Guest Contribution from Randy Thom
It was announced that the people who run the Tony Awards have decided to cut two of their awards categories….the two sound design categories.
This is a sad piece of news for all of us in sound. It’s yet another slap in the face for an important art form that struggles for recognition. The people who run awards shows feel constant pressure to populate those shows with pretty people, famous people, and people who are highly entertaining when a camera and microphone are pointed at them. Advertisers pound their fists on tables in anger when their ad follows an unglamorous and unknown statuette recipient’s earnest “thank you.” One year when I attended the Oscar telecast, and left the building at the end of the show in my tux, a guy ran up to me in the middle of the street with a pen and paper in his hands screaming to me “Are You Anybody? Are You Anybody?” I said “Sure!” and he smiled big as I handed him my illegible signature. Though the Tony Awards have promised that they may, in the future, occasionally give an award to an especially noteworthy job of sound design, the message we should get loud and clear from their announcement today is that as far as they are concerned we, sound designers, are not ‘anybody.’ How sad, how dumb.
Forest Scene by Narcisse Diaz de la Peña, photo by flickr user Cliff. Click image to view source.
Guest Contribution by Randy Thom
When someone tells me that they admire the sound design work my team has done on a project they often go on to say that what they like most is the little sonic details we’ve covered in a given scene, like the sound of an object being picked up by a character in the background of a shot. I thank them for the compliment, but I’m usually left with an awkward feeling, because “details” are actually low on my list of priorities. I think sound design is an art form. I aspire to be a good artist, and I think sound work is similar to painting and other art forms in lots of ways. Great paintings are praised for the feelings they evoke. It’s pretty rare that the work of a master painter is praised for its “details.” In fact, the most intricately detailed paintings, the ones that depict a scene absolutely realistically in a straight forward “photographic” way are almost never considered great works of art. Great craft maybe, but not great art.
Photo by Aditya Laghate. Used under Creative Commons license. Click image to view source.
Guest Contribution by Joel Raabe
At night in the darkness, I often hear voices in my head. Though it’s strange to admit, as I drift off to sleep after a long day of cutting dialogue or mixing the latest program, indistinct voices emerge and converse in the surround field of my theta wave brain. The wash of leftover phonemes from the work day somehow eases me to sleep, a bizarre lullaby panning through my mind.
As sound artists, we spend much of our lives with people we’ve probably never met, famous actors and fantastical creatures. These characters lodge in our brains as we rely on their patterns and personalities to guide us through editing and storytelling. I often wonder, how much of own voice ends up projected in these characters? Is it our job to color them or should we mostly stay out of the way, mechanically fulfilling our sonic duties in service to the director, producer, or sound supervisor?
As we come out of coverage of E3 and eagerly anticipate the release of next-gen consoles later this year; there has been a good deal of discussion about the social networking, graphical and visual capabilities of these new boxes. The two things that have excited me the most about the Playstation 4 specifically aren’t it’s custom processing unit, background downloading, or even integrated Playstation Move functionality. What I am happy to see is two things the new DualShock 4 controller has: a headphone jack and a SHARE button.
Playstation 4 controller with input jack visible.
Let’s start off with the headphone jack which according to Wikipedia is a: “stereo jack (3.5 mm TRS connector) will support the connection of a headset to allow a user to speak and hear audio simultaneously.” Why is this such a big deal? Such a jack’s primary purpose seems to be for a mono headset, so how can that possibly raise the visibility of audio? Easy! When used as an actual stereo output into decent headphones; those of us with sleeping girlfriends, sleeping children, sensitive neighbors and awful TV speakers or poor 5.1 setups will be able to hear crisp, clean and clear audio for maybe the first time ever.
This is a guest article written by Ariel Gross, Audio Director of game development studio Volition Inc, which produces such PC and console titles as the Saint’s Row and Red Faction series. You can view Ariel’s introduction post here.
I Feel Like a Fraud and So Can You!
Every now and then I feel like a fraud. Every now and then I feel like I’m merely masquerading as a professional. Every now then I feel a little bit terrified, and then I see the look in your eyes. Wait, wait. Sorry. That last one was from a Bonnie Tyler song. But here’s the thing. The more I open up about this feeling to others, the more I realize that lots of other people feel this way, and it can be really comforting to know that we’re not alone. And actually, it might just be okay that we feel like frauds. Good, even!
How is it “okay” to be a fraud?
Well, hold your horses there, header. I never said that I am a fraud. I said that I feel like a fraud, and there’s a big difference. I’ve never claimed credit for something that I didn’t actually do. That would make me an actual fraud. If I have done that, it would have been unintentionally, and I would be mortified to find out. I would shout from the tallest mountain that there was an error.
It’s more like a sense of disbelief that I occasionally accomplish things that are actual things. To be clear, actual things are what I’ve always endeavored to do, and I believe that anyone that sets out to do actual things will likely become more capable of doing an actual thing. And that is just fine… for other people.