I'm sure you've noticed that I talk a big game, but the truth is, I'm possibly the least experienced sound designer here. Two or three years, tops, with only a handful of completed projects under my belt.

As such, it's no surprise that I'm totally unconfident in the videos I throw online.

So, if you could take 30 seconds to watch this, and offer some constructive criticism, I'd be grateful.

VIDEO UPDATED Saturday, Aug 7, 7:42pm -7 GMT (give or take a half hour for Vimeo to update it..)



  • this type of discussion is one of the things that i hope will happen when i get that sound design challenge going (part of why we'll posting to groups specifically for it on vimeo and soundcloud). if you guys haven't yet, please check out the info i've posted on my site and let me know if there's anything that doesn't make sense. thanks. dynamicinterference.com/sound-design-challenge Aug 7, 2010 at 21:30
  • @Shaun I kind of like not having any restrictions on how to do the design for a video you post up. What types of restrictions will there be? I like to use all my tools!
    – Utopia
    Aug 7, 2010 at 21:52
  • @Ryan - They're going to vary from one challenge to another. There will be some that don't have any restriction on the tools you use, some that will, and others that will require a specific theoretical approach. I don't want it to be constant, because then it will be boring. I also don't want to just throw something up and say have at it, because that won't necessarily help people grow (e.g. me...lol). Aug 7, 2010 at 22:13
  • @Shaun Bah! Ok fine. I'm extremely excited about it. Can you put up the first challenge tonight??? :-)
    – Utopia
    Aug 7, 2010 at 22:22
  • @Shaun - Sounds cool. Are you thinking anything Lars von Trier obstruction style? Lately i've been keen to set myself some arbitrary obstructions, just to see what direction it pushes me in, but there's always clients/directors to please... Aug 8, 2010 at 5:59

6 Answers 6


I like your choice of video material, and not just because I'm partial to video games. Clips like that, where there is very little action really force you to think about what is important to the scene.

Ryan's got some good points. I'll see if I can dance around those. ;)

Good job on the selections for clothing elements. You may want to shift the first leather creak a bit. It feels a bit off since there's still some movement after the sound tails out. If you spotted it to cover the middle of the movement, or towards the end (like you did on the second), I think it would give it a more natural feel.

It could just be the crappy little computer speakers I'm listening on, but it sounds like the phone get louder when the door is opening. That feels wrong to me. It's ok to let the door mask it a bit; but it should be louder when it's in that tight enclosed space not when the space opens up. Some tonal perspective shifts with the change in camera angles would also go a long way to sell it.

I like Ryan's water drip idea to give the space a little more life. Another idea would be some distant mechanical sounds, as though they're in a room far down a hallway somewhere in the building. The ambience selection for the room WAS very nice though.

There are my two cents. You'll probably end up with a full dollar by the time the day is over.

  • +1 on the phone getting louder at the door open. Feels wrong to me too. Aug 8, 2010 at 17:28

Nice work, it's pretty slick.

A big part of sound design is tracing emotional arcs and whatnot throughout a scene, so Ryan's call on trying something longer is a good one.

It's a very sparse scene visually, which is often what we're given to work with. I think you handled the visual elements pretty well, but that can still leave a scene kinda empty. What you can do is think about things that can add to the mood/story that the pictures aren't already telling us. Think about what the surroundings are, what's nearby, what strange little quirks you can add.

Also, playing with dynamics can do a lot. As the other guys said, the change in perspective from inside the cupboard to outside can create a lot of aural interest. Also, if you bring up small details such as the creak in her shoe, maybe her breath, that can indicate that it's a quiet setting.

So that's my AU0.02! I'm not that experienced either, but once you start thinking about all the added value sound can bring, it's pretty exciting.


Great comments from all so far - let me just say that I love the bell! It has a wonderful character to it. Curious to know its source, is it something you recorded? I don't believe I've ever heard it before.



Up for the advice so far! Just one thing about the water drips, I'd call it a stereotype and it'll work. However, I'd be curious to try less stereotypey elements, not too far though or it would draw the attention from the action. I'm thinking of; a broken fan (the one that clangs cyclically), stressed squeaky/creaky metal, "footsteps" of insects running around... That'd help build up different moods as opposed to dripping water passiveness, don't you think?


All of this advice is great! I like the ambience you have throughout most of the scene. The slight creaking adds a nice touch to it. I like the tone of the phone as well, however, I am not sure it fits with that particular payphone. Just from the feel of the rest of the scene, it seems that it should have more of a dilapidated quality.

After reading through the comments, I'd have to agree with Ryan about the phone coming down a bit. More foley couldn't hurt. Overall, you've done a good job so far.

Are you going to post the finished product?

  • I will be. This is one of the pieces I'm working on for my demo reel -- I only have a few existing pieces I can use for it so I have to pad it with new material -- and I want it to sound the best it can. Aug 8, 2010 at 13:09
  • Nice. I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
    – Joel
    Aug 8, 2010 at 14:12

I'll go ahead and chuck my opinion in the mix here.

First off, nicely done. It's very difficult to subject work to the public, especially one as learned as this group. Looks like everybody has been very nice so far :)

I really like the bell sound. It would be nice for it to feel boxier when it's just darkness - you don't get a sense for the space until the door is opened. The high frequencies ring like it is in a large room.

The door is really nice, but could probably come down quite a bit. Would have liked to hear some sort of handle grab with a latch open. The door is tightly closed, so it seems like it would have been latched in some way. Nickpicking a little on that point, I guess....

Needs some work on perspective, even if it is just tweaking the level of the phone up and down as you change perspective. On the wide angle of her answering the phone, her voice has a nice metallic reverb to it - can you make the bell sound the same way?

As for ambiance - I've always struggled with world building on my own. I like the tension that it brings, but would like to maybe get a few more audio clues as to where she is - active factory, a ship, underground, in a dream world, etc. This is a lot to pack in to 30 seconds.. a longer clip would help in that aspect, but you can start introducing some elements right away.

Again, excellent job and keep up the good work! Look forward to seeing some of your submissions in the sound design challenge.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.