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  • Writer's picturerebecca mcinroy

Sound Design

Over the weekend I was working on putting together a promo for a summer listening list for SEE YOU NOW, an incredible podcast I produce with J&J and ANA and the amazing Shawna Butler. Since COVID I really haven’t gotten out in the field to record sound for audio pieces. It’s all been recording over Zoom or whatever platform we’re using and then editing and mixing the piece in my studio.

But I thought, hey, this is for summer, how fun would it be to go down to Barton Springs in Austin, TX and get some sounds of people playing in the water, dogs barking, ladies selling ice creams and ambiance of the day.

In the end, I used a mix of sound I had gathered and layered it with some free sound effects from a great site called Free Sound Library.

There are a lot of sound effects libraries online and as I was just searching this morning to write this post I found another one I can’t wait to check out BBC Sound Effects.

You need to be a bit careful when using sound effects in a piece, not only because of where they come from but because the ethics of sound design is crucial to making meaningful, effective, and trustworthy audio pieces; it’s important to think about especially when you’re just starting out. Why?

You are painting a picture for someone when you are designing a sound landscape, and that is a powerful thing. So powerful in fact that it was used as a weapon of war as Helena Bonham Carter describes in the episode Ghost Army on the BBC podcast History’s Secret Heroes.

So, you can be pretty creative and manipulative with your sound design, but if you are creating a piece for the news or a piece where you are talking about a sound or an event where your sound design is being used more in line with a quote than an effect you need to make sure that quote is attributed correctly.

There is a lot you can check out on the ethics of sound design. For example, Towards and Ethics fo Creative Sound and Ethical Guidelines for Editing Audio. And there is a lot more to discuss on that topic, like many years of graduate school worth, but being someone who produces a lot of creative promotional work, along with historical documentaries, news pieces, etc. the rule for me is, don’t lie with your sound, and if it feels dishonest it probably is.

Okay so enough on ethics. Here are a couple of cool shows I listened to recently that inspire me as a storyteller, editor, and sound designer! I hope you like them, and I hope you’re having a blast making your audio pieces; it should be fun. Knock Knock: 200 Years of Sound Effects and Dramatic Beats.

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