The art of sound design is often overlooked in the filmmaking process, but in Julien Surdeau’s latest short film Alterify, it takes center stage. The 3-minute singular short film, which won awards for best sound design, tells a twisty sci-fi plot and a travelling love story in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this article, Surdeau shares his insights on how he used sound design to immerse the viewer in the story and create a sense of narrative consistency.
When Surdeau began working on Alterify, he spent days watching stock footage videos, looking for footage that could serve his narrative. As he edited and wrote the script, he used computer-generated voices to punctuate the edit and get an idea of the final cadence. But it was important for him to get professional voice actors to record the final voices. The story was still evolving depending on his findings, and sound design played a crucial role in shaping it.
“I wanted to use sound to create a sense of continuity and consistency throughout the film,” Surdeau explains. “I used the computer-generated voices during the editing process to guide the viewer through the different scenes and give them a sense of the larger narrative. But the final voices were recorded by professional voice artists that I contacted through the internet, we worked together from a distance, this was part of the sound design as well, being able to put voices together without even meeting the actors in real life.”
The film’s sound design also helps to immerse the viewer in the story. By using sound effects and music to create a sense of tension and atmosphere, Surdeau is able to transport the viewer to the world of Alterify. “I wanted the sound design to be integral to the film, so that the viewer would feel like they were in the story,” he says.
The COVID-19 pandemic also played a role in the film’s sound design. Surdeau explains that the pandemic forced him to work remotely and with limited resources, which affected his creative choices. “It was a challenge to create the sound design without being able to record any new sounds,” he says. “But I think it helped me to be more creative and resourceful with the sounds that I had. And also to work remotely with voice actors was a new experience, but it worked well.”
Overall, Alterify is a testament to the power of sound design in filmmaking. By using stock footage, computer-generated voices during the editing process, and professional voice actors, Surdeau was able to create a sense of narrative consistency and immerse the viewer in the story. The challenges of the pandemic also played a role in the film’s sound design, and it was a great opportunity for Surdeau to share his insights and techniques with other filmmakers looking to create effective sound design for their own work.