Sound Design and Portfolios

Being a tech theatre major I have learned there are two main things that you need.  First is a specialized skill set, and second is a portfolio. For me the first thing has never been hard to figure out. I have loved running sound since I was a kid. The second part was a slight bit more difficult. Most techies work with physical things (i.e. sets, props, costumes.) being a sound designer and engineer is a little different though because I am working with things like digital sound files and sounds that you hear. So when my professors told me I need to start creating a sound portfolio I was slightly distraught on how to take these intangible items and present them in a way that allows me to explain my concepts to people who don’t know much about sound.

My first idea had been to create a website that others could visit and have all the information and sound files there. The problem that I had with this is that I could not afford to use a web site host, and I don’t have access to a server that I could have hosted my web site on my own. Not to mention the fact that I actually have no web design and creation background. So I kept brainstorming for ideas. The next idea I had was to create some simple presentations that people could click through. This was actually not a bad idea. The only issue is walking the line between sophisticated and crap. To help keep on the side of sophisticated I decided to use the hyperlink ability that Keynote has to help me gain a website feel.

To actually present my work I took 30 to 40 second clips of various tracks from the different shows I had worked on. Then created links to each of these on slides for each show. This allowed me to give a broad example of my concepts.

While at SETC this past weekend I was given the opportunity to show my portfolio to several experienced sound designers, and get feed back about how I can improve my portfolio. Overall everyone thought that I had accomplished the challenges of sound designers quite well. Most of the advice I received was just in the presentation of my material. They recommended that I add more photos or video, which is something that I have wanted to do, but just haven’t had an opportunity to get the images I need. They also talked to me about some paper work like speaker position layouts, channel hook-ups, and screen shots of programs and the multi-track works that I have created that would be a great addition.

Another idea for presenting my work that I saw one designer use was to create three to four minute soundscape clips that give an example of the entire play’s sound design. Though complex it gives a snippets of the atmospheres and moods created through out the show by the sound design.

Over the next several weeks I hope to use all of the information and feedback I gleaned from SETC, and the sound designers I met with, to boost my portfolio to a whole new level.


Can You Hear Me Now?

This was my first time at SETC, and I have to say I had a really great experience.  While I was there, I attended a lot of workshops that related to anything dealing with Sound Design.  Out of everything that I did at SETC, the workshops were the best things I could have attended because the information I gathered about portfolios, composition and even the art of sound designing itself was invaluable.
Sound portfolios, like costume, set and lighting portfolios are a representation of a designer’s work.  The only difference between sound portfolios and other portfolios, is that a sound designer’s work is “heard” as opposed to “seen”.  There are many ways that sound designer’s build portfolios.  Some use websites, DVD’s, and powerpoint or keynote presentations.  The form of the portfolio really depends on the designer, but any of the formats mentioned work well.  The main thing that was stressed –> to have a successful sound portfolio is pairing the sound with some kind of imagery.  Having pictures or video from shows gives the people your are presenting your portfolio to an idea of what the overall feel of the show was like.  It essentially adds another layer to the work you are presenting.
Most of the time, sound designing means finding music and sound effects that pair really well with the show.  Collaborating with the director, other designers and even actors is very helpful when trying to find music that fits the theme/mood of the show. Generally, sound designers pull music from various artists, a lot of designers however, also compose their own music for the shows.  It was stressed very heavily that the sound designers that get hired the most for different companies are the ones that have composition skills.  Therefore, if you are going to be a sound designer, you really need to be able to compose your own music.
Lots of information, lots of great ideas, and lots of fun! SETC was awesome, and I can’t wait for next year! 🙂

Guest Designer — Kate Pierson

We were honoured the last 3 weeks to have Kate Pierson in residence as our Guest Costume Designer.  Kate is a gifted Costumer Designer from the Northwest US and was willing to make the trip to Belhaven in the Deep south and collaborate with us on our current production of Juliet and her Romeo.

I wanted to share her design notes with you and a pictorial form of the costume plot for the show because I think it demonstrates what a challenge this show was to design and chart especially from a costuming standpoint and how a story and concept can be told and supported by the design elements of a production.  Enjoy.

Juliet & her Romeo — Designer Notes

How to dress 8 actors playing 25 roles that are changing in every scene?

Juliet & her Romeo has been one of the most challenging designs I have ever done due to the sheer complexity of the logistics of fitting many different sized bodies into one costume and still retain the believability of character and fluidity of movement for the play.

The first directives that were given to me consisted of ideas of exploration, movement and flight; I wasn’t bound by a time or place, or by a color palette that depicted familial ties (which is often used in costumes for Romeo & Juliet).  Combined with the complexity of the actor/scene/character changes I knew I had to find a style that would support the nature of the play as well as offer some flexibility of style…Steampunk occurred to me fairly early on.

I believed the romantic yet edgy nature of the steampunk style, which melds together the future with the past worked well with the multifaceted direction of the director’s vision.  Because any particular costume piece needed to be worn by several actors as well as be easily donned and doffed I gave them an industrial and romantic functionality to the costumes; using basic black dancewear as the background canvas, adaptable pieces such as coats and vests fronts and a wide range of accessories and costume props with lots of embellishment the costumes became useful tools to help identify the characters.


is a sub-genre of science fictionalternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s.[1] Specifically, steampunk involves an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century and often Victorian era Britain—that incorporates prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy. Works of steampunk often feature anachronistictechnology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them; in other words, based on a Victorian perspective on fashionculturearchitectural styleart, etc. This technology may include such fictional machines as those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne or real technologies like the computer but developed earlier in an alternate history.

Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” for such technology as dirigiblesanalog computers, or such digital mechanical computers as Charles Babbage‘sAnalytical engine.

Steampunk is often associated with cyberpunk. They have considerable influence on each other and share a similar fan base, but steampunk developed as a separate movement. Apart from time period and level of technology, the main difference is that steampunk settings tend to be less dystopian.

Various modern utilitarian objects have been modded by individual artisans into a pseudo-Victorian mechanical “steampunk” style, and a number of visual and musical artists have been described as steampunk.


Again Thank you to Kate and all her hard work and effort in collaborating and helping us produce this production.  Please forgive me for the cell phone photos of the renderings they really are beautiful!

Juliet and Her Romeo – Director’s Note

Marie Warner and Scott Gaines perform the final scene in Juliet and Her Romeo

Marie Warner and Scott Gaines perform the final scene in Juliet and Her Romeo

I’m not usually one who likes to write director’s notes, but given the nature of our production’s experiment, it was necessary to give the audience a bit of a glimpse into our reason’s for the style of our presentation…

Romeo and Juliet is quite simply one of the most popular plays of the English language.  It has been a crowd-pleaser since its initial presentation by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in the late 1590s, and has been performed countless times all over the globe.  The story, drawn from elements of the Pyramus and Thisbe story in Ovid’s Metamorphosis and the feud between the Montechi and Cappaletti families mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy, has inspired innumerous artworks, musical pieces, ballets, operas, plays, films, anime, and even a recent version of the tale created via Twitter feed.  The tragedy of the star-crossed lovers has become so ingrained in the global culture that the image of the balcony scene and even the names of the characters are synonymous with young romantic love.

We have called our production of the play Juliet and Her Romeo for several reasons; to separate this production from a traditional staging of the play, because those are the last four words of the text, and the re-arrangement of the original title provided an opportunity to re-examine the relationship of the title characters.  It is in the spirit of this third reason that we formulated the ‘experiment’ of this production.

The experiment was to take a play as iconic as Romeo and Juliet, and discover a way to break it down into its individual parts, to allow an audience the opportunity of examining those parts (the scenes) in a unique way, by attempting to treat each scene individually.  This led to the decision to cast each of the scenes of the play individually, to have our eight actors constantly switching roles from scene to scene – someone playing Juliet may be the Nurse next, followed by Lord Capulet.  Since each scene was to be treated individually, through rehearsal, we discovered that there were some scenes where a sense of pluralism, through having multiple actors play a single part at once, provided another layer to the scene.  Creating a unique experience and view for each scene also led to our decision to alter the seating arrangement several times during the show, to physically change the point of view during the course of the performance.

This production would not be possible but through the brave and gracious efforts of the cast, crew, designers, technicians, artists and servants listed in the program.  It is our sincere hope that our hard work will be a blessing to you, and bring glory to our God.

Joseph Frost

Chair of Theatre

Director, Juliet and Her Romeo

New Semester, New Opportunities

Well, this semester started with many changes,  but as we examine the changes and trials God brings our way we are starting to see the silver lining and the new opportunities this is opening up for us.  In regards to the show we started everything a week behind due to some unplanned water shortages and school closure so we were in a scramble to catch up.  But in our desperation and weakness God has opened some new doors to work with new people and renew some old acquaintances.

Thankfully a former student has returned to fill in as our Shop Supervisor and TD keeping the progress moving forward in the shop and working to read our Designer’s (my) mind as best he can. 🙂

Our costumes are being taken care of …. (at least the beautiful gowns) for our upcoming production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” by a company in Michigan called “The Sewing Room”.   Kellie & Kathy have been great and the bonus for us as they are just as excited about doing these as we are about having them made.

Anyway I wanted to share with you how we are using technology to our advantage to try and collaborate from a distance regarding these costumes.

We have started with a blog site that has renderings and and measurement sheets and  a few pattern suggestions with Designer notes and from that have been emailing and blogging back and forth as we go along.

To See our Costume blog check click on this line of text.

To check out Kathy’s blog as she keeps us updated as to her progress click on this line of text.

Hey and if there is anyone talented and ambitious enough reading this blog to tackle any one or more of the men’s costumes rendered on our site and can meet the deadline of in our hands here at Belhaven by Feb. 12 …. Please email me ASAP because we would be a happy to negotiate a deal with you.  — or leave a comment on our blog.

Does the Music Fit

Last semester the design students were given a piece of music and asked to create an environment that embodied the musical experience.  I decided to make a little movie presentation of the music with a picture of their work.  I will try and post a few of these over the next few days.  Here is the first one, please feel leave comments and feedback is you think these particular environments fit the aural experience.



Portfolio Day

or Judgement Day….

….as it is sometimes referred to by the students, happened the last Friday of classes.  It is a day for the Production emphasis people in the Dept. and those taking production or deisgn classes to present their semester’s work to the rest of the department.  It is often  preceded by a day of furious activity by those presenting until each display is tweaked just right and ready for public consumption.

This year we had a healthy number of people presenting and I wanted to share some of the pictures of their displays from that day.






sg1webWe were lucky to be able to have Professor Marc Quattlebaum, the Design & Tech professor from Milsaps join us and help give our presenters feedback on their work, presentations, and displays.  In turn the students are able to process the feedback and apply it.  This in turn helps prepare them for the presentations and interviews they will have as they pursue jobs  or Graduate schools opportunities.

Please leave some feedback for them here as well as the