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Waves Sound Design Competition: Finalists and Winner

Posted by on Apr 1, 2011 | 0 comments

Waves has published the results of the sound design competition where Designing Sound collaborated. The winner is Toby Hulse, who did a fantastic job on the video. Take a look:

Congratulations, Toby!!!

You can read a detailed description of Toby’s process and use of the plugins/sounds here.

Judges’ comments about the video:

Charles Deenen: “Oh, nice! The sounds provided were not over-processed, but enough so they nicely fit within the story. Sound was complimentary to the experience, and pulled me in. Well done.”

David Farmer: “Grabbed me first time through—rocked. Solidly put together and nice weaving of elements. Very tasteful. I liked this from start to finish. The process on the zoom to the mirror is great, and focuses the listener’s attention. Excellent execution of the “story,” and I felt guided through the piece.”

Scott Gershin: “I like the way you designed each section, the choices you made, and the way you contoured and designed the sound to work emotionally with the visuals. Nice pacing, well executed, on the debris field, not too sharp. I like the final touch—tasty. Excellent job.”

Tom Ozanich: “Good story telling, good flow, great sounds, well done all around. Each section had its own sound/feel, yet it all flowed well into each other.”

Top 10 Finalists

  1. Toby Hulse
  2. James M. Wearing
  3. Josh Osiris
  4. Ryan Thompson
  5. Ariel Echarren
  6. John Morgan
  7. Alexander Pugh
  8. Brett Hinton
  9. Jeremy Rogers
  10. John Loranger

More info at Waves

Ric Viers Special: Reader Questions

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 | 1 comment

Here are the answers to the questions that several readers made to Ric Viers during this month.

Designing Sound Reader: Hey Ric, i have to say I really admire what you do, not only for the quality of your work but also for the fact that you show a lot of what you do through videos which really helps to find inspiration.

Speaking of inspiration, my question is : You seem to always find something to record, no matter where you are, is there ever a day where you are just like ”Man today I have no clue what to record” and if so is there anything particular that helps to get you inspired? Thanks. Erick.

Ric Viers: Hi Erick,

I think everyone has those days! The problem I have is that I’ve recorded so many sounds that it gets harder and harder to find stuff I haven’t recorded yet. That said, there’s tons of vehicles, weapons, planes, machines and other devices that I still need to hunt down. If I’m completely out of ideas, I don’t force it. I’ve found that forcing it just leads to poor quality. If I’m not smiling while I’m recording, then it becomes a job and not a hobby. I like to watch movies for inspiration. I sit and make lists of cool ideas as I watch TV or play video games. But, there are still days when I come up empty handed.

DSR: Dear Ric: Thank you for spending time with us this month. Your articles and wisdom has greatly inspired me to continue to raise the bar in my own sound design and sound effect recordings. Here are a few questions I have: Your studio is burning down and you can only carry 2 mics out of it to safety. Which 2 mics would those be?

RV: Easy! I’d grab a stereo mic and a shotgun mic (both would already be loaded in blimps of course!).

DSR: Do you use acoustics to your advantage while recording? For example, if you were recording a loud animal roar, would you look to see where you could position it and the mics to best capture the sound?

RV: I try to record everything clean without any environmental influence. However, there are certain things that sound cool and more realistic when you record on location. Other things, like staircases, have to be recorded on location because they’re impossible to bring to the stage – unless you build stairs from scratch, but even then you don’t really get the lived-in sound from stairs that have been around for decades. Mic position is everything. I always experiment with placement to find the sweet spot.

A trick I picked up from Ben Burtt is to always have my headphones on and listen through the mic as I walk around. I’ve discovered some really cool stuff by accident.

DSR: What software do you use to create beeps/streamers and manage ADR recording in your studio?

RV: We don’t have any special software for that. We just do it manually with our software. I’m old school that way.

DSR: Do you favor one microphone cable type over others?

RV: Not at all. I’ve bought really expensive cables and really cheap cables. We ran a bunch of tests, but the only difference I can tell is that the cheap cables don’t last as long. Some guys swear by expensive cables, but then again, guitarist Eric Johnson claims that he can hear a difference in which batteries he puts in his guitar pedals… I’d rather save my money for something that I think will really affect my sound.

DSR: What’s the worst microphone disaster story of yours?

