For almost all of us who can see and hear, I think there is little doubt that the visual experience occupies more of our conscious activity. We are not as analytical about sound. Our vocabulary for describing sounds is dwarfed by the number of words available to us to describe what we see.
Sound is a second class citizen, an underdog, in our consciousness, but it has a secret weapon. Stealth. It sneaks into the side door of the brain, often completely unnoticed, almost never thoroughly analyzed. It works on us as if by magic. And though lots of us are aware of how magical sound is, we are not aware of what is required to make the magic happen. Any magician will tell you, a successful magic trick requires a plan, and it requires practice… lots of practice.
Our challenge is to convince directors, screenwriters, and producers that this magical thing called film sound that many of them don’t understand and can’t describe, requires a plan integrated into the plans for all the other crafts, and a lot of experimentation in order to cast its spell most effectively.
Our first task as professional sound people is to fully understand film sound ourselves. Our first task working on a given project revolves around analyzing human speech… specifically, the words that come out of the mouths of the creative people who are attempting to direct us. In many cases they only have vague notions of what the film should sound like, and it’s up to us to work with them to flesh out those vague notions, come up with ideas of our own, and present something concrete to them that they can react to.
These are the huge challenges in sound design. They present themselves to us regardless of the tech we use, and they make all tech considerations trivial by comparison.