What do you do when it sounds wrong and you don’t know why? Or to give some possible scenarios: do you ever find that when you are designing sound, you just can’t work out an approach that is going to work, or you just aren’t ending up with the result that you had anticipated, or perhaps you thought you had nailed it but it just isn’t working at all in context, and after a few iterations you find yourself in a rut scratching your head wondering where you went wrong and how to fix it?
This is a situation I find myself in regularly, and while I have obviously come up with some approaches of my own to try to overcome it, it can be stressful, frustrating and really get me down. For me personally, my lack of experience (having jumped straight in the deep end of sound design 3 short years ago) has certainly left some massive gaps in my abilities, and the fact that I work solo probably doesn’t help. Sadly I sometimes end up so stuck, and on deadlines, that I end up shipping sounds which I know are way off but I simply didn’t have the time or ability to fix.
So, of course there are some specific areas in which I’m aware I need to develop my skills and hopefully in time get into this situation less often, but I’ll leave seeking advice on these specifics to future posts.
For now, I’m just interested in any general discussion, even for the experienced veterans around: do you ever find yourself in a similar situation, or have you found that with experience (and developed professionalism) comes the ability to avoid it? If you do experience times of ‘it sounds wrong and I don’t know why’, what do you do about it?
As Tim said, time management is key. It’s important to break down the project into different steps, and then figure out what the most difficult steps would be. Often, it would be the things that you have little to no experience with.
If I find that I’m stuck, can’t get any ideas, or don’t feel like what I’ve done works, there are two things that I do. One is distracting myself with something else, and allowing my subconscious to work the problem.
This could involve things like:
– Going to the gym (this works wonders in my case)
– Tidying up
– Reading a book
– Playing an intense video game (usually a shooter, like PUBG, which requires your complete and undivided attention)
Additionally, I’ll look at other similar works for inspiration. If you’re working on a film, for example, figure out if you’ve seen a similar scene somewhere else, and revisit that film. What did they do? How did they do it? Did it work? Can something similar work in your case as well?
I hope this helps!
As Victor said, taking a break helps re-engage your objectivity and I’ve found it doesn’t even need to be a long break – I used to go have a game of ping pong at my neighbours studio if stuck… Upon returning it would usually only take one listen to identify the core of the issue…
Another method that can help is time management. Identifying difficult or subjective sounds early on in a project is important as they are the sounds which will benefit the most from director feedback and iteration. You don’t have to dive straight into the deep end with the most difficult sounds, but they should be attempted early in the schedule. A failed or underwhelming attempt can lead to a better approach…. I also believe in letting your subconscious have time to work on difficult issues – sometimes it is worth working on difficult material into the evening, then go to sleep with the problematic material in your mind. By the following morning your subconscious may well have come up with some new solutions.
Hey Craig. That happens a lot and what always helps me is to take a break to clear my mind, rest my ears and then try again. There are times where inspiration is not around, and others where all you need to do is step away for a bit, relax and get back to it. I usually find myself trying to perfect a sound that don’t necessarily need to be perfected only to find out that the sum of all layers doesn’t fit well in the story. It’s common to put loads of effort into one sound and forget about the whole context. Another approach you could try is by filtering specific frequencies to check what’s annoying you rather than restarting everything. I hope that helps. Cheers.