Sound design

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Sound design is a technical/creative field. Theoretically, it covers all non-compositional elements of a film, a play or any other multimedia project.



Second to the use of video or film within a production, sound design is one of the youngest fields in technical theatre. The idea of sound design has been around since theatre started; however, the first person titled the "sound designer" was probably Dan Dugan in the late 1960s. The first sound designer credit was given to Abe Jacob[[1] (] in 1971 for his work on Jesus Christ Superstar. Since then the field has been growing rapidly.

Although sound design is sometimes done by the composer there is no tie per se to the composition itself. In theatre the sound designer almost always has two major fields of responsibilities: technical and creative. Technically, they have to ensure maximum quality of the sound system (for example deciding what speakers and microphones should be used and where they are placed). Creatively a sound designer decides with the theatre director and sometimes the artistic director what sound effects will be used, what music choices will be made, etc. On occasion, the theatre or artistic director may provide the specific source material thus shifting the designer's focus to the technical aspects of a production. Depending on the work, a sound design may be an integral part of the play, for example a performance with a musical underscore or complex ambient sounds, or relatively minor, for example a performance with only a few simple sound effects. In some cases, the sound designer may collaborate with or take up one or more duties of the prop manager or the costumer designer. For example, a play that has a ringing telephone as a crucial part of the presentation may require the sound designer to find one for the production if the director's notes require the event be as believable as possible. The same may hold true for musical instruments, electronic equipment (that emits sound) and other items that serve as fully functional props. In the case of lav mics (a common term for body microphones), care must be taken that the actor is not impeded by nor that they allow their costume to interfer with its function. This can be achieved by designing the costume in such a way that the microphone and transmitter are blended with the shirt, coat, jacket, blouse or other costume piece in the torso and neck area so as to become discrete or practically invisible. In standard theatre productions, the sound designer is not expected to operate the sound board as that is the responsibility of the running crew, who answer to the Stage manager. However, depending on the company's size, budget, culture and the requirements of a particular production, sound designers may find themselves taking on creative or technical roles that would be considered above and beyond the standard job description. Above all, the sound designer must call on her or his experience and "uncommon" sense to make the production as believable and enjoyable as possible to the audience and with minimal encroachment on the actors and other designers as they do their jobs.

Although there is no nationwide union representation for theatrical sound designers, renowned pioneer in the field Abe Jacob has helped secure a charter for sound designers within IATSE (Local 922) and continues to champion the cause.

History (Theatre)

It's known that in India and China around 3000 BC there were theatre productions accompanied by music and sound. The Commedia Dell'arte style also used both music and sound effects.

The first production that used recorded sound, as cited by Bertolt Brecht, was Rasputin (1927) a play by Piscator that included recording of Lenin's voice. It would not be however until the 1950s, when Hollywood directors started directing Broadway productions, that sound design would start growing. Still, there was no sound designer in those plays; it was the stage manager's duty to find the sound effects and an electrician played the recordings during performances. But even though the sound designer has basically assumed these roles, time and technology have not ruled out non-sound designers having a hand in sound production. For instance, since today's audiences are savvier and can readily distinguish between live and recorded sounds, live backstage sound effects are still used (e.g. gun shots) by the stage manager (or assistant stage manager) for premium "aural illusion."

MIDI and digital technology helped the field to evolve exponentially during the 1990s. Also, the World Wide Web has greatly enhanced the ability of sound designers to acquire source material quickly, easily and cheaply. Nowadays, a designer can preview and download crisper, more "believable" sounds as opposed to toiling through time- and budget-draining "shot-in-the-dark" searches through record stores, libraries and "the grapevine" for (oftentimes) inferior recordings. In addition, software innovation has enabled sound designers to take more of a DIY (or "do-it-yourself") approach. From the comfort of their home and at any hour, they can simply use a computer, speakers and headphones rather than renting (or buying) costly equipment or studio space and time for editing and mixing. This provides for faster creation and negotiation with the director.

Awards (Theatre)

Even though there have been continual, extraordinary advances in technology and even more demand for top-quality sound, sound design is still struggling to obtain acceptance (there is no Tony award yet for sound design[[2] (]). Sound design has fast become an integral part of the design process for many theatres and sound designers often hold similar, if not superior positions in the creative team to the lighting designer and other designers.

Some of the major North American theatrical award organizations that recognize sound designers are


External Links




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