[Written by Axel Rohrbach]
It may sound very easy and clear, but working in a team has a lot of faces to look at (figuratively). I know a lot of audio guys in very different situations. Reaching from “one-man-shows” offering everything related to a specific topic (which could be as wide as “multimedia”) to large pre-production companies doing sound design for movies only, you can find anything in between and around it. The positive and negative aspects listed below can potentially occur, but neither the positive nor the negative issues are there in all companies. I see guys in all of those situations who are totally happy and satisfied in their role and guys who hate being in a specific scenery.
1. Working alone: there are a lot of Sound Designers working freelance from home or a one man studio. This can definitely be perfect for some people – it is not for me. You can organize your time in any way you like (besides sticking up to deadlines and milestones), you have fewer distractions and you are as free as one can be in your evolvement. On the other hand you have to spend more time in doing non-audio-related things like finding jobs or taking care of the studio rooms, insurances etc. Getting feedback from others is more difficult and might be less concrete. This feedback may not only be how your sounds work or how your sound quality is, but also how you communicate with people, how you can maximize your efficiency or anything else you can think of.
2. Working in a small team (two or three guys): this can work perfectly, you have more conversations, more inspiration and your co-workers may become your best buddies. I think there might be the chance that once you have a good working routine, nothing will change for the future. Also, if something goes wrong personally there is no-one more or less impartially involved to get things back on track. I saw a lot of small teams, founded by two friends, which crashed only two years after the start.
3. Being a contract Sound Designer in a big facility takes off a lot of organizational things from you, which lets you focus on your job. In most cases you don’t even have to care about your equipment, everything is there, everything runs – the sound effects library has been installed by a librarian, the network is maintained by an onsite system administrator, jobs are right on your desktop together with schedules every morning, you just have to process them. The downside is that you may be restricted in your freedom. It is not easy to get new equipment; it has to run through a bunch of instancesuntil it finally is ordered. It is not easy to say “My working results are better if I work from 2pm to 11pm, so I prefer having a free morning in the sun and come to work later”. Because of the size of the company, there is quite a lot of great conversation and helpful feedback the whole day. I’ve seen many employees who are not able to look beyond the company’s nose, unable to find jobs / clients on their own because they have never had to, used to expensive equipment, unable to think of what is really necessary for their own work. This results in spending way too much when they start working freelance, or if they start their own company one day.
To get things started on this month’s featured sound designer, here’s an interview of Axel Rohrbach:
Designing Sound: While we all know about BOOM Library, tell us about yourself. What got you interested in sound?
Axel Rohrbach: I can not remember any day in my life without being involved in any way in audio. The reason is simple: my parents own a music-school. I started with early education in music when I was 3 years old, clapping, singing playing percussion and that sort of stuff. At the age of 5 I started having classical piano lessons. After that I became more and more attracted to music, took lessons in several instruments like E-Bass, Organ, Keyboard, Trombone. There was this Yamaha support programme for young composers. I first went into studios at the age of 10, recording my own compositions, organized by Yamaha. I played in bands, orchestras and solo piano for dinner in restaurants. My first creative tool was a tracker application on the Amiga. I recorded my own samples for that with really unbelievably cheap equipment when I was 12 years old. At the age of 15 I updated to Logic 3 with Audiowerk 8. This was the time I first got in touch with sound design, creating radio jingles and sounds for our school radio.
DS: Wow! That is really impressive. With such a strong musical influence, do you perceive the design of sound effects like just another musical instrument working in an arrangement? Also, does your musical knowledge allow for easier communication with the composers you work with?
AR: I guess it is the best of both. Creating sound effects is a bit like mixing a song. Every instrument has its role which should be featured, in a good arrangement all the instruments have a reason and are completing the other instruments in their sound characters and frequency range. The same goes for sound effects. Differently layered sounds should complete each other to build a sound effect. This sound effect however could be an instrument again, having a special character and frequency spectrum to build the “song” (= movie, game, scene) in combination with other instruments (= sound effects, music, dialogue).Talking to musicians is definitely easier when you understand what they are talking about. Also talking to clients is much easier, because I am able to talk about sound effects as well as music. The most important thing in my daily business is, that I am able to create short snippets of music like winning jingles, confirm buttons, gambling machine sounds, cell-phone ringtones and that kind of stuff.
Axel Rohrbach is the lead sound designer of Dynamedion, an audio production studio based in Germany and focused on video games content. He’s also co-founder and creative director of BOOM Library. This month we have the honor of feature him as our special guest, so let’s get started!
- Born 1981 in Frechen near Cologne, Germany.
- Parents got a music school, started with classical music education at an age of 4.
- Having the chance to get a wide variety of instrument lessons, including classical piano (main instrument), E-Bass, E-Organ, Keyboard, Trombone, Singing.
- Yamaha support programme for young composer (1989 – 1993)
- Bachelor of Arts in Music Technologies, ArtEZ Conservatorium Enschede (NL)
- Master of Music in Music Technologies, Messiaen Academy (NL)
- Tonmeister Symposium Sound Design, Lecture – Sound Design for Games (2007)
- onmeistertagung 2008, Workshop – Game Audio (2008)
- Tonmeistertagung 2008, Roundtable – Game Audio (2008)
- Tonmeister Magazine, Interview – Interactive Audio (2009)
- Olymptronica, Lecture – Audio in Games (2009)
- Browser Games Forum ,Workshop – Audio in Browsergames (2009)
- Games Convention Online, Lecture – The Importance of audio in online games (2010)
- Conservatorium Enschede, Workshop – Sound Design (2011)
- Diverse Printmagazine Reports / Interviews