Jessica Curry is a Director and Composer at The Chinese Room, a game development studio based in Brighton, UK. The studio shipped their first game, Dear Esther in 2012 and are currently hard at work on their third, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture.
Designing Sound: Tell us a little about how you got started out as a composer? What kind of projects did you start out with?
Jessica Curry: I started composing when I was a little girl. I begged for piano lessons and loved it from the outset. I was always writing little songs; the first Mozartian classic being “Jessica Curry is in a hurry, she’s going on holiday/Hip hip, hurray, she’s going on holiday.” I think you can spot the innate talent right there. Then a fun three years reading English Literature and Language at University followed by a “what the hell are you doing with your life, you’re working at the Warner Brothers store” talk from my amazing late step-dad who gently pushed the National Film and Television screenwriting Screen Music course application under my nose. From then on, a vast and pretty bizarre array of projects. I often say that I’ve had a desperately unstrategic career but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I always follow my heart rather than my head and this has led to some phenomenally interesting collaborations, ranging from a Requiem for a Second Life character for the Royal Opera House to writing lullabies for Great Ormond Street Hospital. So although I’ve very probably sacrificed recognition in one particular field, to me what I’ve gained is the most wonderful and unusual collection of projects and that to me has been worth far more.
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I was born in England in 1988. Some of my earliest memories involve old BBC and Mac computers. I grew up listening to CDs, MiniDisks, playing “Duck Hunt” on my sister’s NES. The dial-up modem sounds are imprinted on my memory. I recall my father ordering books from Amazon.com back when that’s all Amazon sold. In my teen years I assembled my own computer to save money and grew to appreciate the inner workings of a computer. What I’m trying to say is, I’m an early product of the digital age, it’s all I’ve known.
At the time of writing, recent graduate and field recordist Chris Trevino has a Kickstarter campaign called “The Japan Sound Effect Collection” which he plans to be a collection of ambiences, train passes, and walla. Chris was kind enough to answer a few questions about his current campaign.
Designing Sound: Tell us a little bit about your own background in sound and field recording.
Chris Trevino: I was enraptured at a young age by the games that were coming out of Japan in the 90s. The music of Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy Series) and Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger/Cross) gave me both the game and Japan bugs. These games inspired me to take up the tenor saxophone and then later choir when I was younger and made me want to be a game composer.
I first started my undergraduate as an anthropology major, because of my love of cultures, but quickly discovered that I loved the ideas but was not passionate about the work. At the end of my first year, still dreaming of game music, I took summer music composition classes and my first sound design class. Needless to say, I got hooked.
Since then, I’ve sound designed a handful of theater productions and have done a lot of field recording on my own. In the summers of 2012/13, I trained with Ric Viers at The Detroit Chop Shop. While there, I helped record and edit four commercial sound effects libraries for BlastwaveFX. I started the Japan collection in Fall of 2013 while I was studying Japanese at a language center in Japan.
DS: What made you choose Japan as a subject for field recording?
CT: Choosing Japan as a subject for field recording was a natural choice given how much Japanese games influenced me when I was younger. When I was accepted into the language center in Japan, I knew that I needed to do as much recordings there as I could.
Michael Sweet presenting at GDC
As the Artistic Director of Video Game Scoring at Berklee College of Music, Michael Sweet leads the development of the game scoring curriculum. Michael is an accomplished video game composer and has been the audio director of more than 100 award winning video games. His work can be heard on the X-Box 360 logo and on award winning games from Cartoon Network, Sesame Workshop, PlayFirst, iWin, Gamelab, Shockwave, RealArcade, Pogo, Microsoft, Lego, AOL, and MTV, among others. He has won the Best Audio Award at the Independent Games Festival, the BDA Promax Gold Award for Best Sound Design, and has been nominated for four Game Audio Network Guild (GANG) awards. In 2014, Michael authored the book “Writing Interactive Music for Video Games” which is now available from Pearson Publishing.
