Let’s get started with this month’s special. Below is an interview I had with our guest Harry Cohen, talking about the general aspects of his career.
How did you get started in sound design and what’s been the evolution of your career?
I backed into sound design by accident; I showed up at EFX studios in Burbank to do some piano overdubs on a new-age-y album, and met the staff. They were a music studio just getting into post production. The owner asked me if I would help with some sound effects for game shows they were posting, since I knew synths pretty well. Three days later he asked me out of the blue if I was interested in trying my hand at doing sound fx for a film. (a super low-budget film !), and for better or worse , I agreed. I stayed with EFX for about 12 years, and slowly we built a reputation and started getting better films. Looking back , it was like a rare alignment of the stars or something; so many talented people were associated with that place. (Paul Menichini, David Farmer, Ann Scibelli, Tim Gedemer, Tim Walston, Mike Kamper, Gary Rizzo, Mark Fishman, and on and on). Later, I accepted an offer from from Wylie Stateman and Lon Bender to join Soundelux. Except for a 6 month period where I was ‘on loan’ to Soundstorm, those are the only 3 facilities I have worked for. I’ve been with Soundelux for more than 10 years now.
What are your biggest influences inside and outside the world of sound?
Well , of course , all the great sounding films over the years, and, all the other sound professionals I have worked with. Many people are so open and willing to share what they know, and that is probable the greatest resource we can tap.
I think also that being a musician has had a lot of influence on how I hear things.
Full Sail has uploaded the recording of a panel called “Beyond 5.1: The Future of Sound for Picture”, with sound designers Harry Cohen and David Farmer, and re-recording mixers Marc Fishman and Gary Rizzo.
Livestream embed code doesn’t work properly, so go to this page for watching the video.
The Recordist has released M60 Machine Gun HD, a new sfx library available at $50.
Presenting The M60 Machine Gun HD Professional Sound Effects Library, a multi-channel collection of 129 Broadcast WAV tracks recorded at 24-Bit 192kHz and 24-Bit 96kHz. The M60 is a belt-fed machine gun that fires the 7.62 mm NATO cartridge (.308 winchester) commonly used in larger rifles. The M60 used for this collection is a M60E3: An updated, lightweight version adopted in the 1980s. The M60E3 was introduced circa 1986 in an attempt to remedy problems with earlier versions of the M60 for infantry use. It is a lightweight, “improved” version intended to reduce the load carried by the gunner.
Along the release, Frank has also published some interesting stuff regarding the recording process, including a blog post with microphone comparisons and thoughts on the multi-track setup. Also, below is our usual interview, dedicated to talk about the new release.
Why you decided to create this library?
About six months ago I was prepping ammo to use for a small gun shoot I was doing on my ranch and went down to the local gun shop to purchase the ammo and noticed they had a lot of really cool guns in the shop. After talking with the owner for a while about what I do he said he has something to show me. He took me back to his office and opened a huge gun safe and pulled out the M60. I had no idea what it was and when he told me I knew I just had to record it. He let me hold it and I thought to myself this thing can make some all kinds of great sounds. We decided to wait until the late fall to record so the conditions would be favorable, no birds, insects and less tourists in the area creating all the car noise.
I did some research on the gun and searched through all the sound effects libraries I had and noticed very little variation and consistency with the M60 sounds I found. Some were very good but not enough source material for a serious sound designer in my opinion. Since I have not recorded many guns over the years in any serious fashion I decided that I should practice over the next few months with different guns, microphones and gear. I learned a lot but in reality I had no idea what was I was doing when it came to gun recording.
As the Fall season approached I contacted the gun owner and asked him if I could record the M60. He agreed and we were on. I figured it was now or never so I contacted two of the best in the business Charles Maynes and Chuck Russom and asked them for some advice on different techniques and practices. They were extremely open and helpful and I thank them very much for sharing their wisdom. I also decided to create this library because the gun is located five miles away from my ranch and I really don’t like to get out much so this was easy pickings.
Here’s a Q&A I had with Axel Rohrbach of BOOM Library, talking about the process on their latest release, Medieval Weapons.
Could you tell us a bit about the process on this library? What happened on the different stages of production?
First we had a rough concept of what should be included in that library. Of course there have to be tons of elements for the Construction Kit and as always a good general sound base for the pre-designed weapons of the Designed collection.
