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Posted by on Dec 17, 2013 | 5 comments

An Interview with John Roesch

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In  over 30 years working in sound, Foley artist John Roesch has amassed an impressive list of credits, including major films like “Inception” and “The Matrix” and games like “Final Fantasy X” and “Dead Space.” With over 400 credits to his name, John was awarded the MPSE’s Career Achievement Award earlier this year. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with John on his Foley stage on the Warner Brothers Studios lot in Burbank, California to talk about Foley, how he got into the business, and where he sees things moving forward.

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Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 | 0 comments

JordanFehrFX JFFX-04 Interview with Jordan Fehr and Damian Kastbauer

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Jordan Fehr and Damian Kastbauer have put out a wonderful sound library together of Buttons, Gear, Equipment and Ambiences.  You may recognize Jordan from his work on such wonderful games as: Hotline Miami, Donkey Kong Country Returns, Super Meat Boy and Binding of Isaac.  Damian is no stranger to Designing Sound and to the online audio community.  He has worked as a Technical Sound Designer on fantastic titles such as: Uncharted 3, The Force Unleashed II, and Dead Space 3.

 

DS: Tell us a bit about the libraries and why you decided to record these specific subjects.

Jordan Fehr: I am often times called upon to work on projects with zero extra money for exploratory recording time like field recording or extensive Foley work, and so a lot of my recording is done during downtime to beef up my custom libraries for my own use. The libraries I have released so far under JFFX have been useful ingredients I knew anyone could use, or in the case of the restored industrial engines, a very unique source material that only a few people have access to. This new library began with me recording simply buttons and switches for UI  and Foley to use in my video game work, and I will not pretend it had nothing to do with purchasing a Schoeps-MK4 which is able to achieve a detailed high-end for these tiny sounds. As I started thinking more about the usage of the sounds I was recording, I decided to turn the library into a sort of Foley grab-bag of sounds that would accompany a situation with a lot of buttons and switches. Take a spy story for example: lots of gear and equipment with detailed foley to help suck you into the character’s busy work. A lot of the thinking was geared towards video game work once Damian approached me with his part of the library because I knew that the mono machines were perfect for 3D actors in modern game editors, but that is not to say that these sounds aren’t perfect for linear media work as well.

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Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 | 1 comment

Jana Winderen: An Interview

Jana Winderen is an artist, widely known for her recordings that reveal sounds from hidden sources — oceans, ice crevasses, glaciers — using a variety of technology, from high quality hydrophones to ultrasound detectors. Her work is published on Touch Music (same as Chris Watson) and her biography boasts of a long and impressive list of art installations.

She was kind enough to spare some time from her schedule and share some of her thoughts in this interview.

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DS: Let’s start with your background. What got you started with field recording?

JW: I have always been occupied with the oceans and their inhabitants, also of how we treat the planet’s environments, I used to study Science to become a marine biologist, before I studied art in Falmouth and London. In the early nineties, I made a conscious decision to not make any more objects, solid objects which occupy space and tend to turn into garbage. I decided to start using material that did not occupy physical space, but still is a very physical material, as sound is. After some years in the studio, I simply fell asleep, and I decided to go out, back out, into the ocean, into the forests and the mountains to find and record sounds from unknown sources of sound, from both inaccessible areas and from frequencies not audible for us (without changing the way we listen to them, like speeding up or down for example). I am interested in the areas not known, or less investigated, less researched, where questions are still possible to ask, and which should be asked.

DS: You mention ‘blind field recordings’ a lot. What does it actually mean? How does it affect your recordings?

JW: I am concerned with finding unknown sources of sound, sound we do not know is there, or cannot reach with our senses as mentioned above. It is a very concentrated listening process, something which is unknown, unseen, not obvious what it is, like a search through sound, and not through looking at and then listening to. Close your eyes while recording, then follow the sound, and investigate the audible and not the first seen or heard.

It is a different way of recording out in the wild. You can set up your microphone, your recorder to record, leave the place and then come back a couple of hours later, go home with your recordings and get surprised and excited about what you have got. I am working in a different way though a lonely process of intense concentration, monitoring constantly what is there, then move according to what I hear, to get closer, to search, and almost without exception I am surprised and excited about a new creature, or a phenomenon I did not expect, this makes it an endless source of wonder and questioning, and an urge to learn more, through listening, though also through concentrated observations, sometimes also visual close up observations.

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Posted by on Oct 18, 2013 | 2 comments

Interview with The Sound Tracker

Hempton photo credit C. Lamarca

Gordon holding the Neumann head in surf: Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, WA. Photo by C. Lamarca

Gordon Hempton is one of the world’s foremost nature sound recordists. He’s won an Emmy, been the subject of a documentary, is an activist for acoustic ecology, and…in what many may deem a tragic irony…is also losing his hearing. Our focus on field recording this month is the perfect opportunity add his voice to our little community here.

DS: How did you get into field recording…going out and capturing sound effects.

GH: I hadn’t planned on becoming The Sound Tracker. I was on my way to graduate school in 1980 and I had thought of myself as scientist. I was on my way to study plants and plant diseases. So, I had an experience on my way there. A beautiful thunderstorm rolled over me, and I came out of that experience thinking, “Gosh! Why is this the first time that I’ve truly listened?! I’m 27 years old. I’ve been in thunderstorms before.” I had been a musician. I had been all of these things, and so I discovered that I just had to admit that I really sucked at listening.”

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Posted by on Sep 30, 2013 | 1 comment

Interview with Raymond Usher

Guest Contribution by Neil Cullen

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Raymond Usher started work in the games industry in 1992 as a sound designer at DMA Design, working on a number of titles, most notably the original Grand Theft Auto games. He became the company’s senior audio programmer and through the release of GTA III, was part of the metamorphosis into Rockstar North. Raymond stayed at Rockstar until the end of development on GTA: Vice City before moving to the newly formed Realtime Worlds to act as Audio Director for the title Crackdown. After that company’s collapse, Raymond founded Euphonious, an independent audio production company providing direction, sound design, audio programming and music licensing services for developers. Double BAFTA award winner for Vice City and Crackdown, Raymond has been at the forefront of game audio for over 20 years.

Neil Cullen: Your company Euphonious handles audio outsourcing for the games industry, could you describe your services and how they fit into the development cycle?

Raymond Usher: Euphonious has been going about 2 and a half years officially, after Realtime Worlds collapsed, there was a lot of small studios doing small mobile and Facebook games and we sort of started doing sound for them as a favour. It made me think we can make a go of this, so 2 and a half years later I’ve lost count of the number of projects we’ve done. We tend to do about 20 or 30 a year, ranging from mobile stuff right through to AAA titles such as the Lego Games developed by Travellers Tales who we did a lot of the cut-scene work for. In general a lot of the work comes from people that I know, but a lot of it is also recommendations, going out and meeting people at various events. It can vary from project to project, some of them we come on the project quite early while on others the project’s almost complete. It’s really a case of playing the builds, getting a list of requirements together and going off and getting that done, working with video captures, and just keeping in touch with the companies. A lot of the folk I work with are quite local while others are not so we Skype. 

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Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 | 1 comment

Spectral Analysis: Interview with Saki Kaskamanidis

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Many thanks to Brad Dyck for contributing this interview. You can follow Brad on Twitter @Brad_Dyck

BD: How did you get involved in game audio?

SK: It all started back in 1995. I was in a band and our keyboard/synth player, Jeff Van Dyck, was working for EA. He was working on the soundtrack for NHL 96 and needed a guitarist to lay down all the riffs, so he hired me. Soon after that, Jeff heard some of my own compositions and thought that they would suit a different game EA was developing at the time called Need For Speed. Eventually I got that gig and for the next 4 years or so I was one of EA’s full time composers, mainly focusing on the Need For Speed and NHL franchises. At some point around the millennium, EA as a company was doing really well and the trend towards licensing music from well-known artists began. It was natural for us to feel that our careers were in jeopardy. I remember being warned “You know, Saki, are you thinking about doing anything else because your job is in jeopardy.” So I started getting into sound design. Interestingly enough, nobody lost their job. You either found something else to do, like sound designing, implementing or leading a project, or you left the company because you wanted to keep composing.
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Posted by on Sep 27, 2013 | 0 comments

An Interview – Ira Greenberg

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Ira Greenberg is director of the Center of Creative Computation and is a professor at SMU. He’s had a career as a painter, animator, designer, programmer, arts director, professor and author. In addition to having lectured at universities across the world, he’s authored three books on creative coding, including the first major reference for Processing. His current research involves the development of an “idiosyncratic” 3D graphics library, titled “Protobyte“. Protobytes are algorithmically generated virtual lifeforms based on mathematic expressions.

In addition to my work in sound, I have dabbled around with creative programming languages like Processing and openFrameworks. There is something quite exciting about thinking of code as a design tool. This thinking extends even beyond visual coding languages to graphical sound languages like Max/Pd to more hardcore languages like C. If an equaliser or compressor could be a creative tool, why not code at a much more granular level? This gets even more interesting when thinking of procedural sound and synthesis, where sound is designed using algorithms inspired by the real world.

