Hi. i would like to know if there is any particular format for WRITING sound for a film. I am working on a film with a friend and he handed over me the script and it just put me in a fix. I have made out a list of basic sounds that i might use like the ambient sounds, birds chirping, crowd etc etc. but i am not sure about how to go about the script. This is the first film that i am working on. Its a part of my college project. it would be a great help if i would know a format that sound designers follow to give the movie a particular sonic personality.

5 Answers 5


Hi, I don't know about any formats. Randy Thom actually started a project/discussion on the 'sound-article-list' @ yahoo groups. But from my experience, the best thing to do is to sit down with the director and talk about the way he feels it should/could sound. You will most likely run into unconceivable sound concepts.

I remember a animator/director asking for an 'emphatic' sound. I explained to him that this was an impossible assignment, unless he could help me visually. After going through all his ideas, my vision of the sound design was much clearer. I was able to visualize this to him just by explaining in 'normal' language.

I never handed him a written sound design, but he did have a good idea about what it was and adapted his script to make things better sound wise.

So best thing to do is first listen to the director, try to distil a design principle out of that and work yourself down the script with him. Keep communicating and stay open to ideas, this will get you closer as a team and helps the project.

Good luck!


There is another format the script can take and it is called and AV script. Celtx (free script writing program) has a mode for it. Check out this video http://www.ehow.com/video_4442031_learn-av-script-editor-celtx.html

Also, google image search AV script format to see a visual. Basically you draw a line down the page and the shot description goes on the left and the audio description goes on the right. The AV script can describe the exact shot and at the same time tell what the characters are saying.

See if your director is willing to adapt the script to this format. It will not only help you and the director discuss sound before you get to work the the film but it will also help him talk through the film with his camera person and editor.

If the director is not interested in adapting the script, splice up the script you have into the descriptions and dialog and then add in the sound design descriptions on the audio side as needed.


David Sonnenschien has done a lot in this area of putting together paradigms on how to attack a script for sound design. I find his ideas very useful when dissecting a script into emotional, transition, environmental areas of the film and helping me build a sonic philosophy around the narrative. Great stuff. Also, Randy Thom has a great essay on filmsound.org which discusses the importance of how to emotionally and theoretically wrap your head around a script in preparation for a sound design.

With the ideas existing in these pieces, I have been able to improve on my verble interpretation of a script when consulting with the director and other members of the sound crew. I hope that this answers your question.


Everyone works differently, so this is just my opinion. And I do a lot more work that is artsy fartsy and am called upon much more for designing original soundscapes and fx, rather than working with or mixing the "normal" sounds of a film. I've never done any dry dialog, ADR or anything like that. Never done anything with much of a budget either.

So that said, I've never had much luck with a script alone. I'd always prefer to have the writer and/or director of the work give me their vision of it in plain English, and any notes they feel are important, and just start brainstorming from that. At that early stage, it's probably beneficial to also make notes for the "boring stuff"; incidentals, interior, exterior, scene ambiences etc. All you can really do is prepare some "maybes", as I call them. Stuff you already have that might come in handy in the scenes you know about.

Beyond that, nothing beats sitting down and watching footage with your own eyes, in my opinion. I've never seen footage that really looked anything like it did in my head as it was being described to me or as I read a script. That's the problem/beauty of human interpretation. Hopefully the director gets things shot that look the way they see it in their heads though, that's the important part. So, in a nutshell, I pretty much design/compose sound to picture in realtime, one scene at a time.

It's probably a very slow way to work. I'm sure that folks who work with major motion pictures etc have some much more valuable workflow tips to share.


@britt. thanks for the link .. i have downloaded celtx. the way that i have started working is i have started recording basic sound samples scene wise and am making the director listen to them as i am proceeding. plus also jotting down the scenes where the director wants me to use sounds that have a SPECIFIC character.

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