What makes a good sound designer according to Michel Bordeleau

This past semester, we had the pleasure of inviting sound designer Michel Bordeleau to give a master class to our students. Son of one of the first Quebec editors at the NFB, Mr. Bordeleau started in the film industry at a very young age, making his first experiences in sound editing for documentary films. Working in the industry since 1977, Mr. Bordeleau  over 200 films to his credit, including several international productions. To name a few, he has done sound editing for films such as “Immortals”, “The Art of War” and “La Bolduc”.

“You have to be patient to have the right to supervise. One step at a time.. It is not useful to be in too much of a hurry.”

Mr. Bordeleau spoke about the reality of the work of a professional sound designer as well as the different challenges and specific tasks in his field. The students were able to gain a real understanding of the creation of a cinematic soundtrack. However, as the environment of films is very hierarchical, our speaker shared with ust what he considers to be the most important qualities and attitude that a sound designer should possess for the reality of the field.

Sound imagination

”I have always been sonically imaginative. I was six years old, I was riding my bike and it was missing an engine. I imagined the engine in my head. I was sitting in an anchored rowboat and I imagined it was working. But I was making noise in my head…”

Indeed, sound imagination is a necessity for anyone considering the profession of sound design. Michel Bordeleau therefore advises to develop this disposition to sound imagination by listening to films. In fact, by listening to “many, many” films! And also to pay special attention to many sounds from different sources, close your eyes and let your imagination work. ”I do less and less reading, but I listen to sounds. I spend my time listening to sounds”.

Masterclass Michel Bordeleau Sound Design Musitechnic
Masterclass Michel Bordeleau Sound Design Musitechnic


It is recognized that in the film industry, work is mostly done in teams. Mr. Bordeleau suggests that to succeed in the audio industry, it is essential to know how to listen and to be open to changes. In fact, being flexible and understanding the requirements of the environment and the decisions made by the production team, is as necessary as being effective in communicating your ideas. Being in a fairly hierarchical field, an entry-level technician must be able to meet the requirements of their supervisor while being creative. To be able to adopt this flexibility and attitude, Mr. Bordeleau tells us: “They mustn’t take over the soundtrack as if it were theirs and then takenaway. It is obvious that you put your soul into it. You’re doing it for yourself, yes, but it’s also to please, not an audience, but a producer, because it’s that person’s name on theilm credits. So the person has the right to say it if he or she is not satisfied with the soundtrack.


The hierarchy in cinema also implies a hierarchy of decisions. By the same nature, for the cohesion and efficiency of the work involving the departments’ management, Mr. Bordeleau suggests that it is important to know when to give your opinion. Given the complexity of the decision-making process between direction, production and sound design, Mr. Bordeleau believes it is best to cultivate patience and to listen and observe how decisions are made between supervisors. According to him: “You have to be patient to have the right to supervise. One step at a time.. It is not useful to be in too much of a hurry. 
Masterclass Michel Bordeleau Sound Design Musitechnic

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