Ira recently visited Edinburgh with his students and was kind enough to spend some time with me and share his thoughts for Designing Sound. There’s something magical in the overlap of design, code, creativity and logic.

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DS: Ira, lets start with your background.

IG: I was trained in painting, both in undergraduate and graduate school. Previous to that I had studied sciences a little bit. I was interested in sciences but as I progressed through school I got more interested in arts and creative writing. By the time I graduated from school I decided that I pretty much wanted to be a painter. I did that for a number years — my schooling was between ‘84 and ‘92 — and towards the end of my graduate school years I got involved in computer graphics a little bit, more pragmatically to pay the bills and I got involved in some graphic design work. My interest originally was completely in studio art. As I

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Posted by on Sep 23, 2013 | 0 comments

“Cicadas” – Sound Installation

“Cicadas” is an installation with a difference. Bringing together sound design, technology and natural science, Berlin-based sound artist Bob Meanza has created sonic robots which emulate some of the resonance and timbral qualities of the cicada.

These robots are in fact tinyAVR microcontrollers, programmed using Arduino software to emit sounds that are determined by their basic physical structure. The cicada is a tiny insect with immense sound-producing capabilities, with the singing of some variants has been measured at 100dB.[1] I asked Meanza a few questions about the project and the concepts and techniques that influenced it. Read his responses below and do check out his video and other related material for details on how this fascinating piece came together.

What inspired you to do this project? Why cicadas?

It all started as I was doing some research about granular synthesis. I was reading a quote by composer Iannis Xenakis, in which he describes the roaring and “granular” clouds of sound he experienced during the war. In order to give an idea of such sonic textures, he says: “a similar thing happens also when you listen to cicadas”. It’s just a quick example, nonetheless I was shocked by the sudden appearance of the peaceful cicadas in a war account! I started then to listen to recorded cicadas, trying to hear other sounds inside the texture, and of course it’s wonderfully hypnotic. I was born in Italy, where cicadas in summer are all over the place, and you almost stop noticing them. But in Berlin you have little chance to hear them live. So I guess it all started from a “cloud” of strange attractors: granular synthesis, Xenakis, war, field recording, and soundscape nostalgia.

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Posted by on Sep 19, 2013 | 0 comments

Interview – Peter Brinkmann & libpd

Pure Data (Pd) is one of the most powerful and commonly used open source softwares for music and sound creation. Spearheaded by Miller Puckette, it is completely free. About three years ago libpd was released – a library of Pd Vanilla (the basic version of Pd) that makes it possible to run Pd pretty much anywhere. Since then there have been an explosion of applications for PC, OSX, iOS, Android, Unity 3D and others powered by libpd. With libpd it is quite easy to use a regular Pd ‘patch’ to drive an experience – whether it is a musical app, sound design tool, game or installation.

Peter Brinkmann leads the development of libpd and is supported by a wider community who are mentioned through the interview. It is quite amazing to see such a great (and stable) product being extended and used in an array of products, all for free. More recently he has released the code for a new project that makes it possible to share audio between Android apps (something like what Audiobus does on iOS) – Patchfield.

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DS: Peter, thanks for doing this! It would be great to start with your background.

PB: I’m a mathematician by training. I used to be a college professor, doing work in algebra and geometry but I have always been interested in software engineering – I had been writing a lot of scientific software on the side and then at some point I left academia and became a software engineer. Right now I am working in speech recognition and libpd is a hobby.

DS: What got you started with libpd then?

PB: It was basically a coincidence. In the summer of 2010 I was leaving my academic job and was supposed to start a new job in the software industry and then it turned out that my academic H1B visa didn’t translate to the business world so I had to wait three months to get a new visa. I found myself with three months on my hands and not much to do which was an incredible luxury. Then it just happened that I was at some kind of party for Hans-Christoph Steiner who is one of the leading people in the Pd world. I was chatting with him and he suggested that I should try to create a port of Pd to Android. That actually seemed like a great idea. At that time I was thinking that I needed to learn mobile development, wanted to learn git which I had never used before, and I guess the difference between commercial software development and academic hacking is that when you do commercial development you spend a lot of time reading somebody else’s code and working with legacy code and so on. I hadn’t done much of that in the past so I figured I could do with a project that involved staring at someone else’s code just to get into the habit. Porting Pd to android seemed to fit the bill across the board so I started on that. So it was basically a learning project.

DS: That is quite amazing for a learning project then!

PB: Coincidences can be amazing..

DS: Any stumbling blocks when you started, what was the process like?

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