Over at G.A.N.G.’s site is a new interview by Kenny Young who chats with Naughty Dog’s Phillip Kovats and Jonathan Lanier about the mix of Last of Us. Its a fantastic read that I recommend for anyone in or interested in game audio. The mix won a GANG award for a reason!
Image by: Marcio Eduardo Rodrigues
Listening is the most important skill a sound designer has, and yet, it’s probably the one that’s the most ephemeral and difficult to nail down. What is listening? Are we born with this skill, or is it something that we can learn? Listening is the process that takes the information that we hear and makes meaning from that sound. To listen requires a conscious effort, and it’s this effort that you can learn how to train. Some blind people have learned to listen so well that they can echo-locate: we have a remarkable to hear all kinds of things in our environment that most of us just miss out on.
You’re reading this article, so you’re someone who is probably already listening to sound more than your friends. Maybe you’ve gone to a movie and stepped out with your friend afterwards and said “wow, what great sound in that film” and your friend gives you a blank stare and says they didn’t notice. But we can always improve our ability to listen, to focus our attention on sound. I’d like to take you through some exercises I do with my students when I teach sound design so you can build your listening skills. (more…)
Image by Bust It Away Photography. Used under a Creative Commons license. Click image to view source
The world we inhabit is ever shifting. People and animals are constantly on the move. Water laps against wood or crashes against a sandy beach. If considered from a somewhat solipsistic approach the buildings, trees and mountains around us even shift in position. With all of those positional changes comes a new sonic interaction. The squirrel’s chitter no is no longer to our left, the wave passes above us when we are under water, or the reflections of nearby traffic now reflect off of a different building of steel and glass…confusing its location. Space is not fixed nor are the elements within it.
This month, we look at that mercurial idea of “Space.”
This site is a space by and for the community, and is made special by all of the contributions that come in from that community. If you would like to add something to the conversation around this month’s theme…or when we turn our attention to Synthesis next month….please contact us through the contact form or by e-mailing shaun (shift+2) [this site].
Image by Mike Licht, used under Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.
At first glance, you may not think of this site as one where we would care about reactions to critical analysis of media. We care very much, in fact, and feel it is necessary to take a moment to discuss the recent reactions to the latest in Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes Vs. Women in Video Games” series.
I’m sure you’ve seen commentary about it on other sites already, but we feel that it is important to point out that we are a part of the community she is speaking to. She has seen a similar reaction every time she has released a video…the idiots come out of the woodwork to attack her. It has also seemed to escalate with each new round. Case in point: (more…)
Blind Man’s Buff, by Eugene Pierre Francois Giraud
Silence! Be quiet! Because listening is active, because the birds have already left but their sound still reverberates. Silent all ears that listen, stunned by the noise that is gone but still relishes. The soundtrack? Our life! That one of changes, transition, mutation and mysteries, that one able to peer into the recesses of the deepest realities, responsible for questioning the apparent manifestations of the abstract and the concrete to go into unexpected territories of consciousness. These are the realities of sound phenomena, the challenges of searching for a continuous vibration, a pure sonic experience.
Let the mind travel around 2.500 years ago: we’re here in the Pythagorean School, waiting for the teacher to lead us into the most unlikely truths of the cosmic harmony. Our eyes are eager, the heart rumbles and a curtain, the veil of listening, can be seen on the horizon. Suddenly, a voice is heard, the teaching begins. The eyes, yet expectant, cry for the face of the talking master, who is not (and will not) on the retina. The curtain is still there and is the only visual reference for the sounds being heard. The voices possibly emerge from the cloisters of the mind or perhaps from the same shadows in the curtain, where the teacher continues his mission.
Silence! Be quiet! Because the sound is active, the akousma has emerged and the sonic code is already running through the mazes of the passions and the cusps of thinking. Slowly and without seeing, the oral reality becomes symphony, opening the doors to an intimate universe, the acousmatic. The teaching behind the curtain now makes sense and invisibility brings a message to the cochlea that is impatient because of its blindness. Over time it gets calmed, the world of sound is clear and the government of tongue and thought becomes possible, and with them also the desires and the scars of those memories that despite of being absent, still hit the listener’s soul.
