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Posted by on May 18, 2015 | 1 comment

DESTROY! …with Caution

Photo by Flickr user Kit, used under Creative Commons License

Photo by Flickr user Kit, used under Creative Commons License

I love building things. I spent a great deal of my childhood building all kinds of creations out of LEGO and K’NEX (and I still do). Of course, one of my favorite parts of the building process was the necessary destruction of the older things to make the new. Working with sound, especially taking apart the normal, everyday sounds to build new and interesting sounds, has always struck me as an extension of this. Though I’ve gleefully annihilated countless LEGO creations over the years, the scars on my fingers from sharp plastic bricks are there to remind me that while it can be a great deal of fun to destroy all the things, a tiny bit of caution can go a long way.

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Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 | 0 comments

SoundWorks Collection: Lionel Train Recording

In a new entry in their podcast series, SoundWorks Collection speaks to Michael Raphael of Rabbit Ears Audio and Rudy Trubitt, Director of Audio for Lionel Trains. They discuss Rudy and Michaels experiences in sourcing new steam whistles for Lionel’s new products, exploring the challenges presented in recording the high-SPL steam whistles and the recording techniques they used,  as well as finding unique sounds to fit Lionel’s specific needs.

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Posted by on Oct 22, 2014 | 0 comments

Synthesis Tips for the Non-Synthesist

Massive_Screenshot

Guest Contribution from Steven Smith

Introduction

In some ways it seems quite strange to find myself authoring a post on synthesis that has as its main topic: “Not everyone needs to be a synthesist”. But from another angle of practicality, it makes a great deal of sense. Many of us already have found ourselves naturally diving into certain areas of synthesis from within the field and somewhat skating around others.  So…  If you are not a synthesis geek, this article is for you. 

‘Why would it be helpful to explore this area?’ you may be wondering. Even though today’s virtual instruments commonly ship with hundreds or even thousands of presets, many users will still find themselves passing over sounds that are not quite right. Yet with some fundamental knowledge and strategies I feel most non-synthesist could quickly address some of these sound’s shortcomings and reshape them close enough to quickly put them in service.

This is precisely my goal. I hope to address some fundamental strategies and principles relating to synthesis and synthesizers in order to facilitate what I like to think of as quick fixes. Even though these strategies will not work 100% of the time, you should find them coming to the rescue quite often. 

From the onset it will be my intention to populate this article with images from multiple synths. This is a small attempt to expose you to as many different views as possible. Given that each synth designer has its own GUI strategies (in addition to its own sound design strategies), I hope this will further help the usefulness of the material presented.

There is also a body of knowledge that we must have to enable us to find sounds, change them, and then Save these changes. Let’s jump in…

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Posted by on Aug 27, 2014 | 4 comments

Practical Exercises for Critical Listening

Exercising listening in a public outdoor space.

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).

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