The 5-Second Method: How to Practice Sound Design with Minimal Effort
While I'm definitely more of a dog person, I do love a good lynx.
They have a cool name, are super cute and fierce looking, and are even a main character in Chrono Cross, the greatest JRPG of all time (don't even try to say otherwise).
But did you know that they regularly go on 2000+ mile journeys entirely on foot? Scientists think it's to find new pockets of prey to hunt, but sometimes they'll go on these mysterious journeys even when food is plentiful where they're currently at. No one is really sure why they go through such a monstrous effort.
And when it comes to our work as sound designers, it often feels like we're on a 2000 mile trek of our own when we're practicing our sound design. The common ways of working on our craft are so incredibly time consuming that we sometimes never even start. So, how can we ensure we get our practice in without feeling like we need to put in a constant and overwhelming level of effort?
When most people start down the path of sound design
They give themselves assignments that are gargantuan in terms of scope. Typically, we'll take a scene from a movie or a game, strip the original audio out, and completely redesign the sounds of that entire scene from start to finish.
Yes, this is extremely useful and a great assignment, but the effort, even for a 1-minute long clip, is usually enough to turn people off from doing this sort of work in the first place. Just creating and syncing the footsteps of one character can take days of work.
So while yes, doing this sort of work can be beneficial, it's often too daunting to do with any degree of consistency, so what should we do instead?
Instead, we should take 5 second clips
And redesign the sounds for those.
Yes, 5 seconds. No more.
This allows us to not only actually finish what we start, while allowing us to dive deep into a smaller aspect of sound design and have more fun. All this without the dread having hundreds of more sounds to create and sync up in the rest of the scene.
These 5 second clips can be from anything, too. Anime, games, movies, TV, you name it. Maybe you want to practice your laser sounds this week. Cool. Grab a 5 second clip from any sci-fi anime and go to town. Or maybe you want to work on a monster scream? Great, grab a 5 second clip from a horror movie and have some fun.
Being able to churn out a bunch of 5-second redesigns is drastically more useful in terms of upgrading our skill then slogging through a giant 3-minute re-design every 6 months. We have more fun, feel like we're making real progress, and can experiment to our heart's content.
"But Akash, you banana split on a hot summer's day," you ask "could I even put these 5 second clips on a demo reel?"
This is the only real downside of these 5 second redesigns: they don't present well on a standard demo reel. Just a 5 second clip on a minute-long reel isn't enough time for the viewer to really appreciate what you're doing, sound-wise.
But! They do present extremely well on social media. Posting 5 second redesigns of your work across Instagram and Twitter will go over very well. People can watch them quickly, have some fun, and see that you're consistently putting in the work, which will build trust among those looking to hire you.
So, as a reminder, here's what we covered
Typical sound redesign projects are a massive effort, and that alone can dissuade us from doing them
Doing 5 second redesigns can speed up our growth, while also being more fun and easier to complete
These quick clips don't present too well on demo reels, but do do very well across social media
I will happily accept a lynx as a birthday present
So unlike our good pal, the lynx
We don't need to constantly be putting insane amounts of effort into what we do. Sometimes, a consistent, simple, short, easy to complete task is better than the occasional monstrous task.
And if you'd like to start finding clips to use
You can download countless scenes off of YouTube using any YouTube downloader, and then editing them down to 5 second clips using Reaper, iMovie, DaVinci Resolve, or any other software of your choosing.
So long as you're not claiming to be the original sound designer, and you're clear that these are redesigns for educational/demo purposes, they're perfectly legal.
So start grabbing some 5-second clips
And get designing! Odds are you'll find this process to be a lot more fun than the typical longer clips as well. Have fun with it, experiment, and make a lot of trash. You'll grow so fast as a result.
And even if you are putting in the work every day
It can be tough to know which direction you should go with your time, effort, and energy.
That's why I've created two free courses to help you on your path to making a great career in the world of game audio. Just sign up here to get instant access to those courses, as well as free eBooks, sounds, exclusive articles, and more.