The Scope of Sound Design for Film

The more I look into post-production sound design for film the more I realise the immensity of the work that has to be done for it.  According to IMDb (2016) 40 people were in the sound team for post-production on the latest Marvel film, Doctor Strange (2016), and that list won’t include the countless family and friends who volunteered to act as crowds or on the day helpers for recording sounds.

The three main areas to cover in post-production sound design are Dialogue, Foley, and Effects, which are usually split into many sub-categories such as ambiences, body falls, doors, weapons and many others.

In dialogue there is often a fair amount of automatic dialogue replacement (ADR) which has to be done when the dialogue recorded on set is not good enough to use for the final production; perhaps a plane has flown over while the actor is talking or the location itself didn’t allow for the desired sound recording. ADR is often done from inside a vocal booth in the studio where the actor will watch the scene back and reproduce their performance vocally to match the take on screen.

foley artist footsteps.jpg
Foley artist recreating footsteps for a film (

Foley is the part of sound effects that relate specifically to the body or anything that must be recorded in time with a specific performance. Foley artists must reproduce the sound that comes from actors’ movements on screen. Often these sounds are not replicated literally but other objects are used to create a sound that matches what is expected from the visual.

Ambience effects relate to anything that is in the background of the soundscape. For example, weather effects (wind, rain), crowd noises, animal noises (birds chirping). Body falls, doors, and weapons are all self explanatory, however the way in which these sounds are captured, as in foley, may not be a literal replication of the way they were produced on set. Often the best sounds come from another source and sometimes the sound may be coming from an other worldly creature or place. This is where sound designers can get creative. Sometimes whole new sounds can be made using audio effects such as delay, compression and equalisation, it is often a combination of these techniques that create some of the most special effects that we hear in modern movies.


Internet Movie Database. (2016) Doctor Strange (2016) – Full Cast & Crew. Retrieved from


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