Also known as: Audio designer, Sound engineer, Supervising sound editor
Sound designers create the soundscape for an animation. In animation, there are no natural sounds to work with (as there would be when filming live action) so everything sound in animation is created from scratch by sound designers.
Sound designers decide which sounds to use to create the right atmosphere and communicate the story and characters to the audience. They discuss with the director the kind of effect they want and then find creative ways to achieve this.
They might create sounds from scratch on the computer, known as synthesis, or record real life sounds to use, known as foley. Foley often involves recording one sound to use it as something else. For example, the sound of frying bacon can be used as a rain sound effect. They also use layering, combining multiple sounds to create one new one.
Animation sound designers need to be highly imaginative, especially when designing what a fantasy creature or environment might sound like and in term of how to produce those sounds.
Sound designers edit their chosen sounds and, using timecodes given to them by the director, put them into the film. They work to tight deadlines in post-production, determined by the delivery dates of the project. They are usually freelancers.
Supervising sound editors work directly with the filmmakers to structure and advise on schedules and creative styles. They liaise closely with the picture editor. They build the team of editors responsible for creating the films sound track. Supervising sound editors organise the effects (FX) and Foley recording sessions. The provide the creative input during the mix and ensure the final mix and various versions are delivered.
Sound effects editors work closely with the sound designer and supervisor. They create backgrounds using specific sounds, such as clocks, wind, birdsong, cars passing. They create the ambience that can be altered to work with the dialogue and music.
Dialogue editors are responsible for editing the recordings of the script and synchronising this with the animation.
Bigger studios might have specific Foley artists who create sounds such as footsteps, squeaking doors or breaking glass.
Music editors determine where music is needed in the film and the style and purpose of the music. Sound designers will collaborate with them to make sure their sound effects work well with the music being written by the composer.
To become a sound designer, you might either train in audio recording, or take a broader film production degree and specialise in sound. To get a job in sound design it is crucial to demonstrate high levels of both technical and creative skill. It’s worth applying for a place in the sound department on ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme.
At school or college:
A-levels or Highers in music will equip you for this role. If you can do film studies too, it will contribute to your understanding of creating sound for film.
Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will help you:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. Even if you can’t get an apprenticeship in animation, a relevant apprenticeship in a related industry could help you develop your craft and create a body of work for a portfolio that you can use to find your way into animation at a later point.
These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:
In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Build a portfolio:
Learn sound design software, experiment with creating, recording, and editing sounds and start creating work that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Try to collaborate with filmmakers on short films. Go to build your sound portfolio to learn how. Watch ScreenSkills’ advice on animation showreels for help and inspiration.
Get a degree:
Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in animation that specialises in sound design. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the animation industry.
Look outside the industry:
Sound designers are needed in industries outside of animation including in live action film and TV and in games as well as in advertising. See if you can get work experience of a job in one of these fields and develop skills which you can later transfer to a job in animation.
Become a trainee:
Get onto ScreenSkills’ Trainee Finder scheme. Even if you are working on a live action movie, it will help you to get the skills, make contacts and learn how to work in sound.
Get work experience:
See if you can get a work experience placement in post-production on an animation. This will give you insight into what goes on in post-production and will help you to build connections.
Take a short course:
Hone your skills and improve your knowledge of sound design by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills and see if there is one in sound.
Get to know people in the animation industry by attending events. Meet producers, music editors and composers and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Search for jobs:
Research animation companies that you’d like to work for. Animation UK has a directory of animation companies. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for junior roles in sound design. You can also send in a speculative CV and ask employers to keep it on file so they can consider you if any suitable jobs come up. Search job websites for sound design roles and apply for positions.
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Involves making sequences on a computer that can't be created on set, like enormous crowds and fire-breathing dragons
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry