Article by Jeff Seamster.
Jeff had originally wanted to include this during his feature month this past December. Circumstances conspired against it, but thankfully he wasn’t willing to give up. So, now we have another great article to share with you. Enjoy!
Make a quick list of your 5 favorite video games or films in terms of sound design. I’ll wager they all have something in common; strong audio direction and a cohesive audio aesthetic. This isn’t due to some happy accident or last minute thinking during the post-production process. A successful audio aesthetic requires thoughtful planning and documentation coupled with deliberate execution and course correction.
Why is it important?
Discussions of games like BioShock, Ico, Limbo or movies like Blade Runner, The Matrix and Toy Story will inevitably include references to strong visual direction and style. That strong and consistent direction makes it easy for an audience to interpret, absorb and connect with their favorite works. There’s no reason this can’t be true for audio as well. Achievements in audio aesthetic don’t get as much coverage as those in the visual arts, but there are concepts and practices that can guide audio professionals toward that same level of achievement.
Article by Jeff Seamster
Those of us working in the field of audio production are accustomed to either a lengthy haul of design and content creation starting in pre-production or a series of intense sprints from one project’s post-production to another. Whichever camp you might fall into, the time and focus required by our craft make it easy to fall behind the latest developments in our field and fall out of touch with our network of peers. There are steps that both aspiring and seasoned audio professionals can take to stay current and stay connected.
To Get Ahead, Start By Looking Back
If you’re like me, you find it sometimes painful to look back at your previous work. There’s always something you’d have done differently knowing what you do now. But looking to your past is a useful exercise in refining your sonic identity while isolating techniques and aesthetic choices upon which you may be relying too heavily. Once you’ve put your ideas out into the wild, they instantly begin to decay and you need somewhere else to turn while you wait for everything old to become new again. Keeping your sound fresh and growing as an artist requires breaking out of your comfort zone, sometimes forcibly. But where to begin?
DS: Like many other audio professionals that I know, you’ve got a background in music. Do you consider that the driving force behind entering an audio profession? How did that background in musical performance affect your first foray into audio production?
JS: Since musicians are attuned to their aural surroundings, either naturally or through training, they’re also instinctively aware of the importance and influence of sound in media like video games and film. This awareness led me to the field of sound design and that seems to be the case with almost every other audio professional I’ve met. It’s certainly helpful to work with other musicians because we’ve all inherited a vocabulary of articulation, dynamics and tempo that can be applied directly to sound design, editing and mix.
December’s here, and it brings with it our next featured sound designer…Jeff Seamster.
Jeff’s career in game development and interactive audio includes high-profile titles such as Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, Blitz: The League II, SimCity Societies, Caesar IV, and Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War. He has been responsible for sound design at Midway Games and Stainless Steel Studios as well as audio direction at Tilted Mill Entertainment. He is now Senior Sound Designer at Irrational Games.
A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Jeff studied piano performance privately under Gordon Brown and at the Loyola University College of Music under H. Jac McCracken. Following an interest in composition and programmatic music, he relocated to Boston, Massachusetts to study film scoring and piano performance at the Berklee College of Music where he expanded his studies to explore the field of sound design.
Jeff graduated from the Boston University computer science program with a desire to merge the fields of sound design, music and technology. He now uses his diverse background to design and create immersive aural environments for the next generation of interactive entertainment.