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May’s Featured Sound Designer: David Sonnenschein

Posted by on May 2, 2011 | 5 comments

I’m pleased to announce the visit of David Sonnenschein to Designing Sound during this month. David’s approach to sound design is amazing, so it’s an honor for us to share his ideas to you.

About David Sonnenschein

David Sonnenschein’s story can shed some light on how different experiences meld into a synergy toward sound design.  He began studying clarinet at eight years old, performing in symphony orchestras and chamber groups, then took up the flute with the conscious choice to not read music, but to jam, developing his ear’s sensitivity and spontaneity.

As a neurobiology undergraduate at UC San Diego, his interests in physiology, psychology and dreams were united by research in a sleep laboratory.  Fascinated by the mind-body interface, he published several studies relating brainwaves to mental states and biorhythms, and developed insight into the physiological and perceptual processes that serve as foundations for the creation of sound design.

Sonnenschein’s musical exploration continued when he lived in Indonesia and Thailand, listening, collecting and playing the local instruments made of bamboo, palm fronds and gourds.  Returning to the U.S. to direct the award-winning short “Little Red Riding Hood: A Balinese-Oregon Adaptation”, he mirrored the form of the Balinese mask dance, playing bamboo instruments with his clarinet and flute, and composing a non-verbal sound track by associating each character with a theme and instrument.

In the MFA program at USC Cinema School he found a healthy atmosphere to continue exploring sound design, inspired by guest lecturers like master sound designer Walter Murch.  His thesis film “The Owl’s Flight” utilized sounds of Pre-Columbian ceramic instruments, animal calls, Tijuana marketplace atmosphere and a variety of fire effects.  By constructing the right sonic mood for a story about a Mexican Indian shaman and the battle over a sacred healing mask, he garnered the Verna Fields Trophy for Best Sound by the Motion Picture Sound Editors.

While living in Rio de Janeiro, Sonnenschein directed his first feature “Super Xuxa”, a Wizard of Oz-like fantasy starring the popular kids TV show host Xuxa Meneghel.  This gave him the opportunity to introduce an impactful sound design concept to an industry which in the past had not paid much attention to audio quality. He produced five more features and collaborated with several Brazilian producers and directors to develop their soundtracks, while administering sound design workshops throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.  Finding a gap in the literature regarding the narrative use of the sound track and recognizing the uniqueness of his own sound design methodology, Sonnenschein was inspired to write the book “SOUND DESIGN: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice and Sound Effects in Cinema.” He is currently preparing the second edition of his book to include chapters on interactive media and a newly developed psychoacoustic model termed “Sound Spheres.”

Besides creating, teaching and consulting on sound design for film, Sonnenschein has worked in audio for interactive media and sound healing, finding fertile exchange between these various fields. He is currently administering online webinars to international universities and sound designers worldwide, making his knowledge base and coaching directly available through his website  www.SoundDesignForPros.com.

Here’s a link to a short video that summarizes his teaching content:

YouTube Preview Image

Blood and Guts, New Library of Chuck Russom FX

Posted by on May 2, 2011 | 0 comments

Chuck Russom FX has released Blood and Guts, a library recorded/produced by Chuck Russom and sound designer Rob King, and created for sound designers who are looking for sources usable for designing sounds of blood, flesh ripping, bone breaking, dismemberments, zombies… you got the idea!

The sounds were not just recorded for being part of this library originally. These sounds are valuable sources that Chuck have used for years, as he commented to us:

6 years ago, I teamed up with Rob King, who is one of my closest friends. He’s an amazing sound designer, musician, recording engineer, all around audio genius. We decided to record a set of fight/combat/gore sounds that could be used in our own projects. We also had an idea that we might release it as a commercial library. Over the years, we’ve used these sounds on nearly every project we’ve worked on. I know these sounds appeared in God of War 2, Medal of Honor, Quantum of Solace, Dante’s Inferno, Bulletstorm, and Rift. And I know the’ve been used in more than just those project. As I said, we’ve used them on nearly everything we’ve worked on in the last 5-6 years.