RV: Mics are on the frontline during recording. They get knocked over, the blimp hair catches on fire, mics get dropped into water – everything goes. I’m really carefully with my gear, but I still make mistakes. The only real disaster was when an intern dropped one in a creek, but was too scared to tell me. I didn’t find out until days later when one of the editors stumbled across the take where the mic falls into the water. The intern was let go, not because of the mistake, but because he lied when confronted about it. I don’t mind mistakes, but I refuse to tolerate lying.

DSR: I can never get my lapel mics to sound right. Do you have any tips from your experience on how to make a lapel mic mixable?

RV: Again, mic placement is everything. The catch is, you usually need to hide the lav. So, you have to experiment with placement until you find a good sound. Try to stay within twelve inches or less from the mouth. Beyond that, you’ll loose the direct sound of the mic. It helps to choose lav mics that have a bump in the higher frequencies to compensate for the highs that get cut off when you bury a mic under clothes.

DSR: Do you have a trick on how to stay outside the frame-line of a shot with your boom mic?

RV: Ask for a frame-line from the cameraman. Then, pick a spot on the wall or background that matches the top of the frame and try to stay above that mark. If you can, ask for a monitor during tricky set ups. Placing a piece of white gaffer’s tape on the end of the boom helps make it more noticeable when you dip into frame. You’ll get barked at, but at least they notice it before they go to post.

DSR: Is it important for new sound designers to be educated in music theory?

RV: Music theory isn’t critical for sound design, but it does help. Music is basically organized groups of frequencies that play nice together. When you travel outside of those groups, you get dissonance. Understanding things like that can help you produce better soundtracks. Music theory really helped me in getting a grasp on equalization because notes are basically set frequencies.

DSR: When you find something interesting to record in the field like a prop or a door or something that has human interaction with and you don’t have a specific project you need the sound for, how do you record it?

RV: I try to record everything with variations. For example: Velocity (Fast, Slow), Intensity (Hard, Soft), Frequency (Once, Twice), Duration (Long, Short), etc. This way, when I get back to the studio I don’t kick myself for not covering all of my bases. Some of these variations can be simulated in post, but nothing beats recording the real thing. Plus, it saves time.

DSR: Do you record it in every possible emotion you can think of or exhaust all ideas of how it could be manipulated? I ask because I have had recordings I’ve done of doors and things in the field that I later go to use and I realize “wow, if I shook that door handle a little more frantically when I recorded it, it would be perfect for this horror film scene where the actor is trying to escape from the bad guy… It just doesn’t work the way I recorded it and I wish I recorded it differently.” Do you record in anticipation of that type of scenario?

RV: I think a lot of emotions can be covered in the variations I gave. Keep in mind, sound can be subjective to the audience. Sometimes, they will interpret the ‘mood’ of the sound in connection with the actor’s performance on screen.

DSR: How do you know when you are finished with a project? How do you know it’s good and will pass with flying colors?

RV: Usually, you’re finished when the clock runs out. I listen to work I did years ago and still critique decisions I made. Be careful not to over-tweak a track or a sound. My wife has no experience in this side of the business, so if I’m really second guessing a mix, I’ll let her listen. If she notices something’s off, I take that very seriously and usually will make tweaks based on her comments. This is especially true if she can’t understand dialogue. When you work on a mix, you know the dialogue because you’ve heard it over and over again, but that doesn’t mean the audience will understand the words. It helps have fresh, untrained ears on your work.

DSR: I’ve searched for literally years for a solution to this and I have not found one yet after hundreds maybe thousands of hours of recording close-miked narration and that is: MOUTH NOISE. Do you know of any tricks or methods of reducing mouth noise during a recording session? A magic pill? An easy fix? Anything? I’ve almost given up on my search for a workable solution – Obi Wan Viers, you’re my only hope!

RV: We keep crackers and bottled water in the VO booth to help mouth noises and growling stomachs, but we still get those clicks from time to time. If the sound is intimate or in front of the rest of the mix I’ll go in and cut each click out. It can be a pain, but the track sounds better.

DSR: Can you please create more sound design competitions? Pweeez?

RV: Keep your shirt on! We’ve got one coming up for Sonopedia 2.0. I do have to say, I’m super impressed with the submissions that we get. I think it’s so cool to watch “beginners” deliver professional quality work. You guys rock!

DSR: What are the qualities you look for when picking interns?

Attitude first, personality second, education third.

