Frank Bry Special: Reader Questions

Here are the answers to the questions you sent for Frank Bry. Hope you enjoyed the special as we did. Many thanks to Frank for the amazing work!

Designing Sound Reader: Would you care to share your full gear? Some recording dos and dont’s too perhaps? :) And they sound so clean! How post-processed are these samples?

FB: Thanks for the kind words. My gear consists of a Sound Devices 702 and a Fostex FR-2 for my main stand alone recorders. I mostly use the SD 702 nowadays and will use the FR-2 for a large multi-microphone session like guns or crashes. I also have a Sony PCM-D1 and PCM-D50 compact hand held recorders that I use for stealth recording and convenience. My microphones are a Sanken CSS-5, Audio Technica AT-835ST and a Sennheiser MKH-416. As far as post processing the sounds I try and keep it to a minimum. I will use a Low Cut filter sometimes on sounds that I recorded with a boom or sounds that have no frequencies below 50Hz or so. If the sound requires EQ I will use a Linear Broadband or Low Band EQ on them to see if I can fix them up a bit. For sounds that have excessive noise or were recorded in a noisy environment I will use Waves C4 just a little to help repair or sweeten the sound. For the most part my sounds are as close to the original recordings as I can get and I do employ fade ins and outs that best help the sound and remain true to the original.

DSR: What’s the oldest/first sound in your library, that you recorded?

FB: I can tell you that the sounds is no longer in my library. It was the sound of breaking glass that I recorded into an E-Mu Emax keyboard back in 1987. I was really into pink floyd at the time and loved the sound design and effects in the album THE WALL. I was working on a song I was writing and I wanted to add something to the snare sample I was using and though a sharp glass break sound might work. I was working in a spare room in this huge house and was at the top of a stairway in the large entrance hall. I was dangling a SM-57 from the top of the staircase railing down over a paper bag full of plates and glasses and dropped some of the plates into the bag. Strange way to record a sound effect but I did not have a mic stand at that moment and was working alone. That is the first organic sound effect I ever recorded, 8-bits of audio delight!

DSR: Hi Frank! Enjoying your feature so far :) Just wondering if there were any stereo configurations you were particularly fond of using in your recording, and why? i.e. with two separate mics. M/S, X/Y etc? Or do you prefer using high quality stereo mics? Thanks :)

FB: I prefer high quality stereo mics and have a CSS-5 that I really love. I have used it for over 5 years now and have learned what it can and cannot do. I do not do much M/S recording. I have thought of getting into that style of recording but so far the way I record my sounds I have not really seen the need to add M/S. My AT-835ST has a M/S mode and I have tried it a few times in the past. Maybe someday when I can find the time to evaluate the right set up I will give M/S a shot. I like both X/Y and wide recording and use either one when the situation warrants it. X/Y is my current favorite on most sound effects recording sessions. I will use the wide setting on my CSS-5 and Sony PCM-D50 for backgrounds, water, wind or anything that I feel a wide setting sounds the best. Lately I’ve been recording a lot of 192K sounds in mono with my MKH-416. I am looking into getting a new high resolution mic set up that does up to 50kHz for the 192 material that I want to record.

DSR: Loved dungeon siege! Played 1 and 2 through to the end. Can you name for me the three biggest mistakes you’ve made when out in the field recording? Thanks!


  • Mistake #1: Not recording enough source on the location I was recording at.
  • Mistake #2: Not visually verifying I pressed the record button when recording some dangerous rockslides.
  • Mistake #3: Not having enough battery power for the recorders. Possibly miss out on some great sounds.

DSR: If you had to choose just 5 plugins and 5 pieces of gear to work with… what would you choose?

FB: For plug ins I would choose: Waves L2 and most all the plugs they offer. Soundtoys, Eventide, GRM Tools and Izotope RX2 are my first choices. For gear I would choose my SD-702, Sanken CSS-5, Pro Tools, Peak Pro 6 and Soundminer.

DSR: I’m a sound engineering student interested to get into the world of sound design for video games. I’m thinking to start building a demo reel to show my work. What recommendations do you have for creating a demo reel? Hope you answer my question. Thanks !! =)

FB: I’m not sure I can answer this for you but I will try because I’ve never made a demo reel in the traditional sense. Most, if not all of my projects started because of people having faith in me. I come from a audio engineering and music background so the work I got was because someone heard my work or heard about me from someone who I worked with. I have done so many different things in the audio business that my demo reel would have been scattered and the length of the “Directors Cut” of a feature film.

From what I’ve seen and heard in demo reels that I got when I was at Gas Powered Games I get the sense that it is quite difficult and time consuming to make a reel. Also, I noticed that the demos were really long and had lots of clips in them. Like in the music business, I think the quicker you can cut to the chase with your reel the better. Sometimes time is an issue for the person listening or watching your demo. Get them in right from the start if you can and make a real effort to showcase who you are and what you are capable of. To me, it’s not what project you worked on but what you did on the project. Let your work speak for itself and go easy on the sales pitch. You are who you are and if the person likes your demo and gives you a shot it’s because they feel something special happening in your work

DSR: What is the essence of sound design for you?

FB: Character. How a sound makes me feel. Originality. Maybe that’s too many things. Character is most important to me. Sound to me is vibration, frequency and volume. We sense that and I think our bodies and minds react to it emotionally. I try to design sounds that give the visual image more life. This is a tough thing to do because most of the time it’s subjective or driven by what the client wants. You can usually tell when something is not working. It just doesn’t feel right. Trust your gut and go with it, see where it leads you and the project. It’s a lot like music. There are some songs that give me goose bumps every time I listen. It may sound silly but to me sound effects can do that also.

DSR: Hi Frank. Thanks for your articles this month. Only great stuff there! I see you’ve worked on some fantasy stuff, so I was wondering if you have some tips/tricks on designing sound of spells, creatures, etc.

FB: I always start out with organic material first. The spells that I have had to design were based on organic properties like fire, ice, snow, etc. There are some that are based on energy and that requires either synthetic elements or processing organic sounds. There is a lot you can do to a ice sound for example. Running ice though a chorus and crystalizer plug in always proves to be a great starting point. Reverb and other effects like delay and flanging can also turn an organic element into something fantasy based. Experiment with many types of processing and somewhere along the way you can stumble onto something cool.

DSR: Could you tell me some examples of VST chain presets you like to use in Soundminer?

FB: As shown in some of my articles I use a variety of plug-ins in VST with Soundminer. It really depends on what I’m trying to accomplish and the source file. Some are very simple like compression and pitch effects and others are more involved. I have started to use analog emulation, vintage compressor and EQ plug ins. I wish I had more vintage EQ plug ins and am in the process of getting more. When I was engineering music I was always very fond of the API 550A EQ. I once worked at a studio that had a great vintage API board and I would re-record some of my sounds through it just to get that 550A sound.

DSR: What kind of templates (Pro Tools) do you use for sound design and mixing purposes?

FB: I have many templates for Pro Tools that I use depending on what I’m doing. I have one for editing 96k and 192k sound effects that I set up a while ago. I do constantly update it depending on new plug ins that I find useful and other settings that I need to edit and master. I have other templates including a 5.1 surround template that is for sound design and the another for the final mix, fold down and output. I use a template for creating my sound effects stems that I use for cinematics. I had a variety of templates for designing either stereo or mono game sound assets. All in all I have around 30 or so templates that I have been refining over the years.

DSR: I was wondering what are the plugins or specific process that you typically use to get crunchy and big sounds. Thanks for your inspiring articles!

FB: The big secret! Most of the time it starts with the actual sound elements themselves. I can take certain sounds and pitch them down or add sub harmonics to them and with compression and heavy limiting it can get crunchy and big. I like to design sounds with other sounds instead of equalizing or other processing that can be accomplished by mixing or morphing sounds together that have specific content and emotion.

2 Comments on “Frank Bry Special: Reader Questions

  1. Pingback: The Sonic Spread » Designing Sound’s “Frank Bry Special”

  2. Thanks for the Q&A with helpful tips from Frank Bry! Very useful data. I was particularly interested in the answer he gave regarding the creation of effects for things such as spells, creatures, etc. I am going to try some of the processing he suggested and check out his other articles on the site (which I haven’t read yet). Are you doing any further question answering?

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