1. the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.
“This month on DesigningSound.org we’re going to be looking into the subject of research”
1. investigate systematically.
“What have you been researching? Would you like to share it with the community?”
The current state of audio technology is fascinating. A single person from home on a laptop can create their own DAW, plugins, use them to make music, mix a film, and author playable media. Physical modeling allows us to recreate believable sounding instruments from pure math. We can create convincing spacial audio in 3D game engines. We clean up audio removing extraneous noises with the precision of a surgeon who leaves no scars. We can capture the acoustic properties of a space, apply it to any sound, then remove the reverb we just added as if by magic. We can even morph and change the acoustic properties of a live environment in real-time. We can control sound with the press of a key, a slide on a touch-screen or a gesture in the air. But how did we get here, and where are we going?
For this month, DesigningSound is going to be looking at the subject of research and how it applies to audio. How does one conduct audio/sound research? What landmark studies contributed to where we are today in the audio-verse. What studies are currently being carried out and where might they take us?
Please email doron [at] this site to contribute an article for this month’s topic. And as always, please feel free to go “off-topic” if there’s something else you’re burning to share with the community.
As the year continues, many of these posts will be philosophical in nature. Some will be in contradiction to previous postings. These are not intended as truths or assertions, they’re merely thoughts…ideas. Think of this as stream of consciousness over a wide span…
I’ve had this one in the topic queue for a while, but couldn’t quite figure out how to approach it here…until a few days ago.
I walked into a restaurant’s restroom just as someone was leaving. The toilet, which had just been flushed, was refilling. I’m sure most of you can call up in your head the sound of a toilet basin refilling its water supply. This one sounded different. It was far more harmonically complex than the usual peaks you hear in the bed of white/pink noise, and it created this incredible drone in the tiled room. Then the toilet stopped filling, and I realized that the additional complexity was coming from a fan vent in the ceiling. This vent noise, 8 feet above and two feet to the left of the toilet, had sounded like it was coming directly from the toilet…like it was part of that other sound.
The way we perceive sounds in our environment can be greatly dependent on the presence of other sources of stimuli. In this case, both sound were affected by the other. One was enhanced by the presence of another sound, while the other was spatially altered by the first. This phenomenon was entirely dependent on the vagaries of the way our brain processes stimuli. As soon as the toilet stopped, my perception of the vent’s source changed to match its actual location. There are other examples. Michel Chion coined the term “entrainment” for the effect that visual elements in film have in our perception of a sound’s localization.
It’s just another reminder that everything, including sound design, is about context.
As April’s topic closes out, we want to extend a thanks to this month’s contributors.
Our Inspirations / Distractions theme brought in an incredible amount of content from the community–and we hope their words have given you something to think about.
Here’s a chance to re-read them all. See you next month!
Spencer Riedel is a composer and sound designer at Bearcowboy.
“Some people need to be left completely alone to contemplate, or to distract themselves before their mind will be ready for that sudden blast of light that makes the way forward clear. I am not one of those people.“
Outsourcing Eureka Moments
… Every time I have had a “breakthrough” with a problem I’m working on, it has come mid-sentence while talking to somebody else. Since I recently became aware of this pattern, I make a point to spend at least a little time talking about my creative blocks with those around me.
Will Stowell is a freelance sound designer & dialogue editor living around Seattle, WA.
“I’ve always had a work mentality of no goofing off when at work, but when working at home, it’s different.”
“I find that when working on a long, boring project, I will start to drift into my web browser and check up on stuff, look at gear I wish I could buy or end up Googling some random question / thing / issue.
To combat this, I:
Take a break when tired.
Coffee time! Get enough sleep! Even a quick break.
Carlye Nyte is a sound designer and musician for games and virtual reality. She currently resides in Seattle, WA. Her favorite cartoon is Steven Universe.
“When I was in school I had a classmate friend whose love of cartoons and synths went so hand in hand that every patch she made was a burst of color and nostalgia.
I called her my muse.“
“Whenever I was uninspired or overworked, a simple chat with her was like discovering a new flavor of sonic ice cream. I always had homework: artists to listen to, cartoons to watch, Kickstarters to fund, etc. When my MIDI controller broke, she gave me a new one. She helped me make it through school.
At the time, to me, she was pure inspiration. It’s not easy to find people like that. But I think it’s important to remember those people and experiences and carry them with you.
Sometimes, when I am worn out and find my feet dragging, I think about that friend. And usually end up watching a cartoon. I’ve gotten ideas from the interplay between color palette and sonic palette in some cartoons, how playful and comforting the sounds can be.
It’s been good for me to have a foundation of inspiration that I can always return to, whether it’s really relevant to my current project or not.
It’s all about those strange things that get you going.”
Feona Lee Jones is a composer, pianist, synth nerd, and telepathic bird(s). She currently resides in the San Francisco Bay area.
“It’s about setting manageable and reachable goals.”
“For inspiration: I turn to things like hiking, swimming, live music, and movies.
For distractions, I get out into nature. I reward myself with sushi at the end of the day if I get everything finished that I wanted to.”
The game audio community would like to recognize the passing of a friend, innovator, and legend in Jory Prum who passed late last week.
From his parents:
We are deeply heartbroken that our son, Jory Kyle Prum, passed away last night, April 22, 2016. We placed him in God’s hands and he was taken around 9 PM. We were by his side as he took his last peaceful breath and completed a 41 year life that was full of passion, love, music, technology, humor, and generosity. As an international pioneer in video game audio, he touched thousands upon thousands of people around the world. Self-taught, he was a computer genius, as well as a consummate sound designer for film and video. He was unique–a one of a kind–free spirit and Renaissance man that will be missed and kept forever in our hearts.
Leslye & Sam Prum
It’s the most difficult to let go of those who have affected us the most. That we should live without, however loosely connected, makes life feel lesser for their passing. When left with only memories, it is through memories that we keep their spirit alive. Jory left many positive memories during his time and I expect these to continue to resonate for long into the future.
Please feel-free to contribute to the memory of Jory in your own way in response to this. (more…)
I struggled with the idea of posting one of these today. A friend of mine, and to much of the community as well, Jory Prum passed away Friday night. Ultimately, I think it’s important to keep moving forward in life. We’re working on collecting some thoughts about Jory to post later today/tomorrow. For now, here’s something I think he would have appreciated discussing.
Filmmakers love a good close up. The tight framing of an actor, prop or movement…in the right context…can really lend weight to a moment in the narrative. It’s a clear sign to the audience that “this” is important, “this” is something you have to pay attention to. There are two ways this is achieved in the crafting of a visual piece: the hard cut, and the zoom.
We have the same tools available to us in the auditory realm. If we want to highlight a particular sound element, we can strip the others away. If we want the hard cut, we simply cut the sounds out. To replicate a zoom, we can strip those surrounding elements away more slowly…deliberately…to draw the audience in to the experience of that one element.
What would really be interesting though, would be to explore the ways in which we might also replicate the “Dolly/Zoom” effect.
Jerry Berlongieri is an audio director, composer and sound designer currently residing in Cambridge, MA.
“I’ve never really regarded inspiration and distraction as mutually exclusive. I tend to see distraction as a form of inspiration. “
“My advice would be: ‘Don’t avoid it, don’t push it away or see it as the enemy. Steer into the skid and see where it takes you.’
Distraction serves as a mental safeguard, protecting you from obsession. It also serves to remind that creativity is personally expressed through the synthesis of experiences around you.