We started discussing about the experiences we had in recording and designing hand weapons and ranged weapons like bows and crossbows for movies or games. One big issue we all came across: we just don’t have enough material to work with. Shortly after that we talked to some reenactment fighting clubs about the most important fighting techniques and what kind of sounds they make. There was one interesting statement: “You can actually hear who knows how to fight with a sword and who doesn’t – the less sound variation, the less skilled the knight is”. That only encouraged us to provide tons of different clanks, clonks and scrapes from different sizes, materials, etc.
We started to record the most important medieval weapon: swords and blades. First we used the real thing and had about ten different swords including one handed, one and a half handed and two handed, a whole bunch of knifes and daggers, one- and two-handed axes, scythes and more. But we already knew that those might not necessarily produce the best thinkable sound for swords or hand weapons. So we grabbed metal poles, bars, sticks, planks and so on to get the extra thing.
After recording the most basic thing for the medieval battle scenery, we started to go out and shoot some bows again. We had a bow / arrow manufacturer build some for us and we tried a lot of things on our own. We attached all kind of things to the arrows, used so called Flu-flu arrows and different kinds of bows. However, same thing here, the real bow sounds interesting but doesn’t really give us the elements to create an in-your-face bow shot, in our opinion. So we also recorded some bow shot sweetener sounds like wood impacts, string sounds and so on which we used either on top of the real recording or on their own to create bow shots for Medieval Weapons – Designed.
We shot a crossbow a while ago which was one of the most boring sounds I ever heard for such a powerful piece of equipment. Again, we decided to record a lot of elements so that designing that mighty William-Tell-ish shot is easy and fun.
“Cabbit” is a short animation film by the artist, Soogie. It has been in production for over 3 years and is now being co-produced and sound designed by John Kassab (Kickstarter campaign). We spoke to John about his sound design work on ‘Cabbit’ and why he decided to sit in the producer’s chair.
What attracted you to Cabbit?
I am a huge fan of visual art and animation so, predictably i watch a lot of animation on Vimeo and often go to art galleries. Unfortunately, this sort of saturation had began to create a numbness in the way i looked at art. When i saw a trailer for ‘Cabbit’ on Vimeo, it made me completely still and my throat dried at just how beautiful it was. Its just so honest. Everything down to the clunky editing and animation flicker. Its just so raw – which is quite punk with all this clean cold dehumanised refinement thats going on in animation at the moment. i loved the handmade-ness of Soogie’s work. Its simplicity is brutal and the complexity of the cross hatching is mesmerising. I was instantly inspired.
I understand this is your first experience as a producer. Is this something you want to do instead of sound?
No, not at all – first and foremost i am a sound designer. However when i was starting to get to know Soogie early in our collaboration, I learned that he had not really considered a festival plan and was struggling to make ends meet working on a mini-mac from his home in montana. Furthermore, he is largely housebound due to illness and did not have a network or means with which to complete his film properly or get it out there. As I work with producers everyday, i see how they go about things and i have always been interested in how they operate. Similarly, so much of what i do as a sound supervisor involves this kind of organisational tasks and dealings with other businesses and facilities. So i have become well versed in this kind of stuff anyway. Plus i have dear friends in virtually every department of filmmaking which makes it easier when seeking guidance and favours.
On a more personal note, I took on this role because i felt so strongly that Soogie had created a true thing of beauty that i really wanted to be apart of. So i decided to offer all of my efforts to give this film the exposure i feel it deserves.
What is your brief for the sound and how have you undertaken the sound design?
‘Cabbit’ has a very nostalgic feel to it. Not only in the way that it looks but also in the way it recounts its story. it plays like memories and so we wanted it to sound like memories too.
Seeing that the film was going to be grounded in wall-to-wall music, i felt the sound should be impressionistic and minimal – as in, i wanted to hint at the sound things made without being overly detailed and clear about it. I felt that reverbs could be used effectively to creating this effect.
So I decided to bus the tracks into three separate AVID TL Space reverbs that were tuned differently:
1. Recent Memory – this is a light reverb i added to foley which i wanted to feel most present.
2. Fading Memory – this was a heavier/wetter reverb with a longer tail. This was used for the fore-and middle ground sounds such as vehicles, war and industry. I started to think of these as “impression sounds” or “sounds the future would rather forget”.
3. Distant Memory – this is the wettest and longest reverb used. This one was used on the back ground sounds and as reinforcement to the fading memory cues if i felt a sound was somewhere between fading and distant, if you know what i mean.
I’m happy to announce Harry Cohen as the featured sound designer of November.
