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Rodney Gates Special: Getting the Gig – A Guide to Becoming a Video Game Sound Designer

Posted by on Apr 12, 2011 | 23 comments

[Written by Rodney Gates for Designing Sound]

Rodney Gates, Mike Niederquell, Ian Mika – Civil War re-enactment trip in Vista, CA

Everyone has a story on how they started working in games, and they can be as varied as the day is long. Many start in Quality Assurance positions (game testing), or Customer Service (in the case of Sony Online). Some get internships, and some get hired on as a junior sound designer attached to a team right away.

What I’d like to focus on is what you can do to set yourself apart and impress Audio Directors and Leads out there to get that first gig.

So, is it all luck and the state of the economy that determine your fate? Not necessarily. There is a lot you can do to prepare yourself to gain recognition in a stack of demos and resume submissions.

Tip 1 – Don’t Be Lazy

This is by far the most important tip I can give you. If you’re like me at all, then you will feel and demonstrate passion about this kind of work.

Even before I worked in games, I had a portable laptop-based recording rig with a good mic and windscreen, as well as mic pre, compressor and Event LAYLA audio interface for my desktop PC, with Alesis Monitor One speakers. I was serious about breaking in, so I had put together this small studio setup to do so.

If you truly want to get into this field and succeed, you cannot do so passively. The pool of game audio personnel in this industry is actually quite small, and opportunities aren’t nearly as profuse as they are for game & level designers, artists, animators, programmers and even production roles. Audio positions are much harder to come by, even worse with a poor economy, and many are filled via word-of-mouth recommendation from ‘Someone A’ who knows ‘Someone B’ to be an excellent, talented person who’s great to work with.

Also, Audio teams are usually one of the smallest departments in a studio, yet are responsible for much more than many of the other individual disciplines within a game team; an entire half of the game experience.

You will need to be motivated to prepare yourself and pursue a job in this field, and keep it up once you’re in.


Behind the Art: Pelayo Gutierrez

Posted by on Apr 11, 2011 | 3 comments

[Behind the Art is a special section of Designing Sound created with the goal of studying the artistic and creative aspects of sound design, featuring several interviews dedicated to explore the minds and creative approaches of professional sound designers from all sides of the world, with the goal of expand our creative worlds and learn what others do in order to tell stories with sound.]

If we want to talk about the art of fine film soundtrack and its aesthetics, there’s one man everyone needs to know: Pelayo Gutiérrez, a master of film sound in Spain with more than 120 titles on his backs, for which he has got three Goya awards (and three nominations). He has worked on films by directors like Pedro Almodovar, Bollain, among many others, and currently runs La Bocina post audio facility with two other partners.

I personally admire his work so much (Recommended: “Chico & Rita“,”Te Doy Mis Ojos“,”Lo que sé de Lola“, “After“). He’s a true director of sound who likes to get deeply into the smallest detail of the scene in order to enhance the story and create a rich soundscape. He combines the qualities of a prolific professional with a special vision and unique way to live his profession.

Designing Sound: Could you talk us about your philosophy as sound editor/designer?

Pelayo Gutiérrez: It is very interesting. One essential thing that I think is the backbone for any film that I do: the production sound. If I don’t have a clean production sound is difficult to create the atmosphere because they do not hear great in harmony. Then this is the first battle that I have, especially in this country, where sometimes a hard time doing ADR for certain sequences because we work with many directors that put all the production sound dialog in the film, they don’t believe that you can get much more from the actor in the dub, etc.

Luckily I’ve managed to convince many directors to make the actors do ADR, and especially to have this concept of going to the set and already record the dialog in a later stage. Of course that also depends on the actor. I have many excuses to convince a director and tell him how interesting is to do ADR that can coexist with the dialog and live for the film. not direct sound off and live for the film. Because what I do is put myself first for the film and then find is best for it.

Some time ago, there’s one interesting thing happening to me. I see the film as a whole, and the more I work on it, remains a global issue. In other words, there is a separate sequence, it’s all about harmony, about dynamics, which of course depends on the film we are doing. I built little by little, but the final point is when I have everything harmonized, armed in a central scheme.

You always start from a base, read the script and you get the idea. And then there are meetings with the director, who sets one thing or another. But with that basic structure, you can enter every day in the film. That’s why if you come and tell me if I do the sound of a film in 5 weeks, I say can’t, simply because it’s not enough time to get into the film, to dream about the film. I dream about movies. Some nights it takes me to sleep because I start thinking about how I can create an atmosphere and how to keep the film growing.


Looking for Bloggers!

Posted by on Apr 8, 2011 | 11 comments

One year ago Designing Sound was a site with around 7k of visitors each month. Today the numbers are almost at 50k. While this amount is not the reason why I run this project, it means one thing: the online community has grown.

Many things have started to happen around us, each day I find more and more information, and there’s more people interested to share their ideas. Since I also have ideas for new sections, new ways to share more stuff, and also want to open the site more, I’ve concluded that this adventure would be better if more people work with me on it, not only because I don’t have time for expanding the content by myself. It’s simply because I think that Designing Sound would be highly benefited if more minds contribute on it.

