Sound design for media

One of the key aspects in media production, besides from the visuals, is sound. The best visual piece will not have such an impact without sound. It can help tell the story, but also trigger emotions, give the audience a sense of place and time. But sound is not just “background music”.


The final mix consists of many layers of different kinds of sound like ambient sound, effects and of course pieces of music. We live in a world where nonmusical sound can carry deep emotional cues. The sound of water. The sound of birds or fire. These effects combined with music is what sound design is all about.

Some of the most popular software for soung design are Logic Pro (Mac) und Ableton Live:


Logic pro X (Mac)


Ableton Live

Sound for media is being divided into four different sections:


Basic sounds like winds, lightning, water etc. give a sense of time and place for the audience.

Hard effects:

Shorter and instantaneous backgrounds like key sounds, a closing door etc.


These are human-based effects. Anything from footsteps or a clap can be Foley. These sound often have to be performed, since they can be used in 1000 different ways.

Emotional effects:

These sounds don’t have to be real, they don’t let us hear what’s happening, but they let us feel what’s happening. Meaning, it is not the Dog’s bark, but the feeling that dog gives us.


Another way for creating tension and drama in your sound design is the power of contrast.  Using it effectively is all about emphasising the shift between different perspectives or scenes for dramatic effect. A good example for contrast in sound design is the movie Pitch black (2000).


Pitch Black (2ooo)

Some tips for effective use:

Hard cuts:

Use hard cuts in your audio to emphasise a sudden change. This change cn be a different camera angle, scene or even an event in your narrative.

Level changes:

Another tool to emphasise camera perspective changes is experimenting with volume. An airplane that passes from a far distance will have a low sound volume. Suddenly changing the levels to a higher volume without a change of the perspective will still grab the audience’s attention!


The easiest way to create contrast is silence. Creative use of silence also helps accentuating drama in the work by creating a space, where emotive music and sound effects are cut out. A great example for using silence in movies is Lord of the rings: The two towers (2002)


Lord of the Rings : The two towers


An audiovisual piece of art is often underestimated. The sounds which are hearable in movies and games are often taken for granted. But these are created in multiple complicated proceses by sound designers, sound recordists, dialogue editors, mixers and composers.

External sources




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.