I was born in New York City a long time ago…..1954. Grew up in Flushing , Queens (a borough of NYC). Undoubtedly the city has left an indelible imprint on me. As a kid I was mainly a science nerd that liked to build hand wired oscillator circuits in my basement ‘lab’. I moved to CA with my family just in time to start High School, in what is now Santa Clarita. Now, in NY, I was an amateur musician, but never considered good enough to partake in the neighborhood jam sessions. Out in suburban CA, the field was much more open, and I soon found myself playing piano in the school jazz band and involved in several garage bands. I started playing nightclubs like the old Gazzari’s on the Sunset Strip before we were out of High School. After school, I concentrated on music, with several side jobs to supplement income; I was a hospital lab assistant, I worked a plastic injector press, and did some time at a picture frame factory, until I almost cut off my finger. Eventually music was able to barely pay the bills, and I spent the next 12 years or so playing clubs and pursuing a career with various recording acts. Hunting in the bargain bins, you might find some records I did with a band signed to a Motown offshoot. I spent more than a year traveling back and forth from Alaska to Hawaii with a show band; that is where I met my lovely wife; she was one of the singers in the band.
Eventually, I was asked to do some piano overdubs on a new-agey album at a studio in Burbank that was just starting to shift gears into post production. The manager at the time was a musician I had been in several projects with. After the sessions, they offered me some part time work helping to organize their library of synth patches. After about 3 days of that , the owner asked me, out of the blue, if I would be interested in trying my hand at sound effects. So, I was already in my early thirties before I ever even considered getting involved in post !
The facility , EFX, was using emulator II’s (an antique sampler) to generate sound fx that were recorded to multitrack analog tape machines, synched up to 3/4″ video machines, all tied together with early synchronization systems that were very tweaky. I sat in a room with my emu and a stack of floppy disks, with an engineer (Ken Teaney) who recorded the stuff, and was my first real mentor. Occasionally he’d would make us trade places, and taught me the synchronizer and some console basics , though I already knew some of that from my music experience. So, I never went to a school to study post; it was all on the job training.
We started doing overflow work for Dave Yewdall’s company. He was the first real sound editor/designer I met, and he also taught me a lot of stuff, as well as sharing lots of library. I used to go over to his facility and transfer stuff from mag dubbers to F-1 digital tape (an early digital medium, before even DAT). I did a fair number of films for Roger Corman’s company. I also did lots of industrial videos, some commercials, lots of TV work and animation, and also a lot of stuff for theme parks. The wide range of projects was a great lesson in flexibility. For some of those endeavors, the clients are sitting right behind you the whole time; thats a particular kind of pressure familiar to guys who do commercials.
Somewhere in there we started expanding and getting better films. We switched to Synclaviers, and the edit rooms became one man operations, recording to sony digital multi-track instead of analog; then it became DA-88’s; and finally pro tools. Now that was a great set-up; Synclaviers recording to Pro Tools!
Lots of really talented sound designers and mixers passed through EFX; and it was a great environment of exchanging techniques and figuring things out.(Gary Rizzo, Dave Farmer, Paul Menichini, Tim Gedemer,Tim Walston, Ann Scibelli, Juan Peralta, Tony Sereno, Michael Kamper, Marc Fishman, are just a partial list of ex-EFX-ers).I was head of our small department, and had an awesome day shift of talent ! (I am sure there are lots of names I am forgetting; my apologies.)Also we started to do some game work early on for Charles Deenen; I am sure association with him has had an influence on all of us !
At one point we partnered with Steve Flick’s company, and he was a great source of information and guidance for me. We did one film that mixed up at Skywalker, and that experience was a real eye-opener as well. Randy Thom and Laura Hirschberg were part of the mix team, and Gary Rydtrom came by and introduced himself to me, and invited me to come by and hang out while he was prepping stuff for “Casper”. Everyone was very open and willing to share information.
After about 14 yrs, EFX re-organized their business, and I accepted an offer from Lon Bender and Wylie Stateman to join Soundelux. Except for a six month period where I was ‘on loan’ to Soundstorm , I have been here ever since; those are the only facilities I have worked at ! The opportunity to be present at the mixes of the films I work on has been one of the most beneficial learning experiences I can think of.
By the way , when I can, I still get out and play in some local LA blues clubs , and I have an awesome collection of vintage keyboards and stomp box effects!