We never did get around to releasing the sounds commercially. So, after I released the Servo library last month, I started to think about releasing these sounds as a library. All of the recording was done, much of the editing was even complete. I went back to the material finished up the editing, mastered them, added filenames and metadata, and sorted them into a collection for release. In addition to those recordings done back in 2005, I found some pumpkin gut recordings that I made back in October of last year, they fit well with the rest of the sounds, so I included them.

These sounds were recorded at 24bit 96K using a variety of microphones, I can’t remember specific mics anymore, but it was a pretty elaborate set up of some very high-end gear. I performed all of the Foley and Rob, who is an amazing recordist, handled recording duties. We did the whole thing over a couple days in his studio and it was quite messy! Luckily we covered the floors and walls in plastic, but his live room still smelled like a bad salad for days.

Blood and Guts includes 477 sounds recorded and mastered at 24-Bit/96kHz, WAV (embedded with descriptive metadata). It’s available at $50.

Want to hear?

And there’s more! Chuck also launched a new rewards system on CRFX, which he explains below:

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Interview with Watson Wu

Posted by on May 1, 2011 | 0 comments

David at Tracktimeaudio has published an interview with Watson Wu on recording cars.

I have the privilege of getting my first interview with the awesome, excellent, Watson Wu.

TTA: First off, some of your work with NFS ProStreet — this game emphasized more on the fun of the game than on the realism of driving, did this slightly different emphasis have any effect on the recording technique for the vehicles? Were there any cars that proved difficult to record well? Lastly, did you use predominately dyno-based recordings?

For ProStreet I was hired to field record passbys and help the EA team apply microphones on GT race cars in Sebring, Florida. We were capturing Corvette CR06, Cadillac, and Viper cars during their practice runs around the track, speeding at 170-190mph. The Corvette CR06s are The Loudest race cars I have ever encountered! They were like constant sustains of gun shots, painful to our ears. While many of the microphones were able to withstand the constant pounding of the high decibels, I was given from the team mic pads to cut off the extreme sounds going into my field recorder. While EA as well as a few of their external contractors sometimes use dyno-packs, I most of the time capture vehicles while in motion. Many of us believe that this recording on the go produces the more natural sound. As we have learned from years of recordings, we constantly strive to achieve better or nastier recordings with newer microphones and push the limiters to the extreme for that more aggressive sound. after all, video games and films are fiction based.

Continue reading here.

Rodney Gates Special: Reader Questions

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 3 comments

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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SoundWorks Collection: Interviews with Ann Kroeber and Charles Maynes

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 0 comments

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.

Rodney Gates Special: A New Role – Becoming Audio Director

Posted by on Apr 29, 2011 | 0 comments

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

Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 | 0 comments

[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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Exclusive Interview with Peter Miller, Sound Designer on “Rango”

Posted by on Apr 27, 2011 | 4 comments

“Rango” is ILM’s first animated feature. I was blown away by the level of detail in both the look and the sound design. Sound designer Peter Miller was kind enough to share his film making experiences with me.

Designing Sound: So how did you become involved in the project?

Peter Miller: I worked with Gore (Verbinski) on The Ring and we’ve wanted to work together since. I think he knew this film was right up my alley – he pitched it to me as Sergio Leone meets Hayao Miyazaki meets Carlos Castaneda. How could I refuse!? My good friend Craig Wood edits for Gore and the three of us have a great rapport in sound language. Both Gore and Craig are very sound-aware, and really great collaborators.

DS: How was it different working with the director on this film compared to the last?

