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INTERVIEW: 10 Tips on Trailer Sound Design


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Had the pleasure to talk about what I do with A Sound Effect !

You can read the full interview here (I'm at the bottom):

I still feel weird posting my own interview, but there are a few tips I wanted to share. I feel they can be applied to anything really ;)


ASF: Any essential advice for working and making it in trailer sound design?

KP: I think it all starts by being very curious and having a taste for high production value.

The following tips really helped me get my s*** together:

1) Understanding function. Why was that sound used there? Did they change anything around it to make it pop out? Does it serve multiple purposes (creating sonic depth, emphasizing a title card, ending a musical passage, contrasting with the previous narrow stereo field, etc…)

2) Be organized! Learn how to name files properly and consistently. Batch edit samples to save time. Select only the best samples so you don’t waste your time browsing later on.

3) Tunnel vision is the enemy. Work fast and efficiently. If you’re spending more than 5 min on a sound, you’re probably doing it wrong. Save multiple versions. V02 might be better than V17. Take frequent breaks. Listen to multiple references. Try to maintain a flow state.

4) Provide value to your friends and clients. Don’t write a novel in your emails. Don’t waste their time by sending un-mixed samples. Surprise them with free material from time to time. Make it look sexy — visuals matter. A bit of artwork goes a long way!

5) Have high standards. Compare your work to the best sounding trailers. Even if you’re only 60% there, that’s probably better than if you hadn’t compared it at all.

6) Be useful first, original second. Remember that you are providing tools to enhance the narrative. Try to think about what storytellers need. It doesn’t always have to be an incredibly unique sound like the SW II Asteroid Bomb. 99% of the sounds you hear are generic.

7) Less is more. “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It’s also easier to mix for you… and for the dubbing mixer.

8) Don’t narrow your field of study. Film, orchestration, physics, acoustics, dubstep, psychology, psycho-acoustics, even Photoshop concepts can be directly applied to trailer sound design.

9) The answers are often in front of you. Synth presets can teach you so much if you take the time to reverse engineer them. You can also hear each layer in a hit with a bit of ear training. Not sure which limiter is the most transparent? Download demos and try them all… or maybe play around with the release knob you never touched. You would be surprised how little people do all that.

10) Give Back. You can charge a fortune to corporations… and help out kids for free. You’re not devaluing yourself. Also, what’s a better business card than an excellent free sound design pack with your name on it?​
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