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Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 3 comments

Rodney Gates Special: Reader Questions

Designing Sound Rearder: What technique (or tip) you wish you had known when you first started doing sound design professionally?

Rodney Gates: I wish I knew how to make something sound large, other than just using reverb tail. One way this can be achieved is by pitching something at multiple intervals – an octave down, two octaves down, and blending with the original. This makes whooshes longer and fatter, and impact sounds beefier. Letting the sounds pitch and change their duration naturally is smoother than keeping their length the same as the original, but the time-correction has it’s uses for keeping heavy sounds short (as long as they are blended a bit with the original, most pitching artifacts are hidden in this process). Also, working with the highest sample rate and bit depth files you can helps a lot with fidelity (24-bit / 96kHz is great, with 192 being even better). The higher sample rates help keep the high-end of the sound as the upper harmonics are brought down during the pitching process, whereas rates of 48kHz and below have their limits, causing the sounds to get darker the further down they are pitched.

DSR: What is your weapon of choice (or method) to create production elements (whoosh, sci-fi sounds, etc)?

RG: I like to use Waves’ Doppler plug-in for creating whoosh effects. However, I wish it handled audio files at a higher sample rate than 48kHz since it’s pitching sounds as it’s core usage.

For electronic sci-fi sounds, adding light MetaFlanger is nice to “tech” something up a bit. For a little low-end emphasis, a Rectified (Pro Tools plug-in) sine wave around 80Hz (or sweeping around that area) is cool to add.

Plug-in automation is your friend, too – it can add a lot of movement to your sounds when using it with plugs like MondoMod or Enigma, etc.

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Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 0 comments

SoundWorks Collection: Interviews with Ann Kroeber and Charles Maynes

SoundWorks Collection has published two interesting interviews with sound effects recordists Ann Kroeber and Charles Maynes, produced by Michael Raphael.

Welcome to the Soundworks Collection; an audio series that profiles individuals whose lives are spent bringing to life some of the worlds most unique sound projects. Whether they are recording in the field, editing and mixing on a dub stage, or creating sounds in a foley pit, these professionals keep finding new and exciting ways to craft sound. This week we hear from sound effects recordist Charles Maynes. His work has included the HBO series “The Pacific”, “Flags of our Fathers”, and “Starship Troopers”. You can often find Charles recording loud explosions and heavy gunfire, but when he needs to rest his ears, he turns to Bach.

Ann Kroeber is a field recordist, editor, and sound designer, whose recordings were in The Black Stallion, Lord of the Rings, and the Horse Whisperer. Over the years, she has developed her own way to connect with the animals she records. In 1999 she formed a company called Sound Mountain and has recorded and or provided sound effects for such films as The Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Gladiator, The English Patient, The Horse Whisperer, A Bug’s Life, K-19, Polar Express, The Village, Hidalgo etc. and many games. She was Sound Designer on Carroll Ballard’s recent Duma and Fx Editor on his Fly Away Home as well as Affonso Arau’s Zapata. She has also provided sound effects and sound designed for a number of popular Games. She produced a 3 CD set of sound effects for the Hollywood Edge called “Sounds of a Different Realm Special thanks to American Public Media and Weekend America for the use of the audio piece.

SoundWorks Collection podcasts on iTunes.

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Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 0 comments

Rodney Gates Special: A New Role – Becoming Audio Director

[Written by Rodney Gates for Designing Sound]

In early June of 2010, I became Sony Online’s Audio Director for San Diego. So how has this experience been so far? I’ll dive into a few points.

A Delicate Balancing Act

When I started working at this company, my primary focus was as a Senior Sound Designer on “Clone Wars Adventures”. It was very different for me as I was initially the only person working on the game, especially after coming from High Moon where we had a 6-member team for one console title (and needed every person).

There were two other people in the San Diego audio department, one Audio Manager overseeing the ongoing maintenance of some of the older titles, and another Sr. Sound Designer working on the maintenance of Free Realms. There were also two Apprentices working on sound for the expansions of both EverQuest and EverQuest II, and that was it. Our boss was in Austin with his team, busy with “DC Universe”, so we were pretty much on our own.

Although we didn’t have enough people to cover all of the games properly (in my opinion), it didn’t seem right to me that the older games’ teams were solely being supported by the greenest guys on our team, working late or super-early hours that barely crossed paths with the rest of us.

Eventually, the existing division of our team began to run up against newer projects that were either starting up or had been moved to San Diego and weren’t being covered at all, while I was getting quite busy myself with “Clone Wars”. The decision was made to split the leadership duties, and I was put in charge of the San Diego headquarters.

As I mentioned in the previous article, from day one I immediately reorganized everyone on my team to jump in and start working on “Clone Wars Adventures” to get it ready for its September launch. It was definitely the big-ticket game happening that year. I also began to have meetings with the other teams to find out where they were in the production of their titles or expansions, to try and work out a schedule to finish out the year. Most of our work was unfortunately reactive at this point, as things were coming up quick. Fortunately, we were able to hire on another experienced senior-level Sound Designer as well. One of our apprentices left and we let the other one go, as I preferred to have more experienced hands on the games going forward.

With the team reorganized like this, and remaining fluid throughout the coming months as we adjusted to the schedule, we squeaked by 2010 managing to cover everything without killing ourselves.

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 | 0 comments

Rodney Gates Special: Coming Full Circle – Spearheading “Clone Wars Adventures”

[Written by Rodney Gates for Designing Sound]

It seems perfectly fitting that with the Star Wars films being such an influence for me as a Sound Designer, when the opportunity came up to become the Lead on “Clone Wars Adventures”, a joint venture between Sony Online Entertainment and Lucasarts, it was hard to resist.

Hit the Ground Running

When I started on the game, it was just a month away from its official prototype milestone. Yikes! Except for a couple of temp blaster shots playing in a tower defense minigame, the rest of it was completely void of sound. Plenty to do as I was the only one working on it.

I quickly became acquainted with Christopher Denman and Darragh O’Farrell over at Lucasarts, who began providing assets to me. Now, there is a level of excitement associated with this as original, digitized recordings of a lot Ben Burtt’s work came across the FTP. To be able to listen to the raw power window servo recordings that are the basis of R2-D2 & C-3PO’s movement in the films, or some of the lightsaber elements in their raw form was priceless. When I got R2 rolling around in the game, chirping away, that simple moment felt full-circle for me. I just sat back and smiled.

So, with a little bit of luck and some ridiculous temp voiceover, everything made it in by the December 19th prototype date – to a resounding success. The team knocked it out of the park!

Now here was the rub. This game had to launch the same week as Season 3’s premiere, which was the following September. Less than a year of development time? I wasn’t sure it could happen. Then again, it was a very different and ultimately simpler game than “Transformers: War For Cybertron”, which only had an 18-month cycle, so I wondered.

The holidays came and went and shortly thereafter things became quite busy…too busy for one person to continue handling. When June rolled around, I became San Diego’s Audio Director, so I immediately changed the way our local team was split up and immediately threw everyone onto the game. The three of us managed to get all of the sound, music editing, and dialog recorded and in for the September deadline, even while my wife and I were busy having our second baby the same week. Talk about pressure!

“Clone Wars Adventures” was one of the best-produced projects SOE has had to date, hitting all of its milestones easily and pleasing everyone at both Sony and Lucasarts. It continues to rise in popularity week after week, keeping in lock-step with the series as it airs.

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