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Fortunately, I've had the chance to work as a sound designer already in the preproduction stage of most productions I've worked on.

My way of working usually comes down to reading the screnario, making comments on possible options for sound and writing a sound design concept including some musical choices. I have the idea that this way of working is pretty good but not optimal for the use of sound in film. More than often, your concept is being read, commented on (also in positive ways) and then forgotten.

So I wonder, in what ways do other sound designers use their influence in the preproduction and scenario development stage? Hoe do you use your knowledge? And how do you keep the entire crew aware of your ideas?

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I think its important to remember the script is a map or blueprint for a film - its a statement of intent, but not the finished film - no one knows how that will appear exactly. It is invaluable to be involved early in a production, but also important to retain objectivity & inspiration for the first viewing of the cut. Thinking time is invaluable, formulating possible approaches, concepts etc but I am wary of getting too invested in concepts before I see the cut of the film.....

A few practical ideas:

  • Extract a scene list & create a database & see how many times each location is used, at times of day. Start to appreciate the resources for ambiences you will need & whether it is crucial to record them at the same time of season as the film is shot. Also identifying any problematic locations for dialogue recording.

  • Extract a list of vehicles & contact the vehicle wrangler to have access to them for recording, now and later when you have seen the cut of the film. Despite recording what you think is full coverage of a vehicle, when shots & scenes are edited together it may become apparent you need to record more material.

  • Note any potential crowd scenes & request specific wild tracks

  • Note any specific FX moments

I worked on a film once a long time ago where they pushed a car off a cliff, shot second unit without sound - I would have recorded it for free if need be!!

  • Boy would it be nice to be regularly involved this early on to able to obtain this kind of stuff. Sort of the reason why I master up every bit of wild anything I find in OMFs, if a show is fortunate enough to grab some of that stuff. Happens from time to time and it's gold. – Stavrosound Dec 17 '11 at 6:13
  • I don't know how many times I've been speechless with confusion as to why I'm seeing a hot car, usually of rare vintage variety, featured heavily in a show and then it's too late to get access to it again for a workup by the time it reaches me in post. Blarg! ;) – Stavrosound Dec 17 '11 at 6:16
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    post is ALL about pre-empting such problems before they exist - most producers love you for raising these possibilities as the good ones know all of the work of post sound is on the screen - it makes the final released film so much stronger... its part of our job to make them aware of how we can help make the best of their resources – user49 Dec 17 '11 at 6:42
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When you refer to the crew do you mean the sound crew or everyone? I think making the sound recordist/boom ops informed of what you specifically require will help. Let them know if there are any specific sounds from the set you need ie atmos, impulse responses etc. Not always easy for them to get those in the heat of battle though!

I've always thought it would be cool to have a "second unit" sound crew on set that could record specifics on set that the set sound mixer might not have a chance to do. Obviously budgets don't always allow that!

If it was something you were able to do and wanted to offer your time to do so I'm sure you could get some useful stuff from locations filmed. Maybe with less traffic/planes/people in the way... Just a thought!

  • Thanks Andy. With crew I mean the heads of the other departments. I found that sometimes it is usefull to keep them updated with your ideas since they sometimes have to make a change to make your idea work. But how do you mean second unit sound crew? A second sound crew on set? – Taco Drijfhout Dec 16 '11 at 22:34
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Develop thoughtful discussions around the emotional content of the moment and the creative intent of the director (or the emotional descriptors of the brand, if a corporate or non-narrative project), for both the whole project as well as moment/scene to moment/scene. The higher up the chain you can take these discussions, the better, but spreading the fact that you're thinking at that higher level will absolutely get noticed by insightful folks. Taking a holistic, narrative approach opens up avenues for specific relationships with other departments and collaborators, and shows a willingness to help identify where sound design needs to step aside for other components, or should take center stage, while keeping the discussion less about your role and more about the final product. Everything is just implementation and execution.

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A thoughtful essay that answers this very question here.

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From What I remember from school, to even be brought in for pre-production on a film is a bit of a rarity. I can imagine that writing down your ideas and revisiting them with the director in the Post production phase is one option. I can't think off the top of my head of an effective way of keeping the entire crew aware of your ideas.

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I work as a sound designer at a small community theater. Currently I am using creative common sounds, as well as my own recordings. I am handed a script which is the blueprint, and I generally stay right on with that is said to use. There are times when I change the sounds because I feel it sounds better.

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I just hosted a webinar with Randy Thom, and he gets into this idea a little bit in the course of the discussion. It's later on in the webinar, but he talks about discussing with the director types of shots that could be filmed to provide the opportunity for sound to work, and create something meaningful, with the images. Something that can prepare the audience for later usage, or make the mentally reference that image when they hear the sound later on.

A recording of the webinar is available here: http://www.anymeeting.com/WebConference/RecordingDefault.aspx?c_psrid=E958D888894C

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