PM: I think we kind of slotted quickly back into the way we worked on The Ring. We followed a similar process, even though Rango was a lot longer in creation. Gore is very much what I would call a ‘contributive’ director. He likes to be involved in as much of the process as he has time for. Typically, that means we start working very early on in the production time-line and discover our ideas together. It’s not a situation where he just gives a brief and then turns up for the final mix. Even though Rango is a comedy, I found the emotional requirements for the construction of The Ring and Rango oddly similar. In the same way as setting things up to scare an audience becomes a very subjective and intellectual exercise in a horror film, so does making people laugh in a comedy. After you’ve heard the jokes a few dozen times the initial funniness has worn off, so finding the humor takes a fairly cerebral approach. Which is not to say that we didn’t laugh a lot when we were making Rango – we just hoped the audiences would laugh at the same things.

DS: When did you start sound designing the film?

PM: I started on Rango in 2008, when the storyboard edit was almost complete. There had been some sound work already as the ideas came together, but Gore felt it was important to get me on-board as soon as he was able. I did some work on the ‘Metaphor’ sequence, where Rango is thrown between the cars on the highway, and the ‘Ritual’ where the townsfolk do their odd dance. Over the next months I also built a large library of atmospherics and fx and then went to Los Angeles later in the year when Craig came on. Craig mostly cuts with 5.0sound when he works, and we’ve found it a great way to start forming the shape of the final soundtrack. It is very unusual for sound people to be pulled into a project this early, and it is a measure of Gore’s great skill and commitment to sound that he insists on this happening.

During 2009, as the digital animation phase commenced, I worked from my studio in Australia providing sound effects and sequences as they were needed. In July 2010 I traveled back to the US for the next 7 months to complete the sound. At this time the full sound crew came on-board and I was very fortunate to have as my co-Supervising Sound Editor an old friend, Addison Teague, who I had worked with previously on ‘The Ring’. Addison headed a very talented sound crew from Skywalker Sound, and together we set about realizing Gore’s vision for Rango.

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Rodney Gates Special: Designing Vehicle Audio for “Transformers: War For Cybertron”

Posted by on Apr 26, 2011 | 4 comments

[Written by Rodney Gates for Designing Sound]

Home Digs

“Transformers” is a mega-hit franchise for Hasbro with a huge fan base fueled by cartoons that beckoned to us in our formative years during the 80’s. The battle between the Autobots and the Decepticons has raged on for decades now, with seemingly no end in sight, and we still line up to see it, be it new toy line, game, and movie releases.

When Activision handed down the “Transformers” mantle to us after “The Bourne Conspiracy” was released, we knew this was going to be quite a bit different than anything the studio had done before…and FUN. Finally I had the chance to work in the science fiction genre, something I’d always wanted to do.

In the very beginning, we weren’t sure what the story was going to be, but that didn’t stop us from jumping in and recording a new library’s worth of material in a few short weeks. Much of that was in anticipation of creating a whole new soundscape of material that didn’t exist much in our libraries with the prior game titles we had worked on. Fun times indeed!

As the vehicle technology behind the “Bourne” game’s Mini Cooper was being expanded and improved to make a vehicle mode viable for Transformers combat and transportation, I began editing all of the best vehicle source we had from the overused commercial libraries most sound people are familiar with out there. As anyone who’s done this knows, there isn’t much to work with. At least much that’s usable from a game standpoint. Still, I prided myself on getting all sorts of tractor trailer squeaks and hisses ready for Optimus Prime and muscle car engine audio ready for Bumblebee.

However, we soon learned that the story of the game wasn’t going to take place on Earth at all. Instead, the focus would be on the Transformers’ home world, Cybertron, as we jumped into the story of what happened before coming to Earth, an area not thoroughly-covered by Hasbro’s existing canon.

This was exciting news indeed.

With the robots no longer needing the ability to transform into human-designed vehicles for disguise purposes as they did on Earth, this opened up the sonic palette quite a bit to experiment with what it might sound like for these Cybertronian citizens to zip around in their own vehicle form, aligned with their own advanced civilization and technology.
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