This is obviously going to change from project to project. But in general how much freedom do you have within your porjects? Are the budgets and schedules so tight that you just have to go with what you can within the constraints, or are you given free range in order to make sound 50% of the final experience? Do differing budgets make a difference, or is the role necessarily creative and therefore cannot be anything but creative?

3 Answers 3


Factors that I find might dictate how much creativity I have on a particular project are:

  1. Time
  2. Budget
  3. Director/producer/client I'm working with/for.

I think a really important part of getting hired again is to know when to put creativity and perfection aside to satisfy the budgetary constraints of the project. If the director is sitting next to you while you work, he or she might get annoyed with you if you spend too much time experimenting and being creative for something that doesn't need it.

Also, if you do a fantastic job for a badly paid project, they'll definitively hire you next time but will again expect a top quality design, and as you get busy with more work it can get problematic. What I usually do, is offer different pricing options before starting. The higher the budget the more I offer a quality package and a unique sound design. The lesser, might be for generic library music and sounds and a simple mix. This way, the person paying knows that they are getting what they are paying for and are not disappointed if it's a basic design. If they pay more for your expertise as a sound designer, then they'll expect lots of creativity and a tailored sound design.

This is my personal experience and I'm sure it differs for each and their particular roles... As you say, you'll always use creativity but how much experimentation or uniqueness you can do really does depends on the project and the team.

It's a fine line that I'm trying to figure out. I guess it depends on how busy one is.


The main two factors for me are the actual script/film and the director

Every director wants the best soundtrack possible (best meaning fully realised, emotionally engaging, supporting the story and characters etc) and most directors that I work with are generally open as to how that is achieved. The purpose of a spotting session at the start of a project is to make sure the intent & priorities of each scene and moment is clear & that, along with the film itself provides the inspiration & framework for creating the elements. But generally speaking directors like to direct ie to respond to something & steer it. So no matter how simple or complex a moment is, the role of being a collaborator is to provide approaches and options and evolve them with the director...

The main benefit larger budgets provide is more time & resources/people to develop & evolve the elements, which can be essential especially when VFX and a lot of conforming is involved..

But regardless of budget I think a crucial methodology is to attempt versions of the most complex and/or subjective material early in the schedule ie in the first few weeks, because it is that material that will benefit the most from evolution.


Andrew's three factors are completely true in a tactical sense. In a broader creative sense I might reframe the challenges thusly (and grow out of what Tim lists as well):

  1. The emotional content of the moment being designed
  2. The ability to communicate intent (on your part and on those above you)
  3. Your ability to creatively embrace constraints
  4. Ability to execute

The last one is especially important, and why there are artists vs. illustrators in the world. Some folks chafe under constraints, while others use them as focus to tune out the irrelevant possibilities and more quickly arrive at creative solutions.

As with any other form of design (industrial, product, graphic), logical arguments always help. When logic fails, it's usually a subjective disagreement about the aesthetic result. But the aesthetic result is always going to be easier to retool and refine than the underlying goals, story logic, and emotional response you're trying to engineer.

There can be a huge amount of creativity under any sort of constraints, from time to dictatorial directors to budget, if you're willing to embrace the constraints as a means of creative focus.

  • Well put. I think I was being a bit too "tactical", as you say. Everything you mention is absolutely true. I was focusing my answer more on experimentation (which involves time) rather than creativity (which is in us, or not). Commented Mar 16, 2010 at 18:46
  • Oh, not at all saying that your answer was overly so. No criticism intended! Tactics good! :-p All of it is absolutely true, and sage advice. Just adding my own POV and some truisms that I found applicable across all creative disciplines. Commented Mar 17, 2010 at 3:58

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