1. Narrative Aesthetics – Sound Design in Story Development: A Case for Pre-AuralVis

Recap – MFA (Production Research); work presented at SAS 2014 (Toronto)

Despite an increasing awareness of sound design many filmmakers still neglect sound’s potentials, particularly within early-stage development.  Sound is treated as an enhancer of the image, its value more cosmetic than narrative or aesthetic.  Conventionally the sound designer comes onboard in postproduction, which negates participation in development.  Sound is an afterthought. This limits the narrative-aesthetic potentials, and therefore the success of a project.  I propose the answer to ‘the sound problem’ is greater sound-image collaboration through the utilization of preproduction materials, which could extend to any audio-visual art form:

Audio Sketching – Concept Art/Script Excerpt (Trap – Animated Short)   

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]88615802[/ylwm_vimeo]

Audio Sketching – Email/Text -Triggers/Design Docs (Dropped – Show)

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]88499359[/ylwm_vimeo]

Dropped – Show excerpts

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]76794024[/ylwm_vimeo]  

Audio Sketching – Storyline/Mood Boards (Penance – Trailer Pitch for Film)

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]88408749[/ylwm_vimeo]

Trailer – remixed

 [ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]88408832[/ylwm_vimeo]

Sound Design through Storyboards – Last Flight (Live Action/VFX)

 [ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]88621289[/ylwm_vimeo] 

2. Post Film, Lets Play – Sound, Design and the Digital Pipeline

Current – (PhD)

This extends previous research from the perspective of postproduction, incorporating long form and more complex projects.


The moving image creation process is described as preproduction, production and postproduction. Preproduction and production phases are focused on the image.  The lack of prior focus on sound design has a negative impact on the postproduction phase.  Common audio postproduction problems include scheduling, budget, visual, story, edit and mix issues. While a film might look good, audiences do not engage with ‘bad’ soundtracks; a rule that also applies to other art forms such as video games.

Expanding mediums and platforms have created new possibilities for storytelling.  A film can be a game, an app, a broadcast or web series.  However, while technology has advanced, audio workflow methodologies have not.  Film and game sound designers experience similar problems.  Once a film has been shot or a game animated, sound can only react to pictures, not interact with them.  In later stages of production making changes is expensive, often prohibitively so, especially for independent content creators.

Independent filmmakers and game developers both strive to create engaging story experiences. Despite the obvious linearity differences between a film and a game, many console games are becoming progressively ‘cinematic’ or ‘narrative’ in design.  Conversely, films are increasingly nonlinear.  Why continue with the traditional linear workflow of preproduction, production and postproduction?  How could a renegotiation of audio-visual production methodologies address common postproduction issues?  Could primacy in sound design and greater collaboration with visual design processes result in:

  • Sound design being more fully conceptualized before production,
  • Better collaboration between sound and image design throughout production
  • The prevention of postproduction problems
  • A more cost effective and competitive pipeline
  • A successful outcome

My ongoing research is a series of sound design projects, which are tools to re-imagine the audio-visual production process. Through analysis and reflection on these projects, I will propose an alternative production methodology:

  • 2017: A pitch for a film-game project: sound design within script development
  • Graham 2.0: A micro-film comic concept: sound design in preproduction 
  • Trap: An animated short film – sound design in production
  • Godplex: A digital feature film – sound design in postproduction



Graham 1.0 (presented at SAS 2013)

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]7868810[/ylwm_vimeo]

Graham 2.0 is the next installment (of Man’s battle with the Machine)


Trailer 1.0

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]104674895[/ylwm_vimeo]




Trap – WIP (Presented at SAS 2014)

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]104988463[/ylwm_vimeo]



Godplex – WIP

[ylwm_vimeo width=”600″ height=”336″]104892142[/ylwm_vimeo]



(All images and clips are copyright Kahra Scott James, 2014.)



Kahra Scott-James is a sound designer and has been involved in the media, arts and entertainment industries for a number of years.  Screen credits range from short films to features, interactive movies, television series, animation, documentary and games.  Her work has been screened in a number of international festivals, with film and television awards from Denmark, Singapore, Korea, NZ, Canada, USA, and Germany.  Kahra holds an MA (Audio) from the University of Westminster in London, an MFA (Production) from the University of Melbourne and is currently undertaking a PhD at Victoria University.  Kahra’s professional experience includes working for 3D interactive movie creators Brilliant Digital Entertainment and managing a production studio for several years.  She has lectured across NZ, Australia and Ireland in sound for film, animation, digital media and games.