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   Training Review
   Sound Design
   Author: David Sonnenschein
   Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions
   Format: Instructional Book (218 pgs.)
   Topic: Sound Design for Cinema

   MSRP: $19.99
   For Special Price: Click Here

   Website: Michael Wiese Productions
   Read Sample: Click Here
   Release Dates:
July 1, 2001

   Review Date:
November 15, 2005
   Reviewed By: Jeremy Hanke
Final Score:

One of the least understood fields of expertise in either low-budget or big-budget filmmaking is the area of sound design. Because it is equally overlooked on both the high end and the low end, we on the ultra low end can gain the most benefit and even make our production quality superior to that of current Hollywood by mastering it.

What is sound design, you may ask? Sound design, to put it in a nutshell, is orchestrating all the sound elements that are not dialogue in your film. Often this doesn't even include music, but focuses, rather, on sound effects, ambience, and other forms of sound texture. Because audio quality has been so limited for so long in theaters, many producers simply wouldn't budget much money for the art of sound design, figuring that it had to overlap with the dialogue recorder or score composers roles. THX and Dolby 7.1 and other high end sound options are now available, but most films never come close to taking advantage of their abilities because of how under-utilized sound design is.

Mr. Sonnenschein points out that if sound design were given the same time as designing the lighting and cinematographical look, huge amounts of money would be saved in the making of films and the films themselves would be much more psychological. As I read that, I thought of two excellent examples of that: the gunshot in American Beauty and the rape sequence in A Time to Kill. Both sequences would have been costly to shoot and would have lost much of their psychological impact if they had been shown rather than heard!

Sound Design is foremost written to people who are looking to get into it as a career or are the types of directors that want to be responsible for all of the signature essences of their film (known as 'auteurs'). Because it's designed for audio people, I wanted to review this book and see how it relates to a director, especially a low-budget director that needs to be aware of all of these sorts of things because you're probably not going to be able to afford a sound designer who can do all these things at the type of budget most of us have to work at.

Mr. Sonnenschein has worked all over the world honing his craft of audio comprehension and design and, as such, he starts a little out there for a lot of us. However, once you get past the rather esoteric beginning, you'll find the rest of the book is actually pretty easy to understand. This does not mean that you'll be able to half-read this and get most of the content. No, you will need to focus on it. Even if you're an audio person by trade, Mr. Sonnenschein's writing style is not the type that you will just absorb like water, rather it is something you'll absorb slowly, as you allow it to soak in.

The tests and trials included in this book also do a nice job to help you comprehend the ideas and see how astute you are at paying attention to the sound canvas in your own world.

Depth of Information
There's a lot of information to be had, so long as you realize what the information is about. This is not a book to pick up if you want to know what level to record your dialogue with or how far back the shotgun mic should be placed. And while it does dovetail into music and sound score as point and counter point to the sound design, this is not its primary source of information. Where the depth comes in is in understanding how sound tapestry can truly change and add depth to your movie. How can an inverted sound effect give you a better audience response than an actual sound effect? How can a completely different sound effect work as a brilliant transition? (Just think of the scene in Fight Club where the Narrator's boss tosses a file folder in front of the Narrator, only to hear the sound of a water drop in a bathtub rather than the slap of paper on oak!)

Once you understand the work that's being delved into, you will find a lot of dense information and helpful ways of looking at the world of audio. As a director, I really found that this book made me think of my upcoming films in different ways-ways that specifically looked to capitalize on sound! After all, creative use of sound can really transform your film and it's a whole lot cheaper than $300,000 worth of pyrotechnics or $3 million dollars worth of futuristic special effects!

Interest Level
Once you get past the rather slow beginning, Sound Design does a pretty good job of keeping your interest level up for the most part. It uses inserts from sound designers from the Raiders of the Lost Ark to Terminator 2 to give real-world examples of where each of the topics in the book come into play. It also uses experiments that test your hearing and creativity to keep up the interest.

This is definitely a necessary book for any sound designer and/or director to have on his or her bookshelf, as the depth of information is excellent but a bit overwhelming for perfect retention. As such, you'll find yourself going back to the book again and again to refresh your memory or to explain what you're looking for to an assistant or (in the case of directors) to your sound designer.

Value vs. Cost
For just a under $20, Sound Design is an excellent investment. It's got enough information in to easily justify the cost at any level. If you're going into the world of audio and sound design, you should pick this up immediately. If you're a director, this would be a good investment because it'll get you thinking of both visual AND audio impact in the pre-production of your film, which will save you time and money.

Overall Comment
This is a quite a good book that focuses on the intricacies of sound design and inspires creativity and exploration. While it has a few areas that get a little scattered and a few slow parts, it stays consistently interesting and relevant enough to keep you through to the end…and has enough left in reserve to keep you coming back.

Depth of Information            
Attention Captivation            
           Value vs. Cost            
Overall Score           

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