Introduction to Sound Design for Narrative Filmmaking

Short course


The idea of the ”sound designer” being responsible for creating a film’s soundtrack has been with us since the 1970s when Walter Murch first received the credit on Apocalypse Now. But the potential of sound for storytelling and its relationship to other aspects of a film’s production is often ignored in favour of a largely technical approach.

In this 4-day practical workshop, we deconstruct the soundtrack exploring how each component of sound expresses character, place and story, and how the practical application of these concepts positions the audience in relation to the screen and the narrative. In effect, the soundtrack allows the filmmaker - and the story - to ‘speak’ to the audience. The talks and exercises will help you become aware of how the soundtrack should be part of an organic collaboration of all aspects of a film production and allow you to re-evaluate sound design merely as a post-production process.

The course is aimed at those with experience of sound or music (in film or other media) who want to take their technical knowledge into a more creative understanding of how sound works with image. It is as relevant for directors, writers and producers as for sound designers, editors and composers.

A working knowledge of ProTools is required.

The course will cover:

  • What is sound design?
  • The relationship between the soundtrack and the image and that relationship’s affect on the audience.
  • The component layers of a soundtrack - dialogue, atmosphere, sound effects - their function and how the audience perceives them.
  • Writing for sound: The script as a source of inspiration for sound, the text acting as a stimulus for interpretation.
  • Recording, editing and mixing: Looking at the soundtrack from pre-production to the final mix. (As French sound designer, Daniel Deshays, says, “Sound design begins at the microphone.”)
  • Practical exercises experimenting with the ways sound defines space, off-screen action, character, mood, emotional colour and the world of the film.
  • The relation between sound, music, editing and story.
  • The soundtrack as the result of creative collaboration.
  • Where ideas for the soundtrack originate.
  • Using techniques from other art forms in creating a soundtrack.
  • Comparing sound in fiction, documentary and animation.

The workshop is led by Larry Sider, who since 1998 has run the School of Sound, a forum exploring the creative use of sound in the arts and media.  He was for thirty years a sound designer and editor known for his work in documentary, animation and fiction, having created the tracks for Patrick Keiller’s London, Robinson in Space and Robinson in Ruins, the Quay Brothers’ Street of Crocodiles and Institute Benjamenta and Dave McKean’s Mirrormask. He leads the Sound Recording and Design MA at Goldsmiths and was previously Head of Post-Production at the NFTS. Most recently, he was a co-creator of the European Postgraduate in Arts in Sound (EPAS). He lectures at film and art schools in Europe and the UK.

Freelance Rate: £775

Corporate Rate: £1450

Fees and funding options

Fees for this course are as follows:

As part of our work to diversify the screen industry workforce, there is reduction in fees of up to 50% made available by our partnership with the BFI for freelancers with disabilities, who are ethnically diverse or from lower socio-economic backgrounds

Please state ‘APPLYING ADDITIONAL BFI FUNDING’ at the end of your Why do you want to attend?’ statement in order for your submission to be considered

How to apply

Application deadline:

If you experience any problems making your application please contact us 01494 677 903