This is a guest article written by Ariel Gross, Audio Director of game development studio Volition Inc, which produces such PC and console titles as the Saint’s Row and Red Faction series. You can view Ariel’s introduction post here.
I Feel Like a Fraud and So Can You!
Every now and then I feel like a fraud. Every now and then I feel like I’m merely masquerading as a professional. Every now then I feel a little bit terrified, and then I see the look in your eyes. Wait, wait. Sorry. That last one was from a Bonnie Tyler song. But here’s the thing. The more I open up about this feeling to others, the more I realize that lots of other people feel this way, and it can be really comforting to know that we’re not alone. And actually, it might just be okay that we feel like frauds. Good, even!
How is it “okay” to be a fraud?
Well, hold your horses there, header. I never said that I am a fraud. I said that I feel like a fraud, and there’s a big difference. I’ve never claimed credit for something that I didn’t actually do. That would make me an actual fraud. If I have done that, it would have been unintentionally, and I would be mortified to find out. I would shout from the tallest mountain that there was an error.
It’s more like a sense of disbelief that I occasionally accomplish things that are actual things. To be clear, actual things are what I’ve always endeavored to do, and I believe that anyone that sets out to do actual things will likely become more capable of doing an actual thing. And that is just fine… for other people.
One of the hot topics at AES this year…and by “hot,” I mean a subject that had multiple conference sessions devoted to it…was the concept of adding height to the spatial information presented by multi-channel surround formats. I’m sure a fair bit of the enthusiasm for this subject is caused by the announcement and release of Dolby Atmos earlier this year.
My experience with Dolby Atmos prior to AES was non-existent. To date, there are only 14 theaters in the U.S., and one in Canada, currently equipped for Atmos playback. The closest theater to me is in New York, and that’s not exactly a short trip from the Washington, DC, metro area. Thankfully, my trip out to San Francisco for AES provided me with two opportunities to listen to the system at work. The first was a technical demonstration at Dolby Laboratories, scheduled as a “Technical Tour” within the AES events program. The second was the AMC Metreon, which had two daily showings of Chasing Mavericks; the latest film release to be mixed in the new Atmos format.
Just imagining all that could be done in creating subtle backgrounds and ambiences, I was excited to hear what this system could do…though I fully expected the bulk of the examples that Dolby would be showing would tend toward spectacle. That proved, for the most part, to be true. Which made the opportunity presented by Chasing Mavericks all the more important; a chance to truly hear how editors and re-recording mixers would make use of the system throughout the course of a story. Before I get too deep into those experiences though, let’s talk about some of the interesting technical abilities of the system. Read More
Editors note: This series of articles by Ariel were initially planned to be for the ‘Featured Sound Designer’, but due to recent changes to Designing Sound they will simply be posted each Wednesday over the month of November. And now, please allow Ariel Gross, Studio Audio Director at Volition to introduce himself in his own words.
The year is 1991. Ariel Gross is 12 years old. He’s cracking open Scream Tracker for the first time with a Sound Blaster 16. He proceeds to cobble together a terrible arrangement of Spring Yard Zone from Sonic the Hedgehog. This arrangement would never see the light of day but it would set Ariel off on a certain trajectory in his life. Man, the tune to Spring Yard Zone. The little intro before it drops… So rad. The point is, game audio had always been his favorite thing and now he was emulating it. This third person stuff is kind of weird. I’m dropping it.
I got my start in the demoscene after getting pretty comfy with Scream Tracker. I was in a bunch of demo groups and tracker music groups using Stalker as an alias, the most popular probably being a group called Five Musicians. Contacts in the demoscene ended up providing me with my first contract game audio job at the ripe age of 16. I was introduced to the president of Webfoot Games through my friend RaD Man from ACiD Productions. Weird how these things line up. Never stopped doing audio for games since then. Always composing music or designing sounds for some game or another.
Things really blasted off when I joined Volition, though. That was in 2007. I had just wrapped up school at The Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. I had a bunch of indie casual games under my belt, but nothing for consoles. Unless you count handheld, because I did compose music and design sounds for Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku for Game Boy Advance. But other than that, no consoles.
Working at Volition was a whole new world, though. This was serious, big budget games. I started as an Audio Designer on Saints Row 2 and then rolled onto Red Faction: Guerrilla after that. Then I was Audio Lead on Saints Row: The Third. I must be doing something right, because now I’m Studio Audio Director at Volition and most of my colleagues seem to find me only mildly annoying 93% of the time. Don’t worry about the other 7%.
It’s crazy to be a featured sound designer among these industry titans here on Designing Sound. When I was asked, I was like, hell yeah! That sounds fun! And then I looked at the other people and I projectile vomited. I’m still projectile vomiting, even as I write this. I don’t know when I’m going to stop.
The London Film School is offering another one day workshop focusing on the role of sound in story-telling. The workshop will take place on Saturday, November 24th. They’re also offering a 20% discount to Designing Sound readers.
What is it that makes the dream sequences in Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND, Bergman’s WILD STRAWBERRIES and Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION so disturbing? What makes the ‘trip’ sequences in TRAINSPOTTING and EASY RIDER so real, the flashbacks in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and BLADE RUNNER so palpable, and the levels of time and memory in INCEPTION and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND so distinct and immediately recognisable?
In each case, the answer lies in the sound design.
In this new 1-day workshop, Dr. Gilbert Gabriel focuses on how characters’ subjective thoughts and feelings are signified in their experience of altered states such as those in dreams, intoxication, memory and flashbacks, terror and insanity. The workshop explores how pitch, rhythm, timbre, reverberation and fluctuation of sounds as well as the cultural import of music or song can significantly sway the emotions and audience interpretation of a film scene. It offers both a theoretical and practical way for directors, editors, composers, sound designers and screen designers to understand the relationships between speech, music and sound on film soundtracks.
For more details, and to register, follow this link. Our discount code is: Gilbert20%
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