Does anybody have a specific process for brainstorming at the time when they are creating a sound pallet and aesthetic for the project?

David Sonnenheines book about Sound Design describes some processes which I have used for pretty much every major undertaking I have done.

5 Answers 5


There was an article about sound pallet and aesthetic on designing sound a little while back. Has some good info. http://designingsound.org/2012/02/wrangling-aesthetic/


I always try to make a concept dictate the sound of the film I am working on. The concept is generated by the field between the director, the editor, the composer, me and the film itself.

I always like to try something that is new to me, so that I can remain fresh and evolve.

The last feature film, which I made about a year ago, had me working a lot with my modular synth to create minimal, noisy sounds, which blended with the more naturalistic sounds as well as the score (which was a string orchestra). It had a pretty loud overall concept with lots of rich noisy bass in the soundtrack, as well as a lot of panning of all sorts of sound - including the dialogue.

The film I am working on now is much more realistic, and so I try not to use my synths on this one. This is quite new to me, as I have always used synths to make drones and other special emotional sounds. I am just about to bid on some organ pipes on an internet auction. They may be able to help me get some drones without using synths. I don't know, but I'll try it out...

  • I dig your attitude man. Good luck with the organ pipes investment and let us know if you get anything good out of them!
    – lucafusi
    Mar 12, 2012 at 17:19

I tend to think more in terms of textures, i.e. soft, hard, rough, smooth, shakey, clear, foggy, gritty, silky.

Once you know how you want your sounds to move, it's much easier to start putting together a coherent collection of sounds.


I usually start a style, how I want my end product to sound, be it tech, organic, musical, clean, dirty. Use reference material as inspiration, movies, games, trailers, anything relevant that can spark an idea or a concept. From there it's a matter of creating sounds, prototyping and giving the images sound. Recording, creating patches and shaping your thoughts into an audible form. I think frequency distribution is something you need to establish quite early on, because this influences your final mix.

I try not to get too technical and let the artistic side win, because aesthetic is art and creation. It is the colors and shapes we choose from as sound designers and tools tend to limit this.


I never brainstorm at all, at least not in the common definition of the word, and I use new ways of doing things for practically every new project I get.

However, the way I usually start with a project, providing I haven't had a chance to see enough yet, is to look it through completely several times to get a grasp of it, and then demanding a spotting session with at least me, the composer, and the director. In some cases, also the main producer, but that's a thing between the director and the producer, and nothing that really concerns me.

I work mostly as a full-on sound designer, and as such I always have my recorder and a selection of mikes with me to record anything I might find. Often, the first thing I might try after the dialogue editing is to see which ones from the latest batch of sounds might be particularly sweet in the project I'm in at the moment. After that the road will fork in a selection of virtually billions of ways, depending on the project and my latest experiences. No matter how I go on, however, I make a first simple editing/design that I enhance as I know how much time I have left.

For me, style is rarely if ever a conscious choice. Though I do always enter a project with a direction in mind, so far I have always changed that direction many times during the course of the work as I've found new and better ways of doing things. It might sound like I'd lose time from that, but as I always work with my projects very openly and unlocked, on the contrary that actually saves a lot of time I can use to make the project even better!

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