Sound Designer David Whitehead Visits VFS

By VFS Web Team, on May 25, 2012

Renowned Sound Designer David Whitehead recently stopped by VFS to give a special guest lecture to our students in the Sound Design for Visual Media program. Current Sound Design student Laura Titchner recapped the lecture for us.
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Guest Post ByLaura Titchner
Last week, students from the Sound Design program had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by prominent sound designer, David Whitehead. David has worked on numerous films, including The Adventures of Tintin, District 9, The Lovely Bones, and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. He shared a few helpful tips on how to be a great sound designer and provided us with some insight on how to become successful in the industry.
First, David showed us some short clips from several of his films that feature interesting sound design moments, including King Kong, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Water Horseand D-War. He told us how he achieved many of the sounds he demonstrated, from what he recorded for the source audio to the effects that he used to get the final sounds.
[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"3477","attributes":{"class":"media-image alignright size-full wp-image-24351","typeof":"foaf:Image","style":"","width":"220","height":"147","title":"David Whitehead Lecture","alt":""}}]]On District 9, David was responsible for creating the alien language used in the film. He was given the alien's dialogue in English and then constructed a new word or phrase to replace each of the existing words. To achieve the vocalization of this new language, he created sounds using various objects, such as vegetables and toys to replace all vowels and consonants. To accomplish the natural variation that occurs when we speak, David recorded 40 to 50 different instances of each sound that could be interchangeable. Finally, all of these sounds were edited together to create the words used in the film.
David stressed that, as a sound designer, it is very important to record your own source material as this will give your film its own original voice. He told us to make the most of every sound we record by processing it in numerous ways and to build up our personal sound libraries. Another tip he shared was that when filling a room, start with the sounds you believe to actually be present and then make your design based on those sounds.
To conclude his lecture, David gave us some tips on how to break into the film industry and shared some of the skills and qualities he looks for when hiring someone to work with him.
Thanks to David for sharing his expertise and thanks to Laura for the recap!