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.
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.
Guest Contribution by Rodney Gates
Welcome, and thanks for checking out this (TL;DR) article on the creation of the virtual instrument sample library, GuitarMonics, designed for Native Instruments’ Kontakt software. It was a long road from concept to completion, and I thought it might be a good idea to discuss some of the processes and discoveries I learned along the way for those that may be interested in creating their own sample libraries, for commercial or personal use.
Having been a Sound Designer and Audio Director for video games for over a decade now, and always a huge fan of virtual instruments that load up in the computer and sound stunningly real, I felt the desire to branch out into this field and begin establishing a foothold of my own with my new company, SoundCues.
With this article I really wanted to find out about the nuts and bots of vehicle engine sound design and implementation. So I contacted a few people and got some great responses and a fascinating insight into the process. My thanks to Stephen Baysted, Audio Director and Composer at Slightly Mad Studios, Greg Hill, Sound Designer at Soundwave Concepts, Adam Boyd, Sound Designer and John Twigg, Software Engineer at Crankcase Audio and Nick Wiswell, Audio Creative Director at Turn 10 Studios.