Michael Sweet presenting at GDC
As the Artistic Director of Video Game Scoring at Berklee College of Music, Michael Sweet leads the development of the game scoring curriculum. Michael is an accomplished video game composer and has been the audio director of more than 100 award winning video games. His work can be heard on the X-Box 360 logo and on award winning games from Cartoon Network, Sesame Workshop, PlayFirst, iWin, Gamelab, Shockwave, RealArcade, Pogo, Microsoft, Lego, AOL, and MTV, among others. He has won the Best Audio Award at the Independent Games Festival, the BDA Promax Gold Award for Best Sound Design, and has been nominated for four Game Audio Network Guild (GANG) awards. In 2014, Michael authored the book “Writing Interactive Music for Video Games” which is now available from Pearson Publishing.
Michael was a professor of mine during my studies at Berklee College of Music. Given this months’ theme of “education”, I thought it would be enlightening to hear Michael share his perspective as a professor of game audio with the Designing Sound community. So, without further ado…
Guest Contribution By Chanel Summers
As a woman who has built her own career on a platform of game audio, game design and game production, I am passionate about programs that teach and empower women to follow a similar path. As there are such few women in the field of video game audio, fewer are even aware of the opportunities. I have been on a mission to try and change that – trying to introduce this field as a career option to young women and show that women can lead in this field and be highly successful — and perhaps even change the complexion of the video game industry. The reason this is so important is that for an industry or a creative medium to achieve its full potential, it must draw strength from diversity — a diversity of backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, and experiences. Each person approaching opportunity from a different starting point keeps things fresh, vibrant, exciting and new.
That is why I found myself, two years ago, at Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girl’s school in Bellevue, Washington, proposing a summer workshop called, “Artistic Expression in Game Audio Design”. The workshop would give young women an artistic and technical foundation in audio for interactive media and expose them to the career possibilities in video game audio. It would be based on the class that I created and teach at USC’s Interactive Media & Games Division in the School of Cinematic Arts (“Audio Expression”), taking a semester-long course and turning it into an intensive one month long workshop for Forest Ridge. Because we chose not to “adapt” the material for a younger audience, these girls would get the same material I teach to undergrads, grads, and PhD students. In fact, it would be even more intensive, as they would have class every day for four hours each day rather than once a week. By choosing not to “dumb down” the curriculum for students just because they are younger or new to the field, we showed that we respected the young women, which they in turn responded to with vigor. (more…)
Knowing your way around audio middleware is quickly becoming a required skill to get a job in the game audio industry. If you are a sound designer and/or a composer that is looking to break into the world of game audio, learning how to work with various audio middleware solutions will not only give you a head start and set you apart from the “competition”, but it will also give you a greater understanding of how the technical side of things works and consequently you will have a greater appreciation of the inner workings of game audio. After Audiokinetic and Firelight Technologies announced their free license options (granted with some limitations), making Wwise and FMOD Studio available at no cost for the indies/small game development companies as of last year, now these programs are being used more than ever. There is no reason for you to not employ these options to create a more interactive and coherent soundscape for the game you are working on while also making life easier for yourself and the game developers.
But on the vast sea of knowledge and misinformation that is called the internet, how would you know where to start learning about these programs? Well, this is a guide to hopefully help you with that by providing you with a general outline of which resources and learning options are available right now for you to find out more about audio middleware as quickly and efficiently as possible. (more…)
The fine gentlemen over at The Tonebenders Podcast have once again graciously tied into this month’s theme. Their latest podcast, a conversation with Brenda Jaskulske of the University of North Texas, is now up for your listening pleasure in all of the usual places. I’m embedding the Soundcloud version below, but head over to their site to learn more about Brenda and how to access the podcast in your preferred format.
Those local to the Brighton area (UK) will have an opportunity to hear the acclaimed Supervising Sound Editor Eddy Joseph (Enemy at the Gates, Quantum of Solace) in conversation. On Monday March 9th, Eddy will be in conversation with Lisa Holloway on a bill that also features an interview with the music recording engineer Hadyn Bendall (The Hounds of Love, The Last Emperor).
Tickets are priced at £10.00 and are available from The Space website, where there are also further details about the event.
WWII Prisoner of war drama ‘Unbroken’ will compete in both the ‘Best Sound Editing’ and ‘Best Sound Mixing’ categories at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony on February 22nd. What better time to plug this video from The SoundWorks Collection, featuring an interviews with audio post team who worked on the film.
SoundWorks Collection – The Sound of Unbroken
Clearly the fates have decreed that I should not only be involved in the writing of a new audio degree as education month comes around, but that I should also be well into my own studies, working towards a Master’s degree in Sound Design. However, in getting to this point, my own audio education has meandered along most of the routes one might take in the pursuit of a career in audio. I’ve volunteered at studios, received on the job (and in the pub) training. I’ve studied at private colleges and run my own studio. Each of these diversions had an intrinsic value and it’s unlikely I would be in the position I am now without having taken them. However, as both a lecturer and a student, I am acutely aware that there are mixed views as to the value of a formal audio education, not just from potential students, but also from employers and practitioners (i.e. this interview from a few weeks ago). So I thought it might be useful to talk a little about the nature of writing an audio degree, from the middle so to speak. (Just to note, I am based in the UK so this relates to the process’s undertaken here. I can’t speak for anywhere else.)
Normally we wouldn’t make any fuss about a particular film’s release, but this is one’s a little special for our community. Gary Rydstrom has had several opportunities to sit down in the director’s chair for short films in the past, but this film, Strange Magic, is his first feature. We often talk about promoting the importance of sound as a story-telling tool, but here we have one of the most vocal and respected proponents of that idea with his hands on the reins. If you find yourself with the opportunity to see the film, I encourage you to show support and check it out. It opens in the U.S. next Friday, the 23rd.
Paul Virostek, author of the rather excellent Creative Field Recording blog, has just launched a sound effects search tool, for finding indie sound effects quickly and easily. Virostek, who has previously turned his efforts to re-writing the Soundminer metadata the free Firearmsfx sound library and other community and content sharing endeavours, created Sound FX Search with two specific objectives in mind: To help sound professional to discover sound libraries and bundles quickly and, to enable independent library creators reach a wider sound-seeking audience.
Described as a “no-strings-attached text-based portal with links back to each library’s native website”, Sound FX Search is a community-spirited portal that is free for everyone.
Paul is also the author of a number of books on field recording, and sharing sounds.
Sound FX Search
Creative Field Recording blog
Photo belongs to Vancouver Film School, used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.
Guest Contribution by April Tucker
Having a degree in audio can be a double-edged sword. This was a lesson I learned after one of my earliest interviews, not long after completing my Master’s Degree (in Sound Recording). I was new to Los Angeles and interviewing for part-time tech work. It seemed to be going well until the interviewer said, “I don’t even have friends with Master’s Degrees… why would I hire someone with one?” I had just been discriminated against for having a formal education.
There’s a lot of lessons about working in entertainment (like that one) that you hear about and prepare for, but you can’t really process until you experience it yourself. Another example is being out of work. Even if you’re financially prepared, nothing can prepare you for the mental game that happens when you’re going through it the first time.
Given that our field is very experience-driven, one might ask, what’s the point of formal audio education? As someone with two audio degrees (and ten years in the field), I can confidently say that there is value in some audio education; students can practice, experiment and fail in ways that you can’t do in a job. There’s skills that can be learned faster through focused learning or practice (like technical ear training, acoustics, or electronics). My concern with audio programs is that they tend to be too focused on teaching niche vocational skills (like large format consoles and microphones), or too short for a well-rounded audio education.