It’s funny, we’ve received hundreds and hundreds of resumes and they all look the same. What makes you different to me? Attitude and personality. Here’s a couple of rules I have when interviewing prospective interns:

  1. If you wear a tie, I will make you take it off during the interview. Period.
  2. If you’re late for an interview at the Chop Shop, don’t even bother coming in. You didn’t get the gig.
  3. If you don’t attempt to laugh at my corny jokes, I will probably put your name at the bottom of the pile. Why? Because, I want to have fun at work! I want to be surrounded by people who inspire me and I can laugh with. If you don’t have a sense of humor, then the Chop Shop is probably not a good fit for you. Trust me, I’ll just get on your nerves.
  4. If you try to B.S. your way into the gig, it won’t work. I am the king of B.S. and can smell it a mile away. Don’t come in and act like you’re God’s gift to sound and that you know it all. I’ve been doing this a lot longer than you and I even wrote a book, but I still don’t know it all. Keep it humble and realistic. I don’t mind showing you the ropes and teaching you, but I can’t teach someone who already thinks they know it all.

In the past, I’ve picked interns based on resumes. But, I’ve learned my lesson. This past year, I’ve been super-picky about who I work with. I choose guys (and gals) that I know I can have fun with and can collaborate together on projects. It seems to have paid off. This last batch of interns has been, by far, the best crew I’ve worked with! We’ve been under intense pressure to wrap up Sonopedia 2.0, but we did it while laughing our heads off. That’s what I’m looking for.

Ric’s Tips and Tricks: Zoom Recorder Wind Protection

Posted by on Mar 31, 2011 | 3 comments

[Ric Viers has prepared a series of quick videos, where he will be sharing some useful tips and tricks for anyone who records sound effects in the field. All the videos were produced directly from the Detroit Chop Shop and will be published exclusively on Designing Sound TV during this month]

Today, Ric shares his tips on using a portable recorder, and the importance of protecting its microphones against the wind.

Watch the video on DSTV

More Videos

Ric Viers Special: Creating Sonopedia 2.0!

Posted by on Mar 30, 2011 | 1 comment

[Written by Ric Viers for Designing Sound]

The problem I’ve always had with sound effects libraries is the “stock” sound effects idea. I’m a big fan of creating your own sound effects. The catch is my primary gig is developing sound effects libraries. Enter my dilemma…

Sound effects libraries are necessary. You won’t have the time or budget to gather every sound you need for your project. This is when you grab a canned sound (yes, they used to come in cans). When I started Blastwave FX, the vision was simple – give sound designers tools to develop and create their own sound effects. The bottom line, Don’t Be A Lazy Sound Designer! If you have to use stock sound effects, blend, layer, twist and manipulate them so that they are unique to your project. While it’s fun for me to hear my work at the movies, on TV and when playing video games, I’d much rather never hear my work. Stock sounds can become campy and overplayed. So, it’s important for sound designers to use them as the icing on the cake, but never the batter.

With Blastwave FX, we’re trying to keep our libraries fresh and consider them living entities. In other words, it’s alive! It grows, and continues to give you the tools you need to create great soundtracks. Enter Sonopedia 2.0.


Designing Sound TV Reaches 500 Videos, Check Out the Latest

Posted by on Mar 29, 2011 | 2 comments

Designing Sound TV has been getting a great response from the community. Since its release I’ve been adding more videos and… guess what? there are now over 510 videos published!

Since some of those videos are not shared here, let’scheck this quick guide to the latest videos and playlists:

Detroit Chop Shop Video Diary - [Playlist] Week-by-week diary with Ric Viers and the interns of the Detroit Chop Shop. If you want to have lots of fun and also learn about sound effects recording, don’t forget to watch the videos of those cool adventures.

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MPSE and CAS Awards – [Playlists: CAS / MPSE] All the video coverage from the MPSE and CAS award winners done by the SoundWorks Collection team.

More field recording! - [Playlist] I’ve recently added a lot of great recording videos uploaded by inspiring recordists and designers, such as DICE audio team, Frank Bry, George Spanos, Tim Prebble, Watson Wu and more!


Sound Doodle, New Sound Manipulator by Andrew Spitz

Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 | 3 comments

Andrew Spitz, know as  founder of Social Sound Design and blogger at { sound+design }, where he showcases a lot of cool projects, such as his latest creation, called Sound Doodle, a very cool app for experimenting with sounds in many ways.

Sound Doodle is a free desktop application for Mac that takes the act of doodling, and brings it to the world of sound. The interface elements are designed so that you can mold your sound by doodling.

You have very basic editing features to crop, change playback direction and speed, loop, etc.

The routing allows you to draw the order that your sound travels through the effects modules.

To mix, each of your effects is visualized by a node.  As you move your mouse over the nodes, you hear more or less of that effect.

