Fade In

Roel Sanchez


Company (or Freelance):
Volition, Inc.

Job Title:
Audio Designer

Did you attend school for an audio-related degree?  If so, what school and degree?
First Degree
School:  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:  BS Chemistry

Second Degree
School:  Columbia College Chicago
Degree:  BA Game Design, Concentration in Game Audio

What inspired you to work with sound?
It was a combination of being unsatisfied with my job/career path at the time and a natural affinity for making noise. I grew up playing instruments and jabbering nonsensically to myself. I still do…I need to let the crazy out.

How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
I knew I wanted to grow up and get into game audio at around 23.

Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
The first thing on my mind was to research precisely what it means to work in the game audio industry, then to start teaching myself to see if I enjoyed studying the subject matter. The decision to pursue a degree resulted from the desire to formalize my game audio education while providing structure and direction.

Bass Boost

What is your specialty/preference of the sound fields (sound design, music, recording, audio programming, implementation, etc)?  What do you like most about it?
It’s probably a 35/65 ratio of sound design to implementation. I love the feeling of having control of a sound from creation to execution in-game. There is also an interesting dynamic that occurs between design and implementation. Programming tools and audio hooks in-game often influence the methods with which I create a sound and visa versa. One hand massaging the other, mmmmmmm.

What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
Game Engines:  CryEngine, UDK, Unity and TC2M (uh, yeah)
DAWS:  Pro Tools, Adobe Audition, Sound Forge
Middleware:  Fmod and Wwise
Other:  Pure Data

Although these were the tools covered the most we were always encouraged to explore other tools for final projects.

What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
Everything from linear sound design involving field recording, VO and sound replacement for film to interactive audio with the development of audio pipelines and in-game implementation. Lower level classes centered around audio production and sound design fundamentals while upper level courses focused largely on interactive audio and middleware.

Depending on the class, projects were always open to suggestions and you could propose just about anything to the teacher if you were interested in working with something specific.

During senior year, the game audio students have a course progression that requires them to become the college’s sound team, providing audio for the entire interactive arts and media department . As the team leader, I was in charge of establishing the team workflow, overseeing projects and often being the bad guy. In that final year we satisfied the audio needs of 6 student game projects, 1 audio book and had a blast doing it. The student game projects ranged from development teams of 5 to 35 people.

Were your teachers audio professionals?  Anybody the audience would know?
They were a mixture of academics and audio professionals. Although they didn’t work directly in the games industry, each brought their own experience into the instruction.


Did you do any side projects during school?  If so, what were they like?
During my first two years of school I had a full-time job as an automotive coatings chemist as well as working contract gigs as a Sound Designer/Programmer. My first sound design job was for Apologue Entertainment on an iOS story book and game titled Chocolate Attack. A few of of my classmates were also brought on-board for the project, so it was great collaborating with them. I did further editing work for Apologue on other projects and later picked-up some audio programming contract work for the college. The contract work for the college involved audio implementation and game design in many game engines using various programming languages (C#, Javascript, PHP, HTML5).

How many of your side projects were published?  Any of them turn profitable?
The Chocolate Attack interactive book and game were published for iOS and are up on the App Store. Unfortunately most of the audio/programming work for the college was internal, but “SuperFlick”, a project currently in production, did get featured on ABC: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/video?id=8673093


How large was your graduating class?  Were you all close?
The Game Design Major was somewhere around 35 to 40 students with 4 of those being game audio folks.

How often do you work with your old classmates today?
I just recently jumped into a new position, but up until then I was working with some of my old classmates almost daily as a contract software developer for the college.

Any old classmates you want to mention?  The more the merrier with the audio community!
A few of my audio mates, designers and artists: @BillyEline, @SeanClouser, @BricePuls, @AmandaDittami, @LarryPixel, Colin Joyce


Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
Most definitely, I feel like entire process provided me with opportunities to explore my interest in game audio while allowing me to develop skills in order to be viable in a AAA or indie environment. Learning tools was largely an independent process that happened outside of class, so I found that the greatest advantage to the audio program was the team structure and the ability to work on multiple game projects.

Do you have a website for your portfolio?  How often do you blog on it?
www.roelsanchez.net.  I am not a natural blogger, so I post only occasionally.

Do you use social networking?  How often, and what communities?
Yeah, I do the whole social networking shabang on the regular. I am on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Soundcloud. The game audio community on Twitter is phenomenal. Once you #gameaudio there’s no going back.

Fade Out

Any last words for future audio guys looking to carve their education and career paths?
Be humble, make mistakes, ask questions, keep learning and repeat.

About Sonic Backgrounds

The sound industry is an ever growing field, ranging from linear sound design in film and TV, to interactive audio in games, and from live theatrical sound design to field recording for the creation of custom libraries.  It is only recently however, that school programs have begun to offer degrees in the sound-specific variety.  Graduates of these new programs are now coming into the industry, and it provokes the interesting question of how these new, specific programs are preparing individuals for the sound world, as opposed to the older approaches of entry, such as pure passion, musical talent, a film degree, or a computer science degree.

“Sonic Backgrounds” is an interview series focused on interviewing recent graduates of these educational sound programs around the globe, to see what exactly they are providing, and how they are shaping the new “academic”-based sound artist.