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).
With this article I really wanted to find out about the nuts and bots of vehicle engine sound design and implementation. So I contacted a few people and got some great responses and a fascinating insight into the process. My thanks to Stephen Baysted, Audio Director and Composer at Slightly Mad Studios, Greg Hill, Sound Designer at Soundwave Concepts, Adam Boyd, Sound Designer and John Twigg, Software Engineer at Crankcase Audio and Nick Wiswell, Audio Creative Director at Turn 10 Studios.
Many thanks to Brad Dyck for contributing this interview. You can follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Dyck
It was my pleasure to speak with Rob Blake, Audio Director best known for his work on the Mass Effect trilogy. Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare is available now for PC and will be available for PS3/PS4 on August 19th.
BD: What originally made you move away from the UK to come over to Canada?
RB: Actually, before I came to Canada I was working at a small start-up in Spain (Tragnarion Studios). It was a really fascinating place to work because they were really passionate gamers who just wanted to make something they wanted to play themselves.
After I’d been with them for nearly a year I got offered the lead position on Mass Effect. I just finished the project I was working on in Spain so the timing worked out well. It was a dream job for me at the time – I’d been an Audio Lead before in the UK but working on something like Mass Effect was very special.
I’ve previously talked about the importance of increasing communication between the sound community and our collaborators. This month’s topic provided the perfect opportunity to bring an outside voice to the Designing Sound community. Patrick Shen is director of the documentary “In Pursuit of Silence,” and I’m happy to be able to bring you his thoughts on the subject!
Would you mind giving yourself a brief introduction?
I’m a filmmaker based out of Los Angeles. My first film Flight from Death was released in 2005. My fourth feature-length film In Pursuit of Silence will be finished mid-2015 and released shortly after. The mission statement of my film company Transcendental Media is “to agitate the sleep of mankind”. I tend to make films that are more thoughtful in nature, films that deal with themes that I hope have the potential to challenge and expand our worldviews. Kierkegaard spoke of the “immediate man,” someone who doesn’t belong to him or herself and recognizes “that he has a self only by externals.” He tranquilizes himself in the trivial. I like to think that my films are an attempt to snap people out of this cultural haze and the process of making these films an attempt at avoiding this inauthentic life for myself.
Chris Sweetman has a new library out called “Interesting Interiors” and was kind enough to be interviewed by Samuel Justice for this article.
For those who don’t know you – could you give a quick overview of your career?
I was very lucky to have an early start in sound. My father, Brian Sweetman, is a 50 year film sound veteran and I was brought up going to field recording sessions and fooling around in projection rooms as a kid, so when I left school it felt natural to move into sound.
Initially, I worked with my Dad who was running his own sound business working in the Film & Television industry back in the late 80′s/early 90′s. We worked mainly on film and tape stock (as DAW’s weren’t invented!) such as 16mm, 35mm, 1/4″ and Optical, I loved the tactile aspect of the job, playing around with splicers, moviolas and steenbecks. Most of the work we did was recording sounds, film transfers and voiceovers. That’s when I really started to get interested in making sounds.
Broken wax cylinder containing the ‘first’ film soundtrack circa 1894-1895
In ‘broken’ month I wanted to find out a little more about what’s being done to fix (and preserve) some of the broken pieces of film history. The story of the Dickson Experimental Sound Film (link to view at the end of the article) seemed to be a good way into the subject and I am indebted to Ken Weissman, supervisor of the film preservation lab at the Library of Congress, Jerry Fabris, museum curator at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park and Paul Spehr, author and film historian, for their help putting this article together.
Below is an interview I conducted between Capcom’s Tomoya Kishi and Media Molecule’s Kenneth Young. I started them off with a few questions and let them go back and forth from there. I hope you enjoy reading the interview as much as we had putting it together.
Jack: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your experience in audio.
Kenny: My name is Kenny Young and I’m the Head of Audio at Media Molecule, one of Sony’s first party (wholly owned) game development studios, based in Guildford, UK. I had a fairly strong musical background as a kid, but sealed my fate by doing an undergraduate degree in Music Technology at the University of Edinburgh, which turned me on to working creatively with sound before then going on to specialise a bit more by doing a masters degree in sound design down at Bournemouth Uni. I landed my first full-time job in the industry 10 years ago as a junior sound designer at Sony’s London Studio, working in their centralised audio department on a wide variety of games in different genres and on different platforms. That broad experience stood me in good stead for when I joined Media Molecule in 2007, setting up their audio department and trying my best to make LittleBigPlanet sound awesome. That involved me doing the vast majority of the sound work, some of the music, directing the composers and the creative side of the music licensing process, producing the voice localisation from the Mm side of things, not to mention being heavily involved in the design of the audio-centric UGC features of the game. That led to the inevitable sequel, and the joys of trying to juggle the managing and directing of my staff whilst remaining a hands-on sound designer and composer. Most recently, we just released Tearaway, which I wrote about in December for Designing Sound, where I supervised a team of talented sound designers and managed to keep my hand in there whilst also co-writing the original score (with Brian D’Oliveira), co-writing the voice script (with Tearaway’s creative director, Rex Crowle) and generally just trying to help the project in whatever way I could. All of which is why I’ve been on holiday for the last two months! But I’m just back in the saddle and trying to get our unannounced PS4 project into good audio shape having ignored it for a while :)