This article has been written using my real-world experience of developing sound design and intro videos for Black Hole Recordings, the legendary Dutch record label founded by DJ Tiësto and Arny Bink in 1997. During my sound design career I created around 15 sound libraries for companies such as Loopmasters, Samplephonics, Output, SoundMorph, Arturia, Twisted Tools, Audio Imperia, Impact Soundworks and my own label Mask Movement Samples. My music and sound design has been featured in ad campaigns and projects for M-Audio, Lensbaby, OFFF Festival, Camus and Gullsnitt. These are just a few highlights from my career that might help and motivate you.
Understanding of the “mood” of sound that you need for the intro video is the first important starting point. It must be fundamental for all your future steps. It's also important to agree your vision with the client and move in this direction. In this particular project for Black Hole Recordings we decided to move with a mix of trailer / cinematic sounds and electronic elements to describe main factors:
It's as simple as this. Choose a few main factors that will help to follow the mood and then feel free to express yourself as a sound design artist. Do not be afraid to experiment, and be on the same page at the same time.
It's totally up to you which sound you want to choose for your mood. Whether it's your own original recording or sound from royalty-free sample packs. I usually prefer to use my own sounds or create custom sets of sounds for particular project. But I also use a few sounds from royalty-free sample packs from my friends or labels. A few third-party sounds can be remixed, pitched, saturated or filtered and can give an additional "uniqueness" to your own style. Also, it’s good to mix electronic sounds with organic field recordings. For example the sound of heavy cinematic hits or synths with real sounds of fire, explosion or electricity. If you have a team – this is also good. In this project I had an opportunity to co-operate with Kris O'Neil who contributed layers of pulsing synth sounds and rising SFX which gave additional "progressive / trance" feel to sound design.
The most important part now is how to mix your sound. Don't forget about high standards. Just like in music production: proper equalization, compression, reverberation. Once you have a draft, feel free to play with effects. Try some variations. Get back on the main concept (mood) and do it again. Ask yourself if you are really happy with your mixdown, ask your colleagues (music producers or sound designers) for advice if you need it. Use panning for sounds. Panning always helps to make your sound design alive.
Imagine how visual elements in the video go from left or right side or stay in the center.... when objects on the screen are closer to the left side, highlight this part a bit more with planning to the left: if it's on the right, vice versa. Let’s say the other sound is somewhere in the background — now add some more reverb to describe this moment. Sound design is an art to describe movements and feelings on the screen. Try to live for a moment with the video and feel it from the inside.
I'm trying to be original even if I have a reference for sound design. For example, in this particular project for Black Hole, I didn't have any reference so I had more freedom. But at the same time I needed to follow the style of the brand and create sound that will represent the brand on the audio level, even if I have my own style and vision. I am thinking how fans of the label will accept it, how they will react. In other words, if this is a progressive or trance music label, you can't create sound design with too many elements of drum & bass or techno. You can use some of them, but don’t go too far, make sure that you are going in the right direction that will be accepted by the audience of the brand.
Communication is also an important element in avoiding misunderstanding. Try to build friendly partnerships, but don't forget who is the boss, because at the end of the day you can’t jump over his head and lose it. I would suggest you split roles and responsibilities. Do not be afraid to ask what he wants and tell him what you can do. Or just ask what he doesn't want to hear in sound design, and it will also help to avoid senseless sounds and elements in your track. Try to prove that you are the high-quality, specialist professional who knows this craft well.
Besides sound design, I am also the creative director and visual artist in this intro video. We made it with additional help from Vlad Olareanu, who helped with modeling and additional texturing on the early stages. I am just trying to say that I was the guy who was responsible for visual concept, so I had more freedom and ability to change the visual part myself in cases when I felt that it would work with the sound design. But even if your craft is sound design only, and you have some ideas for creative director of the project – share it with him, and if you think a video needs a tiny additional montage or visual effects that will perfectly work together with sound – tell them about it. Do not press, just some thoughts for thinking. A little bit of enthusiasm can help, especially if project still in progress. Creative cooperation between artists is key to success for the team.
Oh yes, and don't forget about mastering. This term is also accepted in the sound design world. It will help to balance all your frequencies and set the right volume level and dynamics for on the final stage of your creative process!