I'm looking for either some information (books, articles, web sites, etc.) or films that just use sound design to alter our perception of characters in films. My plan is to take a scene from a film and re-do the sound design so that the sound design would give a different impression of a character from the original sound design.

I've been having a look around and haven't managed to find anything, whether I'm looking in the wrong areas or that, I don't know.

I hope this isn't to broad or easy/difficult to answer.


2 Answers 2


one character that sprang to mind is Arby from the Channel Four series 'Utopia'. If you haven't watched it, it's definitely worth checking out and the theme music is awesome too. Anyway, this character Arby has been given a continuous, out of breath foley aspect, almost as if he's really unfit. I'm pretty sure the majority of this has been added in post. The breathing becomes a bit of a signifier for him and, as a bad guy, adds a sinister, menacing element to his character. Not sure what you would change to give a different impression but I guess that's your challenge!

Also it might be worth watching Soundworks' "The Sound of Tron" - there's a fair bit in there but a couple of relevant points might be the sound and character of Flynn's safe house. It was given a calm and secure ambience, with an undercurrent of uncertainty. This could easily be adapted to reflect a different mood. Also what I found quite interesting was that they processed each characters voice dependent on a hierachy of computer to human - maybe you could come up with a different hierachy?


Also! This popped up as a related post which has some other examples of similar stuff:

Examples of characters defined through sound

Hope that helps :)

  • Thanks for the reply, I've just seen that controversial scene of Arby in the school but you're right about the breathing, it does add to his character. I'll try to watch the whole show soon. Those Soundworks videos are brilliant, hadn't seen that Tron one before but it definitely is interesting with the different hierarchy of voices. Thanks again and if you think of more feel free to share! :)
    – sea shore
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 11:32

As a general rule, if you add even harmonics to a sound then you can make it more pleasing, and if you use odd order harmonics you can make a sound more displeasing. So it might be worth using different types of subtle distortion to either add even or odd order harmonics to a voice depending on which direction you want the character to go in.

If you prefer not to use distortion to create harmonics then a much more subtle effect is to make a voice more nasal or sibilant, it is amazing how quickly annoying it becomes, then add some deliberate but discrete, plosive popping, and then for the positive character make the EQ rich and full, with a slight proximity effect and presence boost (2-4 kHz). Then compress slightly the positive character, and expand slightly the negative character. Strong, confident individuals usually have slightly more constant levels in their speech, irrational speakers vary their levels much more as they are often more dramatic.

Lastly if you want to push it further add some artificial lip smacks, they really do not sound nice, and again will push a character towards the negative end of spectrum, and by contrast the positive character will be perceived as even more positive.

All these effects can be overused, but if you keep them so that they are only just audible, they can create a voice you feel more comfortable listening to, and one that jars slightly.

  • Thanks for the reply Iain, using the odd and even harmonics is quite a good idea that I would of never of thought of using. I think I might give some of your ideas a go and see how they turn out, thanks again!
    – sea shore
    Commented Jun 26, 2014 at 10:11

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