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What does a Sound Director do?

By S. Zaimov
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A sound director, also sometimes called an audio director, is the professional in charge of sound in a media project. He or she can work in television, but is typically associated with the filmmaking business. A sound director is generally expected to oversee every element of audio used in the production, such as sound effects, dialog and music.

This type of professional is usually hired by the producer or manager of a project and begins working as early as the pre-production stage, or before filming begins. An individual in this field needs to work well with the main director in order to plan for all the ways sound will be used. A sound director often considers how much of the budget can be spent on audio, what are the necessary expenses and what resources can be spared. He or she may also hire sound technicians or operators, and request all necessary equipment.

Managing sound effects is an important part of a sound director’s job. Since film cameras sometimes do not capture the right type of audio, some sounds may need to be reproduced artificially. To do this, a film sound director usually works with a Foley artist, an audio specialist experienced in creating or re-creating specific sounds. For example, in a movie scene that features a man being punched in the face, the Foley artist may hit a piece of cabbage with a hammer to produce a sound similar to the punch, which is later edited into the film. Such effects are often used not only in movies, but also in video games and theater performances.

All the spoken lines in a movie or performance are known as the dialogue. The sound director usually supervises this element as well, and makes sure the speech is clean and loud enough for the audience to hear. Much like sound effects, some pieces of dialogue may not be captured well during filming, and the actors involved may have to recite the lines again in a studio.

The use of music is often one of the most important components to any media project. A movie's music can include both the use of songs, called the soundtrack, or the score, which are instrumental tunes specifically composed to heighten the mood for certain scenes. For example, creepy music during a suspenseful scene would be described as the score. A sound director usually suggests a composer for the project and offers his or her opinion on which songs may be purchased for the soundtrack.

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Discussion Comments
By anon279455 — On Jul 12, 2012

Today, sound direction takes precedence over the dialogue between actors. It is almost impossible to understand the conversation in a typical movie or TV drama because the sound effects, music and background noise are so loud. Doesn't anyone in the industry edit the scenes before airing? Doesn't the director observe that the audience cannot understand the dialogue. Guess sound direction is what is important and is used to mask poor acting.

By lovealot — On Sep 11, 2011

It's fun to really concentrate and listen to all the sounds in a movie. Sometimes I try to guess what is making a particular sound.

It takes someone who is creative and observant to be a sound director. I wonder if there is a list of the different items that make the needed sounds. I know that when a jazz band plays, there are all kinds of instruments that can enhance the mood music.

No doubt, a good sound director is something of a perfectionist - he wants to get everything just right.

By truman12 — On Sep 10, 2011

I always notice how much the sound of gun shots varies between films. Presumably most movies, especially most major movies, have their own foley artists who create there own unique gun shot sounds for the film.

In some movies they are very booming, in others it kind of sounds sleek like an arrow and in bad movies the guns sound weak and quiet. I have shot guns before and somehow none of the sound effects seem to sound like the real thing.

By summing — On Sep 10, 2011

I used to have a friend that was really into recording music in his home. He didn't have a lot of training or a lot of equipment. In fact he didn't have a way to produce sounds except for the sounds he could produce with his body.

He was a resourceful guy so he went around to libraries and thrift stores and started finding cd compilations of sound effects. There were all sorts. Some were Halloween theme or space theme or animal theme. Before too long he had accumulated a huge library of sounds he could draw on.

He got a basic audio editing program and used the sound effects as the building blocks of his songs. By the time he had mixed them and processed them you could barely tell what they sounded like originally. And the songs were really cool, dancey but also really odd. I always thought that was a cool story of making do with what you have.

By Ivan83 — On Sep 09, 2011

I have been making independent films since I was a teenager and one of the hardest things to get right is the sound. It is more than just getting things to sound clear and synch up correctly. You also have to find a way to capture the quality of the sound and mix it together in a believable mix.

Think about a scene where two people are talking in a kitchen. A pot of water is boiling. The TV is on. A window is open and the voices of children and cars can be heard. This is a lot of sounds coming from lots of different directions. To make this into a recording which convinces the viewer they are seeing what they are seeing is no small feat. It is an art.

By indemnifyme — On Sep 09, 2011

@JaneAir - Good luck to your boyfriend! Personally, I think it must be much more exciting to work on films than in a hotel. I mean, I'm sure the events are interesting, but nothing beats the movies!

I thought the thing with the cabbage that the article mentioned was really neat. I bet there are all kind of other sound effects that sound directors are responsible for creating too! Sounds like a really fun job!

By JaneAir — On Sep 08, 2011

My boyfriend currently works as an audio technician, and the person he works under is known as a sound director as well. However, my boyfriend doesn't work on films. He does sound for events at hotels.

My boyfriend would eventually like to work his way up to director, and I think there is a good chance of this happening. His company offers a lot of classes and certifications so people can advance, and my boyfriend has taken a lot of the classes. But who knows, maybe he'll change his mind and go work on films!

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