Exploring Music Composition and Sound Design

Exploring Music Composition and Sound Design for Documentary Film
Development through Post-Production

In a visual world, with tight budgets and an emphasis on delivering stunning images shot on HD the questions is often “what camera will you use?” and “who’s shooting your film?” Less often do we hear “what did you use to mic that?” or “Who’s doing sound?” Documentary filmmakers often forget to consider sound design as part of their development process, completely overlooking the impacts and benefits it can have on their projects. Often location sound isn’t thought through, is left as an afterthought or captured haphazardly by the director or DP – sometimes it’s even captured by whatever mic happens to be on the camera. Music and Sound Design are last to be considered and Foley is something that is left to the world of drama.

Are we missing opportunities?

If we are, is it because we feel like sound is something we can dispense with, or because we don’t know how to properly utilize or approach sound design? Often poorly captured location sound leads to more costs in post or re-shoots or unusable interviews. Often a music composer is hired at the end of the process and forced to rush. Often post-production sound is where we cut our budgets as production costs rise and we leave ourselves scrambling in the end. Often we don’t think about how sound design, including foley, can enhance a viewers experience and strengthen our productions.


Location Sound (choosing the right person & equipment for your project)
– What to expect?
– Deliverables and options in pre-production and production?
– If you have to DIY what are the repercussions and what should you know?
Music: Original Composition or Stock?
– Choosing the right composer and demystifying the relationship
– SOCAN contracts
– Creative relationship
– What to expect
– Composer’s process
– When should the work start
– Working with temp music
-Using stock or public domain music

What to Budget for Sound and Sound Design
– Where to save your pennies and where to spend
– Timeframe and expectation
– Explaining sound line items in a budget (what’s sweetening, what’s layback etc.)
– What does a mixer do and what do they need to work properly?

Foley sound – is it for documentary or strictly for drama?
– How can working with a foley artist enhance your production


Dennis Burke: Composer
Dennis is an internationally recognized, multi award-winning composer and sound designer for film and television. With over 100 titles to his credit, his work can be seen regularly on television, film festivals, commercial theatres, and galleries throughout the world. Dennis has been a professional musician for the last 30 years, performing throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.

Dennis’ research interests center on acoustic communication, psychoacoustics, and the dynamic relationships of sound with the moving image.

Dennis Burke has been an Associate Professor in Media Arts at Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver , Canada since 1987 and is currently serving as the Associate Dean of Curriculum, Degree Programs. Among his many activities at ECU Dennis has developed a series of courses that investigate the creative possibilities of sound in Design, Media, and Visual Art practice. http://www.dennisburkemusic.com/

Brandon Cherrington: Writer/Engineer
Brandon has been a professional audio engineer in Vancouver for the past 10 years. He has worked alongside such legendary producers as Andrew Loog Oldham (Rolling Stones), James Michael (Hilary Duff, Motley Crue), Jeff Saltzman (The Killers, Smash Mouth) and Mike K (Nelly Furtado, N’Sync). He has engineered for a wide range of artists, including Lillix, Wide Mouth Mason, Spirit of the West, Wyckham Porteous, Don Alder, House of Doc and The New Pornographers. Over the years, several of his album projects have been nominated for Western Canadian Music Awards as well as a Juno Award. As an accomplished musician too, Brandon has been working as a composer for visual related projects at Spirit Sound Post. Having forged his skills in teh world of music production, he has an impeccable sense of artistic quality with solid technical savvy. http://www.spiritsoundpost.com/Spirit_Sound/Brandon.html

Jon Ritchie: Location / Post-Production Audio
For over a decade, Jon has done award-winning sound work, both in the field and in the studio. His location work has taken him from the jungles of South America, to the steppes of Mongolia and many places in between. He also owns Black Dog Studios on Bowen Island and has edited and mixed audio on a wide variety of documentary and dramatic programs. http://www.blackdogsound.ca

Tim Runzer – Musician and Producer
Tim Runzer is a musician and producer, who cultivated extensive experience in music production and artist development in Vancouver before focusing on music scoring and sound design for film. He is currently the principal for Spirit Sound Post, which provides music scoring, sound design and mixing services. His clientele has ranged from independent production companies to larger entities including Sony and Discovery Channel. Special areas of interest include surround sound mixing and acoustic design.

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