Sound Design for Film

Published by Crowood Press in August 2021

Sound Design for Film offers an in-depth study of one of cinema’s most powerful storytelling tools, exploring the creative landscape and proposing a variety of contemporary approaches to audio design.

Opening up a hidden world of narrative techniques, experienced designer Tim Harrison provides key insights into how sound works on audiences to guide them through stories.

Topics covered include:

  • The creative process from script to delivery
  • Visualizing your design ideas
  • Developing characters and settings
  • Using motif and metaphor
  • Recording foley and sound effects
  • Editing and manipulating audio
  • Supervising and collaborating
  • The final mix

Supported by illustrations and practical activities, as well as perspectives from highly acclaimed designers, the text offers a set of key frameworks within which to think about film sound and tackle design challenges. Serving as a tool for creative reflection and development, this unique book offers invaluable approaches for enhancing your storytelling skills, wherever you are on your filmmaking journey.

A free online tool accompanies the book, enabling designers to visualize their narrative ideas from script stage through to the mix.

Centring around sound worlds as a way to draw out and develop narrative themes, the tool allows you to create timelines that explore story shapes and charts to compare contrasting aesthetics.

Features include:

  • Quadrant charts that associate aesthetic qualities with each sound world
  • Timelines to map foreshadowing, motif and turning points
  • Animations that show the rise and fall of narrative themes through the story


One of the many hats a sound designer must wear is that of the sonic alchemist, performing mysterious operations to radically transform sounds from one thing into another. This mode of design is particularly useful for stories which reach beyond the world of everyday reality, creating strange new zones for an audience to inhabit.

The book covers a number of these transformative techniques, including the one in this video. It involved 50m metres of spun piano wire, with a transducer attached to one end of the wire, allowing us to send audio through the sculpture. Contact mics and geophones were placed at different points along the wire’s path, recapturing the sounds at different stages of the transformative journey.

World Building

Ways of expanding the scope and depth of the story world are also explored, including this example from Censor (2021).

During development for the film, which called for many off-screen 'films within the film' supposedly made in the 1980s, we created a series of short fictional scenarios of dialogue, music and sfx, using vintage technology.

This approach of creating libraries of artefacts from within the film world, can help to immerse both filmmakers and audience more deeply within the story.


Where To Buy

The book can be ordered into your local bookshop, purchased direct from the publisher or from a wide array of online retailers.

Publisher: ‎ The Crowood Press Ltd (10 Aug. 2021)
Paperback‏: ‎ 176 pages
ISBN: 978-1785009143