amplifies the message and guides the audience.
Medium Form – Podcast
TED Radio Hour
“A Better You”
(Original broadcast date: June 16, 2017.) Many of us are lured by the promise of self-improvement, but find it hard to follow through. In our 100th episode, TED speakers reveal ways to discover our better selves. TED speakers include entrepreneur Jia Jang, Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicombe, psychologist Emily Balcetis, technologist Matt Cutts, and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
I really like the way the host framed the story and cut right to the voice of Jia Jung. “Most people avoid rejection unless you are this guy…” The music choices create a magical whimsical atmosphere, it keeps it interesting and intimate by adding a sense of wonder..as though you are traveling into the minds of the interviewee. They also punctuate the key points of the story.
Short Form – Radio Commercials
I found these wonderful audio samples by André and Carol Bergeron. Babble-On Recording Studios is an audio post production house and voiceover recording studio in Minneapolis that specializes in sophisticated sound design.
“Kung Fu” by Dairy Queen. I thought this one was funny and reminded me of my sons. The announcer’s voice is smooth and crisp. I could picture them at a restaurant fighting over dessert. I appreciate the foley sounds like the flute and slapping noises and it ends playfully with some background music. Short and sweet.
“Can Karma” by Minneapolis Refuse Company. The audio in this piece takes you on a journey. You feel the effect of being recycled through the hollow aluminum and metal crunching sounds. If you were to hear this piece without the sound design it would be flat, without impact. The audio really brings the story to life.
Shawn is an Information Technology manager in Washington D.C. and a graduate student at Quinnipiac University pursuing his masters in Interactive Media and Communications.
Keith, M. C. (2012). The Radio Station. Taylor & Francis. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=gxo1TXwx3gYC&pg=PT30&lpg=PT30&dq=predicted+the+doom+of+radio&source=bl&ots=obL6rnmgUf&sig=ACfU3U2qPnthtJEE-1zJTuqRSlhw8WLezA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjWqofUrI_hAhWtuVkKHYCmAOsQ6AEwDnoECAcQAQ#v=onepage&q=predicted%20the%20doom%20of%20radio&f=false
Engaging Episodes: The Powerful Podcasting Series. (2016, January 08). Retrieved from https://www.thepodcasthost.com/planning/engaging-episodes-powerful-podcasting-series-part-1
Free Old Time Radio MP3 Downloads from “The Golden Age of Radio!”. (2019, March 19). Retrieved from http://www.oldradioworld.com
Schroeppel, T., & DeLaney, C. (2015). The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video. Allworth. Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Bare-Bones-Camera-Course-Video/dp/1621535266
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