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).
Back around the time I was first starting out, I remember opening up a demo of Cubase VST (on my trusty PowerMac 6400) and taking a look through the various menus. Everything seemed pretty standard, but something in particular caught my eye, a menu item labeled “Ears Only”. Curious, I clicked on it, only to have my monitor go completely blank. After a few seconds of panic thinking I had broken everything, I realized that Steinberg had programmed a mode that completely disabled the monitor and forced you to just listen. At first, this option seemed like a strange addition. Why, when I’m creating sound, would I not be listening to what I’m doing? Listening while working with audio seemed like a no-brainer. However, after gaining a little more experience, this “just listen” mode began to make a lot more sense.
As April comes to an end and we wrap up our topic for the month, “broken”, I wanted to take a moment and share something that I learned when I was first starting out, and something that I find myself having to remember quite often: how to react when everything starts to break.
We depend on a lot of complex technologies in our day-to-day lives, some more intricate and convoluted than others. As sound designers, we often find ourselves using even more complicated and specialized gear and equipment, adding to the complexity. While a lot of time and effort has gone into making these technologies work perfectly, the simple fact of the matter is that things have a tendency to break, often when you need them the most. As an old friend of mine likes to say, “Murphy was an optimist!”
Stella demonstrates how cat recording NEVER happens.
About three years ago, on a whim, I adopted a 6 month old kitten. I had dealt with cats before at friends’ and family’s houses, but had never owned one, and Luna (short for “Lunatic”) was full of surprises. After her initial “moving in” period, in which she hid under the bed for nearly a week, I discovered that Luna was an exceedingly outspoken individual that needed to make sure everyone knew that she was here and ready to conquer the world (or at least the apartment):
Sound designer and recordist Charles Mayne has written a passionate and inspiring guest post for the A Sound Effect blog. He gives his thoughts on the key notions and ideas that affects sound design, and which have the greatest capacity to produce – in his words – great sound design.
Check out the article here and contribute to the debate.