The Director’s Perspective – Sound Design
by Dave Kendall
Working on an independent television pilot can be like creating a multi-layered cake. When production wraps, the creative aspects of postproduction kick into full swing and you begin to see the fruits of your labor come together. While this phase can be very rewarding, it takes time, patience, and a dedication to see it through. Once we had finished production for Decktechs, we went straight to work on editing and in April of 2011 we had a picture lock. What this meant for us was that we could finally start working on the multitude of visual effects shots and begin tackling the intricacies of the pilot’s sound design.
Post sound design in itself has many facets. There is dialog editing, sound effects, sound synthesis, Foley sounds, automated dialog recovery (ADR), the musical score, and various instances of panning, blending and equalizing that coalesce to bring the picture to life. None of the aforementioned could have been handled without a strong post sound design team and we were fortunate enough to develop one. This was largely made possible through the efforts of SCAD sound design professor, Rob Miller, and his graduate level post sound design class. We approached Rob with this task early in April by pitching the project to him and his students. Two weeks later, the project had been approved through SCAD’s sound design chair, David Stone and the process began.
Rob decided that it made the most sense to divide the episode up into four reels that would coincide with each of the episode’s acts and then disperse supervising roles to each of his four students. These students would then be in charge of working with other sound designers that we had appointed ahead of time—some of which were working remotely from other states. The fact that we had uploaded the movie file and Pro Tools files to an FTP site allowed our designers to “work in the cloud” by accessing all of the content from the web.
Soon we were able to conduct spotting sessions to decide where and how certain sounds should be placed. As the director, this was the most enjoyable phase of the process as it allowed for me to articulate to the designers how sounds could be used to further tell the story. To put it simply, I wanted the sound design to act as its own character playing to the mood or meaning of any particular scene or story arc.
At this point in time, we are about halfway through the sound design and I am looking very much forward to the second half. This little article wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t thank the following individuals for putting so much time and effort into Decktechs: Professor Rob Miller, Professor David Stone, Nick Gough, Blake Johnson, Eric Berzins, Timothy Liedel, Pete Dupon, Robert Garvin, Brandon Neslund, Max Christman, Matt Klimek, and Sean Regan.