And so, behind the curtain, sitting in silence, the initiation begins.
Bryce Dion (image hot-linked from original article)
We are saddened to hear about the loss of Bryce Dion, a production mixer from Lawrence, Massachusetts. Bryce was killed by police gunfire while filming for the Television show “COPS.” Our thoughts go out to his family and friends. The full article detailing the events can be read here.
Exercising listening in a public outdoor space.
Sound designers by nature have an inherent curiosity towards sound. We explore the way sounds work every time we approach a project. With each new opportunity to design a sound, we ask ourselves questions such as: What object/event produced the sound(s)? Where is the sound source located in relation to the listener, and just as importantly, how does (or how will) the sound impact an audience’s emotional state when heard?
It goes without saying that the sheer act of producing our own sonic work, and by critically listening to and dissecting the works of others (as Berrak Nil Boya explored and extrapolated on in her recent post) will inherently make us stronger and better critical listeners. Though along with these practices, it is invaluable to also step away from evaluating completed, produced works and critically listen to some alternate sound sources, and in some potentially new ways; just like exercising a muscle, the more angles you can target your critical listening “muscle”, the stronger and more well-rounded it becomes.
The question then must be, other than by evaluating an already existing game or film’s audio as it was intended, how, and what, can we listen to in order to hone our listening abilities?
This post looks to add to this conversation by offering a few exercises I’ve picked up and augmented over the years and still use to this day. Once again, just like any exercise routine, training your critical listening is an on-going responsibility for any sound designer (though vitally important early in your career, continued practice is essential to maintain a high level of critical listening fitness).
For those interested in the some of the current academic and research-led themes developing in sound design, the September 2014 edition of The New Soundtrack is dedicated to just this topic.
Guest-edited by Sandra Pauletto (University of York), this special issue features contributions that explore the growing maturity of sound design and the breadth of the topic as encompassed by the contrasting ‘European’ and ‘Hollywood’ practice, Foley performance as a means to interactive immersion, sonification, sonic hyperrealism and, sound design as an intuitive process in the creation of film and television soundtracks.
Mix Magazine, The MPSE and CAS have collaborated to put together a one day conference (September 6th, 2014) at Sony Studios in Culver City (Los Angeles, CA) exploring the Dolby Atmos and Auro 3D formats. Mix has been advertising this event for a while now, but details were fairly sparse. Things appear to have been locked down, and the schedule is now up on the event’s website. Take a look at the agenda to see who will speaking, or look at the schedule to see what will be available when. There’s a wealth of talent that will be talking about their experiences with the formats, including a keynote will presented by friend of the site Randy Thom.
If you were on the fence about the event, the new information will probably make the decision for you. The event is $79, though I know that MPSE members can register for free (you should have received an e-mail, I did). I believe the same holds true for CAS members. Hopefully, I’ll see some of you there!
Guest Contribution by Berrak Nil Boya
As a composer, musicologist and a sound designer who is making a transition to the world of game audio for the last year or so, not only do I have a new level of respect for everyone who works as a game audio professional but I also became aware of various changes I am going through almost daily to adapt my already established skill set and mentality to fit my new chosen profession. These changes affect different aspects of my auditory world to varying degrees, but listening and specifically critical listening ended up being a new kind of challenge for me. As a musician who is used to listening critically to music and its various properties, and as a musicologist who researched film music for years, the inherent interactivity and flow of the gaming experience required a new type of listening capability from me. One that depended on me to not just pay attention to the different aspects of the soundscape, but also to rise to the challenges that were presented to me by the game to succeed as a gamer. It meant orienting my attention to the other aspects of the game; so much so that, I forgot to listen for a while and instead just heard what the soundscape consisted of. So how would it be possible for me to play a game AND critically listen to its audio aspects at the same time? (more…)