There are four effects, where you change the parameters by drawing. The four are: stereo multitap [tapz], reverb [verbz], granular synthesizer [grainz], and a 5 bank comb filter/resonator [rez].

Here’s a walk-through video of the app:

You can download it for free at { sound+design }

“The Lost Thing”, Exclusive Interview with Sound Designer John Kassab

Posted by on Mar 28, 2011 | 2 comments

The Lost Thing is a beautiful 15-min animated short film based on the book by Shaun Tan, who is also director of the piece, along with Andrew Ruhemann. The film has won several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

I have interviewed John Kassab, sound designer on the project, and responsible of giving life sound to the characters, places and all the events of this amazing story. Perhaps you already know about him, since we’re talking about the same person who published that fantastic report called “The State of Post-Production Film Sound”, which was recently updated  with new sections about conforming, SD to HD conversion, and an extended discussion about backgrounds. Download here (PDF).

Below is the interview I had with John, where we talked about specific elements, important scenes, techniques and methods applied, and more. Enjoy!

Designing Sound: John, could you please introduce yourself to the readers and tell us how did you get started in sound and what has been the evolution of your career?

John Kassab: My awareness of filmsound started early on when I awoke to the sound of The Exorcist (1973) playing in the living room when I was about 6 or 7. This track had a profound effect over me. Although I didn’t see a single frame, I don’t think I slept for the rest of that week. Since then, without any real understanding of how film sound was made, I have been all-ears. It wasn’t until I was about 12 when I heard the footsteps of the T-Rex in that famous scene form Jurassic Park (1993) that I really started to take particular notice to the craftsmanship. And when I heard the toilet shoot-out come horse vs motorcycle scene in True Lies (1994) in the following year at my local home theatre shop, I was positively hooked to the idea of working with film sound at some capacity – although in honesty, at that point I really wanted to be salesman at the home theatre shop so I can listen to Laser Disks to my heart’s content.

Almost a decade later I started university as a Law student who took some cinema classes on the side to keep sane. As the years rolled on I attended less and less of my law degree and become completely immersed in cinema until I (thankfully) dropped out of Law altogether. When I finished my undergrad in Cinema, I studied a short course in sound production purely out of interest. However, halfway through my course, a chance meeting led to an introduction to the head of sound of the South Australian Film Corporation, a tall guy by the name of Rory McGregor. We connected over a mutual enthusiasm for cinema and audio. Rory then introduced me to his colleague, re-recording mixer Pete Smith. Pete subsequently mentored me informally, for about a year. I spent a lot of time looking over his shoulder and trying not to get in the way or outstay my welcome.

When I did finally outstay my welcome, he and Rory recommended me for a 10 week paid internship under the SAFC’s attachment program on the feature film December Boys (2006) staring Daniel Radcliff. On this film I was very fortunately to have learned from some of the best people in the Australian film sound industry including Jenny Ward who was extremely helpful and whose lessons I still hear occasionally in my brain when cutting difficult lines of dialogue. I was even given the opportunity to design the rides in the carnival scene and amazingly most of the work made it all the way to the final print master. After this experience I decided to go independent as a sound designer, contacting and meeting with as many studios, filmmakers and film students that would agree to meet to talk about sound.

DS: Could you tell us about the approach of the director to the sound of The Lost Thing?

JK: Shaun Tan is a truly remarkable sound conscious director and I feel quite blessed and honored to have worked with him. Before this filmic endeavor, Shaun had predominantly worked in the silent and still mediums of painting and illustration. To his credit, he overcompensated for his apparent lack of experience with directing sound by completely immersing himself in a way that I have never seen or heard of a director doing.

Shaun started to collect lots of sounds from around his house with a domestic camcorder and cut them to the animatic using i-movie. He had even created some simple layered sound designs to better explain how he felt the world and its characters could sound. Some of the sound ideas where indeed quite brilliant and in a few occasions I re-created them with better quality recordings. And in a couple of other instances, I simply lifted them straight out of his animatic because of the ‘character’ that he had captured in those recordings. In the sound design, I really wanted to capture as much of Shaun as possible for his fans. Other than recordings he had made himself, I also included his voice in some of the backgrounds and sound recordings of his pet bird, Diego.

DS: What were your initial thoughts and preparation?

