by Andrew Emge
Feeling inspired to create compelling work can be a serious obstacle for sound designers and audio professionals – especially when you’re on tight deadlines, tiny budgets, and juggling multiple projects. What do you do when you’re simply out of ideas?
We’ve talked to dozens of successful sound designers, sound editors and sound mixers about what inspires them and how they get work done day to day. Here are some of their best recommendations and tips for finding inspiration and getting those creative juices flowing again! We hope this inspires you and your team to do your best work.
"Every project starts as an endeavor to do something different, tell a new story or tell a well-known story from a unique perspective. Once you’ve honed in on WHY you’re making the sounds - not WHAT sounds to make, but WHY - you start to build a context or an inspiration for every future choice you make for the project."
"Life experiences. I am constantly analyzing my sense of hearing and how I might replicate such feelings and moments with my sound design work. I believe that in order to explore new realms of sound design, one must find inspiration outside of the medium they contribute to."
Michael O'Connor – Sound Designer / Editor / Mixer, Freelance
Also pictured in the main image of this post - thanks Michael!
"Lately I’ve been comparing mixing to sculpture...Starting with an undefined chunk of material and carving out the unimportant parts to direct attention and define meaning, rather than simply piling on hoping to make something cool. It’s a little tougher with sound design because a lot of the time you really are creating something out of nothing, but I do find it helpful when I’m falling into a trap of throwing a lot of stuff on a lot of tracks...I take a step back to figure out what I can get rid of. It almost always yields something, if only a better direction."
"Seek out the wisdom and experience of other content creators. Some of my go-to sources include SoundWorks Collection, the Beards, Cats and Indie Game Audio podcast, and Designing Sound. Learning how other folks do things makes me wonder how I can adapt or tweak those methodologies to my own workflow."
"If I’m having trouble hearing it in my head when I first look at it, I’ll sometimes play a scene and literally vocalize what seems right, trying different approaches until I find a fit. Once I hear it in my head, I figure out how to get it into my tracks by searching the library for sounds and the right processor(s) to help it along. Often, I end up in directions I never would have anticipated."
"Most inspiration is process based. I like changing how/where/when I do things. I try and live life first. Sound design is an amazing career and art form but there are things that are much more important...It’s not that you can’t fail. Just fail early and often. Always try things, they might not work but that’s okay. My sound design has become a zen state to me. I don’t think, I just do."
"Noodling with a synth or going to town on some field recordings or samples with some brutal effects plugins can trigger ideas that are inspiring and worth developing. You’ve got to get your hands dirty and experiment."
"I find inspiration from movies, mostly. There are so many talented people doing such good work these days that most everything I see in the theater sounds spectacular. When Mad Max came out I had it on repeat during construction of our new studio – I probably watched it 10 times. The 5.1 mix is really fun."
What are your go-to tricks for finding inspiration, stimulating creativity, and overcoming designer's block? Let us know in the comment section below!