Soundscapes and Sound Design
Soundscapes and Sound Design
I heard a great movie last
Soundscapes and Sound Design
• When was the last time you used or even
heard that phrase?
• Sound is often so important…you never notice
• Good sound often ‘makes’ a film, poorly
recorded sound or sound mix will destroy it.
Soundscapes and Sound Design
• Can you name 3 examples where sound is used well
in a Movie or a TV programme, drama or
• Music is not a suitable choice as music can drown
out a scene and can be a lazy use of an important
aspect of what you are watching.
• Music for mood is good but we are concerned with
the sound mix.
How many different sounds can
you hear?
• Pixar Animation short
Pens and paper at the ready......
• Write 3 examples of good sound used in a
movie and include:
The name of the movie
The type of sound
Why it is used
Where and when in the movie is it used?
Soundscapes and Sound Design
• What can sounds be used for?
• Why are sounds used?
• Sound for mood
• Sound for effect
• Sound for atmosphere
• The word “Soundscape" was coined by
composer R. Murray Schafer to identify
sounds that "describe a place, a sonic identity,
a sonic memory, but always a sound that is
pertinent to a place" (Wagstaff, G. 2000).
In Movie terms sounds can be used for:
Setting the scene
Sounds for what you see on screen
Objects used
Listening to an image
• Sounds can be grouped under 3 headings:
• Keynote sounds
• Sound signals
• Soundmark
Keynote Sounds
• This is a musical term that identifies the key of a
piece, not always audible… the key might stray from
the original, but it will return. The keynote sounds
may not always be heard consciously, but they
“outline the character of the people living there”
(Schafer). They are created by nature (geography and
climate): wind, water, forests, plains, birds, insects,
• In many urban areas, traffic has become the keynote
Keynote Sounds
• Keynote sounds are those which are heard by a
particular society continuously or frequently enough
to form a background against which other sounds are
perceived. Examples might be the sound of the sea
for a maritime community or the sound of the
internal combustion engine or Hums in the modern
• Often keynote sounds are not consciously perceived,
but they act as conditioning agents in the perception
of other Sound Signals.
Sound Signals
• These are foreground sounds, which are
listened to consciously; examples would be
warning devices, bells, whistles, horns, sirens,
guns, rivers, a breaking window, cars, planes
• A term derived from 'landmark‘.
• Soundmark is used to refer to a community sound
which is unique, or possesses qualities which make it
specially regarded or noticed by the people in that
community. Soundmarks, therefore, are of cultural
and historical significance and merit preservation
and protection.
• A sound linked to a specific location.
• An enormous amount of work goes into the
sound recording and mixing of films.
• MOTH that you saw last week was shot on a
stage at Shepperton Film Studios so all
atmospheric sounds to ‘set and place’ the
drama were dubbed on afterwards.
• Natural history films are particularly good for
sound mixing, Penguins for example!
All sounds created/dubbed
• Terry Jones Penguin short
Film Sound Stereotypes and Common Logic
• There is a site that lists some of the flaws, a bit
geeky really for those film buffs with no
life….unlike us!
• But obvious and smugly humorous when you
consider the examples
• Such as…..
Do these examples sound familiar?
• Animals are never ever silent - dogs whine/bark/yip, cats
meow or purr, cows moo, even in cases where most animals
wouldn't be making a sound.
• Rats, mice, squirrels and other vermin always make the tiny
little squeaky noises constantly while they are on screen.
• Dolphins always make that same "dolphin chatter" sound
when spinning, jumping, etc.
• Snakes are always rattling
• Crickets in winter and peepers in the fall
• Dogs always know who's bad, and bark at them.
Insects always sound wet
Big Bangs
• Bombs always have big, blinking, beeping timer
• If something explodes, it takes about a minute for
the explosions to stop
• Explosions always happen in slow motion. When an
explosion occurs, make certain you are running away
from the point of detonation so the blast can send
you flying, in slow motion, toward the camera.
• Bombs "whistle" when falling from a plane
• People standing outside a running helicopter can always talk
in normal or just slightly louder than normal voices
• The tires of any jet screech upon landing
• Any airplane in a dive will make a whining noise that will get
louder and higher-pitched the longer the dive lasts.
• The tyres of any jet screech upon landing
• Any airplane in a dive will make a whining noise that will get
louder and higher-pitched the longer the dive lasts.
• Explosions in space make noise
The Wilhelm Scream
• A series of short painful screams performed by an actor were
recorded in 1951 for the Warner Brother's film "Distant
Drums." They were used for a scene where a man is bitten
and dragged underwater by an alligator. The recording was
archived into the studio's sound effects library -- and it was
used in many of their films since. Sound designer Ben Burtt
tracked down the scream recording - which he named
"Wilhelm" from a character who let out the same scream in
"Charge at Feather River (1953)." Ben has adopted the scream
as sort of a personal sound signature, and has worked it into
as many films as he can.
The Wilhelm Scream
• Short doc
• Wilhelm Scream examples compilation
More on sound
Make a note of as many of the dubbed sounds
as you can in the opening sequence too this

Soundscapes and Sound Design