Michael was a professor of mine during my studies at Berklee College of Music. Given this months’ theme of “education”, I thought it would be enlightening to hear Michael share his perspective as a professor of game audio with the Designing Sound community. So, without further ado…
Sweet Justice is a “full service game audio production company based in the South of England. Founded by industry veterans Chris Sweetman and Samuel Justice. With a combined experience of over 3 decades of frontline experience in the games industry, we have worked on a large number of AAA and independent titles. We have won multiple awards for our work within game audio.”
I was fortunate enough to convince Chris Sweetman and Sam Justice to do an interview where we chat about productivity, education, staying fresh, and even telling a story with sound.
The folks over at Pro Sound Effects have put together a video interview with Ryan Billia of Rumble Audio. This is the first in what will be a series of “Sound Design Spotlight” videos on the Pro Sound Effects blog. Keep an eye on their feed for future videos.
Designing Sound: Would you mind giving our readers a little bit about your background and how long you’ve been working in audio post?
James LeBrecht: I’m the owner of Berkeley Sound Artists, and we’re located in the Saul Zaentz Media Center in Berkeley. We’re kind of a small company. I think the term “boutique shop” would sound little bit pretentious, but we’re kind of the right size to feel personally involved in projects. We primarily focus in sound design and mixing, and our prime emphasis is in documentaries. I started the company in 1996, thinking that maybe we’d be doing a lot of multimedia work, CD-ROMS, etc.…and we did do some of that. We did some work for a now defunct educational software company called Theatrix. But very early on Patti Tauscher, who worked with me for many years, she came to me and said, “I met this guy. He’s got a documentary, and I think we should do the sound on it.” So we wound up doing this film for Steven Olsen, and it immediately became apparent to me that…here’s a niche that people weren’t really focusing on. A lot of houses do documentary work as “fill-in” work. Some people are really kind of dedicated to it, but that’s our prime focus. Plus, being in what is known as the Fantasy building…
Since we’re in the middle of our documentary month, I though it would be worthwhile to point out the latest episode of the Tonebenders Podcast. It’s about a month old now, but if you should really give it a listen if you haven’t already. In it, Timohty Muirhead interviews Mark Levinson, director of the recent documentary Particle Fever. Did you know that Mark has also worked extensively as an ADR supervisor? You should probably listen to it now…good thing I’ve embedded it below. ;)
Director David Fincher and sound designer Ren Klyce has worked together for more than 20 years, and their ongoing partnership is one of most acclaimed collaborations in the modern film sound community. Klyce has been nominated for five Oscars – one for Fight Club, one for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, one for The Social Network and two for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Their latest work is the very successful marital thriller Gone Girl which has just overtaken The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as director Fincher’s highest-grossing film in the US. The movie is filled with so many twists and turns that you can’t really talk about it without revealing something – and this interview with Ren Klyce also contains spoilers, beware!
Let’s start out with what to listen for in a recording location. Naturally, we’re always going to be looking for a space that isn’t going to introduce too many environmental and human generated artifacts into the recording, but the physical layout and acoustic properties of a location can contribute as much character to your recordings as microphone selection…sometimes even more. On top of that, recording vehicles and weaponry (what you’ve specialized in) isn’t something you can do just anywhere. So, what do you listen for when scouting potential recording sites?
The biggest problems I face when searching for a recording location is traffic, especially airports and expressways. I’ve scheduled multiple jobs where I had to find ideal locations away from these environments. Fortunately I live and work in a quieter area away so I don’t have to travel too far. However, that rare Ferrari I need to record is located in the middle of a downtown so it’s crucial to make generous car owner friends who are willing to drive an hour or so to a quieter location. Most microphones I’ve tried are quite sensitive in capturing unwanted background sounds. This is why I often use my Sennheiser MKH-418s M/S shotgun mic. For isolation with a mono mic I use either my Neumann 82i or the Rode NTG8. On bigger budget jobs I will rent the Neumann RSM-191s mic (probably one of the best field recording mics ever made).