Is it even our place to do so? And by more relevant, I mean more concerned with those in need. Or those just in need of a kick in the pants.
The way your question is phrased, it's hard to tease out where you want this conversation to go. However, I read your question in one of two ways.
- Raising consciousness of the art and craft of sound design, either in the mind of the general public or paying clients. I think both Colins have the most relevant answers here.
- Using sound design as a medium for doing good deeds or supporting the less fortunate. This is an interesting idea that has been explored in other artistic mediums, such as The Designer's Accord and Help-Portrait. Frankly and to be blunt, I don't think mainstream entertainment or games, two of the most prominent fields where sound design is used, do much to benefit, in your words, "those in need." However, it only takes a little thought to come up with some interesting ideas (not that the tongue-in-cheek answers here aren't entertaining). What about doing a sound installation that creates soothing sound in a blighted area? What about getting involved with architects and acoustic engineers to help design better sounding buildings? How about getting involved with those who have just received cochlear implants and help to train them to interpret sounds of different kinds? How about using sound design in products to better educate the end user as to device status or perhaps emergencies? None of these are easy, but the more people push these ideas - even if they're "concept projects" - the more it'll get others to thinking about the role sound design can play in a non-entertainment context.
Just some nuggets o' thought.
This is something I've had extensive talks with Miguel from DS about. It's a problem, IMO, and I'm not quite sure how to solve it. So many cultures, it seems, don't seem to care about sound design. Just watch a foreign television channel for 5 minutes and you'll see what I mean.
I suppose one approach could be for people in that country to start showcasing work to local media outlets / productions, in hopes that they might "see the light". That's what Miguel is doing right now down in Columbia. He is fed up with people there putting out programming with sound that is awful, so he's trying to get things changed.
However, I fear it might be a cultural thing that might be very difficult ball to get rolling.
I'm all for the "kick in the pants" version, but I think they need to feel the need for it before it will happen. Maybe we can just hire Leo D and have him go into their brains and plant the idea there. That might work :-)
it certainly used to be a bigger problem a few years ago when the more established sound designers started talking about popularising the art/craft/skill.
i tend to think "sound for film profile" videos tend to be a bit formulaic at the moment and are limited in that their target audience is the general public, but in an interesting paradox, these videos are most interesting to sound people. so sound profile vids get a bit lost in their intent?
as for the general public, sound can get a bit too abstract, and go beyond their interest. talking about this adds a particular skill with words, to the usual set of requirements..
I totally agree with Ryan that 'Well done Sound Design is unnoticeable'. And that's the problem.
My strategy is to try to educate key people in the producion (Game Leads, Lead Producers, Studio Heads, in Video Games; Directors and Producers in Film/tv).
My 2 main weapons 1) the A B viewing of scenes with good/bad sound - make sure its idiot proof. this can backfire depending on how big an idiot you are dealing with.
2) that screening in a film when the director first gets to hear the film with proper sound. In my experience, directors love that screening. Take a moment to drive home the idea of the importance of good audio.
I agree with Colin Hart in that it's a cultural problem. Similar problems can be seen in other art forms. If you take the music industry as a comparison, worldwide you'll here the same pop songs that big record labels have force-fed everyone whereas the real decent, underground music that is well written, well produced and original will be followed, and appreciated, not by the mainstream, but by a relatively small group of followers. And these underground followings will be geographically different. In countries where the culture is more open and artistic freedom is encouraged you will find more of these groups and groups consisting of larger numbers, whereas in other countries there will be very little diversity in independent music and those who do strive to create it will struggle. And even across the countries where you can find an underground following, there can be massive differences between different styles.
It's tough, but you have to give praise to people like Miguel at Designing Sound who are pushing to change the way things are. It's easy to forget for those of us who live and work in countries where sound design is a recognised profession, but there are a lot of countries where production sound is generally of very poor quality thanks to having been totally neglected. But in history there have been many examples where people's passion for a specific art have eventually led to a global appreciation of that art. There is no simple answer to this problem but by discussing that the problems exist we are taking a big step forward...
Documentaries like this are pretty interesting I think and can be helpful in its own way. For many sound designer this is the first or second (depending on pre-conceptualisation) creation step. His recordings might not be intended for a sound design toolkit, but his quest is noble and very much relevant for the craft since it'l hopefully make people more aware of sound in general. Environmental sound is for most people, at-least those who haven't learned to "listen", too abstract.
Many people are aware of the sound in films, how many times haven't you heard "I turn down the volume if it gets too scary", they just take it for granted. The ubiquitous nature of sound remains very abstract until you learn to listen and people like Schafer believes that this latent ability should be part of the school curriculum for young kids.
Today's soundscapes are very complex (industrialized) and most of the time they are not even pleasant, it's understandable that people stuff their ears with ipods to mask it out, being aware of it or not. So teach people to listen through your work, because once they "hear" sound like we do, they will have the inert ability to understand and make sensible demands. And specific to film then have the supervising sound editor/sound designer's name in the opening credits equal to the caster, production designer and composer. Then people might actually get that music/score does not = "The soundtrack".
I almost want to keep sound design a secret; look at how consumer-grade recording gear has hurt most post houses already, and film makers and programmers already assume they're good enough at audio with their hi-fi equipment or laptop speakers to bypass us . . . imagine how it will be when everyone thinks they're fully capable of doing professional-level sound.
As far as telling people what I do, I make sure I mention films and video games, so they at least can pretend they know what I'm talking about.