And what do you get? I’ll be honest. Besides my passion, there is a “hidden” reason for all of this: I’m not agree with the model of formal education and I feel this as a mission. Think about this as an antenna created for letting us share knowledge together, in a free way, as I think it should be.

I don’t want to go deep on this because it’s more a personal opinion. I just want you to consider that there’s no money behind anything here. We’re just friends sharing cool things and learning from each other, so, the offer is not a “paid job”, at least with money. This is more like an adventure. I can tell you, what this project has given to me is not comparable with anything.

It’s about sharing your own ideas to lots of people that loves sound as you do. It’s about meeting really inspiring persons, learning new tricks, changing tour vision each day. It’s just about expanding your own mind in so many ways.

If that sounds cool for you and you think you can commit to dedicate a daily amount of time on this project, let’s send me an e-mail to miguel[at]designingsound[dot]org with only these things on the message:

  • Your name + an “about me” (Whatever you want to tell me about yourself) + What you do with sound (Doesn’t matter how professionally it is or how experienced you’re)
  • Why are you interested on being blogger here?
  • Tell me in 10 words what is sound design for you.
  • Let’s say that a sound designer you admire is in front of you. You can only make 3 questions. What would you ask to that person?

I’m not interested to judge if your point is good or bad. That would not make sense for me. Just make me want to include you in this project. That’s all.

I’m planning to choose two or three persons initially, but could be more. We’ll see depending on the amount of submissions. I look forward to your messages! Deadline is Apr 15.

Blastwave FX Releases Sonopedia 2.0

Posted by on Apr 7, 2011 | 0 comments

YouTube Preview Image

Blastwave FX has announced the release of Sonopedia 2.0, a new version of this huge library, loaded with more than 30.000 sounds, including both designed sounds and also a lot of source/production elements for your sound design.

SONOPEDIA 2.0 is a 300 GB sound effects encyclopedia that comes pre-installed on a premium Glyph hard drive. SONOPEDIA 2.0 also includes a sound effects Search Engine and continues to grow with Free Sound Effects Updates, making for a Comprehensive Lifetime Sound Design Solution.

Every sound in SONOPEDIA 2.0 was pristinely recorded and mastered at 24/96 with multi-format delivery as 24/96, 24/48, and 16/44.1 broadcast .WAV files, as well as mp3 reference files. SONOPEDIA 2.0 is cataloged with rich embedded metadata that provides instant, accurate search results on any system and is compatible with Pro Tools, Soundminer, NetMix, iTunes, and other popular sound library search engines. All SONOPEDIA 2.0 sound effects are descriptively named and intuitively categorized for easy browsing.

New features in v2.0

  • 10,000 New Sound Effects!
  • Over 400 5.1 Surround Sound Effects
  • Sound Effects Loops!
  • More variety in takes (Distance, Velocity, Duration)
  • The only General HD Sound Effects Library to include a suite of Production Elements
  • A new category: Textures – featuring sound effects design elements!

Sonopedia 2.0 is available now at $3.999.

Useful links: Blastwave FX on Twitter | Facebook | Making of Sonopedia 2.0 | Package and Features

Rodney Gates Special: Exclusive Interview

Posted by on Apr 6, 2011 | 5 comments

As usual, below is an interview with this month’s guest, Rodney Gates.

Designing Sound: How did you get started and How has been the evolution of your career since then?

Rodney Gates: In 1996 I attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe, Arizona. At the time, the focus of the school was on audio / music production with a little bit of post and live sound thrown in, but nothing in the way of video game audio really existed back then.

I interned at a large recording studio in Manhattan for a brief time before realizing that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t wish to slug it out getting coffee for people and eventually serving as an assistant engineer for something like 5-10 years until finally “making it”, so with no other real options at the time, I left it behind and returned to my day job for a while, always thinking about what niche in audio could turn it around for me.

After years of playing Commodore 64, early PC, and pre-Playstation console games, I never, ever imagined that game sound design could actually be a career choice until popping the discs for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault into my PC, back in 2002.

Never before had I played a game that felt so richly-detailed in it’s soundscape and musical soundtrack. Though I’m sure they were out there, none really featured WWII, which was such a hot topic at the time with shows like Saving Private Ryan and the miniseries Band of Brothers around.

I was just awe-struck; it was then when the bug bit me. I needed to get into this industry.

I purchased my first SFX collection, Hollywood Edge’s “The Edge Edition”, a 4-disc library of general effects, to kick off my demo. Then I picked up a used stereo AT-825 on eBay with a Rycote windscreen, bought a Sound Devices USBPre and with my old crash-happy Dell laptop, went out into the world to record what I needed for three, 2-minute, audio-only “stories” that I used as the main portion of my demo reel. One story was science-fiction, one a jungle adventure, and one a monologue of a sniper preparing to take out a high-profile target.