- Green Lantern (2011) – Sound designer
- Robin Hood (2010) – Sound designer
- Complacent (2010) – Supervising sound editor
- Inglourious Basterds (2009) – Sound designer
- Star Trek (2009) – Sound designer
- Wanted (2008) – Sound designer
- Death Proof (2007) – Sound effects designer
- Blood Diamond (2006) – Sound effects editor
- Van Helsing (2004) – Sound designer
- Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004) – Co-supervising sound editor
- Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) Sound designer
- Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) – Sound designer
- The Patriot (2000) – Sound designer and Sound effects editor
- Blade (1998) – Sound designer, supervising sound effects editor)
- Babylon 5 (TV series) (1994-1998) – Sound designer
- Spawn (1997) – Sound effects editor
- Starship Troopers (1997) – Sound designer
More at IMDb
Some recent sfx news:
– Sound Editor, Designer and Mixer, Richard Humphries runs a sfx library, where he has released three packages so far, including Antique Movie and Still Cameras, Whooshes-Stingers and Hits Vol-1, and Machine Guns. Visit Takoma Media for more info.
– Daniel Gooding released The Monster Creature Hero Library, including almost 3000 sounds. 25% Of each perchase goes to ASPCA.org, to help stop animal cruelty.
– Arrowhead Audio released Balloon Squeaks and Creaks.
– The Recordist M60 Machine Gun HD coming Tuesday.
– 20% off on all Blastwave FX sound effects, through December 31.
Last year (2010) at the AES convention in San Francisco, I took a few moments to visit and chat with the wonderful ladies of the Women’s Audio Mission. Women’s Audio Mission is a non-profit organization, “dedicated to the advancement of women in music production and the recording arts.” This visit to their booth was the first time I had heard of the organization, but their passion was (and is) both admirable and infectious.
At that show in San Francisco, they were excited about a new training tool they had just introduced, Sound Channel. One year later, Sound Channel has continued to grow in both content and reach. The time was well overdue that our community be introduced to theirs…WAM is doing some amazing things. I got in touch with the founder of WAM, Terri Winston, and scheduled some time to sit down and talk with her at their booth at this year’s AES convention in New York.
Designing Sound: Women’s Audio Mission is focused on getting more women into the audio industry, making it easier for them…
Terri Winston: We’re exposing them to the opportunity.
I know you’ve got the studio…you run educational programs there?
We have educational programs on site in our studio, that’s run entirely by women, and then we also have a collection of e-textbooks online. That reaches men and women, and it reached about 6,000 students in 105 countries last year. (more…)
SoundCloud and Vancouver Film School announced a new sound design challenge. The prize is a full scholarship to the Sound Design for Visual Media program at VFS.
- Pushing your creativity and imagination to the limits while using any sounds or techniques you like, create an original audio track that communicates your interpretation of the following:
- The colour red
- The birth of an idea
- An imaginary animal being born
- Falling in love
- A post-apocalyptic landscape
- You can submit a maximum of three entries, but only one entry per category. Entries should be a maximum of 90 seconds in length.
- For each entry that you submit you’ll need to include in the text field a description of who you are, what you’ve created, how you created it, why you’re passionate about sound, and why you’re sure Sound Design for Visual media is the career for you.
The winning entry will be chosen by the SoundCloud community from a shortlist of finalists.
Deadline is Nov 13. Details at VFS
Audiokinetik has announced a new partnership with Audio Ease. Altiverb IR packages on Wwise.
Audiokinetic Inc. and Audio Ease B.V. announce a partnership where Audiokinetic will distribute award winning Altiverb Impulse Response packages for the Wwise convolution reverb plug-in. The first package will be available before the end of this year and will contain 49 impulse responses mostly oriented for the reproduction of outdoor environments. Reproducing outdoor environments is probably one of the most difficult tasks for sound designers today and this package arrives at the right moment for professionals seeking quality and realism in their games.
“At the design phase of our convolution reverb, we set a very challenging goal that we could have the best technology from the post-production world running in games, said Simon Ashby, VP Products at Audiokinetic. Given that our convolution reverb operates with high performance and that we proudly partner with Audio Ease, which is certainly the most respected player in this field, I think we can say that we have achieved our goal”.
“Convolution reverb approaches the real world so much better than synthetic reverb that it had no trouble taking over Hollywood film sound. I hope this set of movie post-pro Altiverb IR’s will help convolution reverb do the same in game sound, added Arjen van der Schoot, Co-owner of Audio Ease. We had been waiting for the right opportunity to start applying our IR’s in real time in games. When Audiokinetic came along, we did not hesitate. I believe we have chosen to partner with a company as devoted to impressive sounding audio as we are.”
Audiokinetik | Audio Ease