Arts & Entertainment

The Importance of Sound Design

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 12:52 min

Martin teaches you his approach to sound design: enter the editing room with the intention of cutting away sound instead of adding it. Learn how to create atmosphere with sound design, as well as how to use sound to solve editing problems.

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Topics include: Sometimes Simple Is Best • Stand by What You Want • Don't Underestimate the Importance of the Mix • Create Mood and Atmosphere With Sound Design • Using Sound to Solve Problems • Low-Budget Sound Design


When films were first created, two things, actually three things were expected and looked forward to and experimented with. That was sound, color, and 3-D. And you can go back to the very beginnings of film and you'll see examples of that, people trying constantly. So sound is something that's very natural, of course. And that compliments the medium, right? Compliments it. Sound, or lack thereof, you know? And so the sound design could be anything. And again, has to come from I think, one vision or-- and best as possible. Combined with those around that vision who adhere to it, who feel similarly about it, and are all on the right track to expressing it. [MUSIC PLAYING] The sound of design has developed into a situation where because the technology is there, because there are so many choices, because there's so many things you could do in the mixing room, people use it. And I think they are using it because they could use it, rather than it should be used. And so you know, I'm always told that a 5.1 then there's a 7.1. I said, how many-- how much more sound could you have in a film in a theater? But there are certain films, I would think, or the majority of the films that are being made in the big budget pictures have a sound design that an audience, kind of now, in a theater, I would think, expects in a way. I find that when I go into the mixing room with Tom Fleischman and our crew, I find that I start stripping away the sounds for many films that we worked on. And I find that group I worked with, Tom Fleischman and everybody, do an incredible job. But technically, at times, I know that I'm told, yes, that dialogue is clear. It may be clear, but it's not registering. And it's being covered or being kind of immersed in a sense of sound. And so I try to clear away as much as possible. But again, films that are spectacles, so to speak, or the fantasy films or the films that are in 3-D, and IMAX-- and yeah, the sound is a-- sound has always been a very special part of a presentation of a film or a play or anything in history to an audience, you know? But we're in danger, here, of expecting a certain kind of treatment of sound that isn't necessary. Let's just go with what's necessary. [MUSIC PLAYING] Everything is set up to go against you, so to speak, because there are ways that people do things. And there are ways that the system works or there are ways that the technology works. And you know, if you are new and you come into a situation and say, I want this or I want that, they kind of know more than you do in terms of the technology. So there is a fine line where, even if they want to help, you may find that you have to be very firm about standing by what you want because sometimes people say, it just isn't done. Well, that's a good reason to do it. I think in Orson Welles and Greg Tolan, in Citizen Kane, I think he told-- I may be par...

About the Instructor

Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.

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Martin Scorsese

In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.

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