JK: My initial thought was that of being completely overwhelmed and then excited and then overwhelmed again. I realized very early on that this was a great opportunity to do something quite new and explore unchartered territory – at least for Australian filmmaking. The sound schedule ran concurrently with animation so I had roughly 13 or 14 months to work on the film. This allowed for a lot of time to experiment and to make loads of recordings. I started making recordings immediately in preparation for the project using the images from the book as a guide for the types of sounds I though I might need later in the project. I also recorded a lot of wild sounds with Foley artist Adrian Medhurst with a bunch of cool odds and ends he has lying around his studio.


Ric’s Tips and Tricks: Cable Repair

Posted by on Mar 24, 2011 | 0 comments

[Ric Viers has prepared a series of quick videos, where he will be sharing some useful tips and tricks for anyone who records sound effects in the field. All the videos were produced directly from the Detroit Chop Shop and will be published exclusively on Designing Sound TV during this month]

Today, Ric shares some tips on cable repair, directly by professionals of the matter.

Watch the video on DSTV

More Videos

Exclusive Interview with the Audio Team of “Medal of Honor”

Posted by on Mar 23, 2011 | 2 comments

Medal of Honor has been one of the most important franchises of warfare video games. Most of their titles have really good sound work, and Medal of Honor (2010) is not an exception of it.

Below is an interview I had with the audio team of the game, talking about the different challenges they had and the techniques/processes applied on recording, designing and implementing the sound of this adventure.

Danger Close Games Audio Team:

  • Audio Directors: Erik Kraber and Paul Lackey
  • Sound Design Leads: Tyler Parsons and Jeff Wilson
  • Dialogue Lead: Joshua Nelson
  • Sound Programming: Eduardo Trama

Desinging Sound: With all those great Medal of honor titles already in the market, what was your approach on this title to make it as good as the previous ones but also new and different?

Erik Kraber: We come away from every project with a laundry list of things we wish we could have done better, but were unable due to time, resources, or technology. It is often hard to get past the frustration of knowing what “could have been” on the previous project, but it just fuels us to keep pushing it further each game. For this latest Medal of Honor we had quite a challenge, because it was an entirely new setting and decade for us to create within. So our massive library of sounds that we had recorded and built of every World War II weapon, vehicle and foley suddenly became dated.  MOH 2010 was about reinvention on all fronts, and audio was a big part of that. Fortunately, we had a very talented senior team of sound artists and programmers who have all worked on multiple MOHs before, so the franchise audio aesthetic sensibility and quality bar is now part of our DNA.

Our focus was to take our learning s from the previous games and go deeper on all the things we try to do on each MOH – focus on authenticity and the personal story of the soldier. We want to give the player the feeling of truly being in that world, living that experience. While not every sound in the game is necessarily realistic, they are intentionally not hyped to the point of feeling like a Hollywood blockbuster. Guns need to represent their real-life counterparts accurately but still provide distinct character and interact with the world in believable ways.  The voice acting needs to feel more like a documentary than a feature film and represent, as accurately as possible, the foreign languages of the indigenous people. The music needs to be current, exciting and fresh, but true to MOH’s orchestral roots and its focus on scoring the humanity of the soldiers throughout the story and not just support action.

DS: How was your collaboration inside the audio team and also the relationship with other development crews?

EK: Within the audio team, communication was easy, as many of us have been working together for years. We also collaborate with many external contractors for music, dialogue, and sfx and with other studios, especially DICE, who handled the development of the multiplayer portion of our game. Fortunately, as part of a big company like EA, we have the opportunity to share and learn from all the other great sound people in the numerous studios across the world.  Paul Lackey organized a Gun Summit, where we had EA audio teams who were working on weapons-based games come to Los Angeles for a week-long weapons recording session and knowledge sharing session. The result was a great exchange of ideas and approaches to sound recording, design and technology and some of the most comprehensive weapon field recording sessions ever done.

Tyler Parsons: For the single-player portion of the game, Paul, Jeff, and I each owned individual levels as well as global sounds (and focused on our own shares through the bulk of production), but we also held group play-through sessions as we got closer to final in which the entire audio team would gather and really scrutinize each level in turn. This made sure that everyone got “ears on” everyone else’s work and had the chance to offer feedback to improve the game.

Our sound designers interact with every other discipline in the game (design, background art, animation, visual effects, et al). We had a very strong relationship with the level designers – we would have frequent meetings and spotting sessions to discuss the latest changes in the levels, how we could best use sound to tell the story and enhance the experience. Implementing sounds throughout the game required us to constantly work with design scripting, the VFX and animation tools, and so forth (as well as collaborate with software engineers to draw up new audio features).  Luckily, the other disciplines were staffed by rock stars who appreciate the impact that sound can have on the player’s experience. We got excellent support.