The Velvet Sky

Sound design class project
University of California, Irvine

Bethany struggles with her grasp of reality, as she hasn’t slept in years.


In The Velvet Sky, Bethany Palmer sank into a state of deep delusion and mental incongruity after having been unable to sleep for 13 years straight. Bethany desperately journeys to New York to find her son, Andrew, who her husband lost in the city. My direction of the play highlighted the deteriorating line between reality and illusion as Bethany’s insomnia thrusted her in and out of a reality and hallucination. New York became a city of nightmares, where various degenerates who wanted to molest her son would appear and disappear.

Sound Design Concept

My sound design concept was centered around Bethany, following her psychosis as she shifted in and out of consciousness. As she moved throughout New York, sound and music enveloped her, adding clutter, confusion, and anxiety. I had Bethany experience auditory hallucinations composed of hissing, whistling, and blood pulsing sounds that were similar to what someone with Tinnitus might hear. My choice of sound and music constantly reinforced the threat of the play’s dark and perverse antagonist, the “Sandman”, who confronts Andrew at every corner and mocks Bethany’s grasp of reality.

For this project, I produced a fully-realized theatrical sound design that was never intended to be produced on stage. Images are stock images pulled during my research process and are intended to convey the tone of the sound design.

Sound Samples

For the best listening experience, please use high quality headphones or speakers. Audio files are in uncompressed WAV format.

The Demon Reveal

by Brian Svoboda | The Velvet Sky

Looking for someone to help her find Andrew, Bethany finally finds a police officer when he turns to reveal himself as a demon. This shocking realization jolts Bethany into a paranoid state.  I chose sounds and music that would represent Bethany’s state of mind at this moment.  The music underscores Bethany’s abrupt panic, while a cocktail of blood pulsing, high pitches, and demonic sounds parallel her delirium.

Rushing Outdoors

by Brian Svoboda | The Velvet Sky

Triggered by another delusion, Bethany enters a paranoid state and rushes to escape through an imaginary police station door onstage. I used a phasing effect on the music to give a sense of a warped reality. Bethany closes the door in a fit, then slowly drifts back to the reality of New York City. Street sounds replace the intense music to help the audience experience her catharsis.

The Porno Room

by Brian Svoboda | The Velvet Sky

Andrew wanders into a questionable back-alley screening room in New York where he is confronted with a perverse man watching a porno on an old-style projector. Bad saxophone music and and moaning sounds set the dirty tone of the room. The music starts as non-diegetic scene change music and shifts to diegetic music embedded into the projection. The projector slowly winds down as the session is interrupted – an effect achieved by using a stepped gate at progressively slower tempos.

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