This became a lot of fun, and took about a year to get everything I needed (while working full-time). Any sound effects I didn’t have or couldn’t be designed with my one library had to be recorded, so I planned field sessions like road trips to remote places in Arizona for ambience, or borrowing a friend’s hunting rifle to record all of the mechanical functionality in my clothes closet, etc. I remember one scene I was working on required multiple cars to pull up in the rain, let out passengers, then drive away, but since we didn’t get much rain in Phoenix, I had to get crafty with a 5-gallon bucket of water. A friend poured it slowly off of a 6 ft. brick fence onto the concrete below, which I later edited into the scene to mimic the sound of tires driving through rain-drenched streets.

These fits of creativity were necessary when faced with limited resources, possibly how Ben Burtt  might have felt when working on the first Star Wars film in the 70’s (although there’s no comparison between his brilliance and me). They definitely are some of the most precious memories I have.


Poll: How do You Like Your Sound Effects? Multiple Takes in One File or Separate?

Posted by on Apr 6, 2011 | 17 comments

I came across a discussion about sound effects distribution on Game Audio Forum (from last year) and Gearslutz (recent). The question is… which way you like to get your sound effects: multiple takes in one file or each take separate into individual files?

The only goal with this is to help sound effects makers to know which way his customers like the most, so they can improve their formats and releases with options that can fit all kind of tastes. If you want to collaborate, feel free to visit the mentioned discussions or just pick your option here.

In my opinion, I’d say that multiple takes in one single file is faster and much better for finding sounds that were recorded with the same perspective, performance, tools, etc. Also, I’m a big fan of Soundminer’s VSTrack, so having the file with multiple takes makes easier the process of making variations of a sound. But well, each person has a different workflow, and that’s why is so important to hear what do you think about this.

Via @idaho_recordist, @timprebble

New Audiokinetic Forums, Wwise 2011.1 Available with iOS/3DS Support and Improvements

Posted by on Apr 5, 2011 | 0 comments

Audiokinetic has released Wwise 2011.1, loaded with new features and enhancements:

  • Now supports Apple iOS and Nintendo 3DS
  • Enhanced Voice Limiting System
  • Solo & Mute buttons (in the Mixing Desk, Property Editor, Schematic View, Soundcaster, Music Segment editor, etc)
  • Convolution Reverb EQ
  • New List View that streamlines daily operations including searching, validating and editing a list of objects with batch processing support
  • Notes, Attenuation ShareSets, Positioning and new object types have been added to the Multi-Editor.
  • The severity of SoundBank log messages can now be modified to allow more control over the code returned when using the Wwise command line application.
  • New Event Action: Set Game Parameter
  • Runtime Authoring

Also, they’ve created a new forum section on his site, where anyone can sign up and share ideas.


April’s Featured Sound Designer: Rodney Gates

Posted by on Apr 4, 2011 | 6 comments

It’s always a pleasure to announce a new guest on Designing Sound. During this month, Rodney Gates will be sharing with us a lot of his experiences in the world of sound design and audio direction for video games.


“I became interested in sound and music at a young age, making cassette tapes on my Yorx stereo with a crude electret-condenser microphone with old needle-drop sound effects on LP added in, telling crazy stories in this fashion, at the age of 13 in the sizzling-hot summers of Phoenix, AZ.

The teen years naturally led to an interest in the electric guitar, and after getting my first one at 15, I proceeded to learn every single Metallica song I could, with my brother on drums. I never went the band route though, like my brother did, but instead saved my money working in food service and wholesale printing to get a Tascam Portastudio 4-track cassette-based recorder. I remember vividly the moment I soloed a guitar part over a previously-recorded rhythm track and played it back. It was then I was hugely bitten by the recording bug.

This led to a class at Phoenix College, which opened me up a little to audio engineering. I ended up buying a lot of equipment I didn’t thoroughly understand, which included a Yamaha ProMix 01 digital mixer, an original Alesis ADAT, and a Tascam DAT recorder, plus a couple of mics. I remember buying Cakewalk 3 on a single floppy disk for $300 to use with my Alesis QuadraSynth and a Compaq PC running Windows 3.1 back in 1995, sequencing all kinds of crazy tunes, while recording guitars, bass and drum machines all by my lonesome.


The Recordist Releases Ultimate Glass SFX Library (Q&A Included)

Posted by on Apr 4, 2011 | 1 comment

Frank Bry has released another of his great “Ultimate” collections, this time including a huge amount of glass recordings.

Presenting Ultimate Glass Sound Effects Library. 736 glass sound effects recorded at 24-Bit 96kHz. Sounds included but not limited to: Windows, Mirrors, Bottles, Vases, Jars, Dishes, Wine Glasses, Drinking Glasses, Light Bulbs, Ornaments and Computer Screens.

Not only is there the usual smashing and breaking of glass, there are many sounds made by glass that are perfect for video game and film sound design. Pitch, bend, warp and process to your hearts delight.

Over a year in the making and dozens of location recording sessions, this is the Ultimate Glass Collection.

Gear used: Sound Devices 702 – Fostex FR-2 – Sanken CSS-5 – Sennheiser MKH-416 – Audio Technica AT-835ST – Sony PCM-D1

Ultimate Glass – $100 | 96kHz 24-Bit WAV | 736 files | metadata ready | PDF List

Bonus: TV Screen Goes Bada Boom

And here’s a Q&A with Frank, talking about the making of this fantastic collection: