BIOGRAPHY IN FIVES
1) Please describe five things about yourself that help frame your journey into sound design.
- Being a chatty broad. I’ve always been hellbent on communicating and reaching out to other people in the industry. If I wasn’t so outspoken I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have been permitted to enter the industry at all.
- Knowing what I’m good at. I’ve always had a good ear and have very sensitive hearing. I came from a performing arts background, so there’s a flair for the dramatic. I also knew since I was a teenager that I had to be involved in the video game industry, no matter what. The fact that I was able to merge my interests and abilities and apply them towards something I do every day is very special.
- Believing that whatever I’ve done today, I could have done it better. And maybe tomorrow, I will. If not, I’ll have to try again later before I burn out. But always know that I can try again.
- I’m lucky. I was brought on just to do voice over implementation on the first game that I worked on in an Audio capacity. After that, I was even more fortunate that a Lead Sound Designer took me seriously when I told him “I think I can do this.”Do what?” “Sound Design! I think.” Starting with the simplest things, such as doors and footsteps and just consistently tackling more and more complicated tasks, I was blessed that someone gave me a chance and had faith in me. I wouldn’t be doing audio today if it hadn’t been for that one opportunity.
- Knowing when to stop. When to stop noodling with a sound. When to stop pushing for something that I can’t do on my own. When it’s time to stop working and time to go home, most importantly!
2) Five words to summarize that journey are…
Volume, luck, geeking, listening, self-worth.
3) Five sounds that represent that journey are…
Me doing temp voice overs constantly, sparkle dazzle glitter magic spell casting from my years spent at Sony Online Entertainment, all the alien screams and pulse rifle sounds I made for the canceled Aliens RPG Obsidian was once making, the library sounds that now haunt my waking nightmares when I recognize overused library sounds in film and television, listening to Electric Six’s “Danger! High Voltage!” when it’s time to freak out.
HABITS IN FOURS
1) What four elements need to be in place in order for you to be productive?
- Patience. I have no patience whatsoever, and reminding myself of that shortcoming is what will convince me to think more clearly, try reading things twice, take a few extra steps to troubleshoot whatever’s broken. If I don’t remind myself that I’m lacking in patience, I could just tap out at the very first stage of frustrated and walk away from what might actually be a very simple problem to solve.
- Private space and accessibility, respectively. Sound Design is a really strange position. You need absolute silence and privacy in order to be able to focus on the media you’re creating sounds for. But you also need to be within reach of the creative team who’s responsible for that media. It’s a constant balance that must be maintained.
- Other creatives (especially other Audio staff) in the workplace to bounce ideas off of. I freelanced once and felt miserable not only because I was working from home, in sweatpants and only with my cats as my co-workers. But without fellow creatives, it’s impossible to have any real perspective on your work. Having yourself as your only available critic is a bad idea.
- Breaks. Ears, brains, and eyes all get very tired. I’ll periodically take breaks to read something on the internet, or get up and get some leg circulation and chat with someone, anything. Humans weren’t made to sit in front of computers 14 hours a day, and yet we do it. It’s very unhealthy. When I start to get crabby, or realize that I just can’t focus, it’s because I haven’t taken a break in a while.
2) In an ideal work flow, what would you like to accomplish in four hours?
If I’m working on a brand new asset, being able to get from concepting to some solid, long takes in 4 hours is a win. If the asset doesn’t need to be completely new, then 4 hours should conclude with some kind of preliminary implementation. If I’ve made it to the end of 4 hours, half of a work day, and I haven’t made progress that I’m thrilled with, then something is terribly wrong and I’m overdue to talk to someone to ask for help.
3) If you had four hours to listen to music/sound design, what would you choose?
http://www.moshcam.com/ Has the most amazing collection of live concerts. I could easily lose 4 hours sifting through their recorded shows, the quality is stunning.There’s a Gary Numan show I’ve been dying to get through. Someday. Probably never. Being a Sound Designer kills all your music listening time, forever. …Hang on, now I’m listening to it in my headphones. Thanks for letting me do this interview! Now I can actually listen to music for a change!
LIFE LESSONS IN THREES
1) What three sound design lessons could your younger self learn from your present self?
- “Fake it till you make it” is a great way for people to think you’re completely false. Don’t muddle through something producing mediocre work, if you could have asked a question or two that would have produced much higher quality work.
- Read everything, study. On the job training is never enough.
- Whatever happens, don’t take it personally. The games industry is a business, and everything is about the bottom line. It’s not about you. It’s about the game and the company, and it always will be.
2) What three library sounds have become cliched for you?
- The Sony Pictures library lightning rip. From TV commercials to explosions in films, it stands out so so much. I can’t. Please stop. Most recently, I caught it in The Protector when a boat exploded. It exploded so hard, it sounded like magic lightning.
- There’s a monster roaring sound from the General 6000 library (I think) that has been made useless because Blizzard took it straight from the source for their Warcraft II dragon roost sound. Now, whenever anyone else uses it also straight out of the box without any manipulation, it distinctly conjures nostalgia with an iconic sound from a beloved game. Carnage squawking like a dragon from Azeroth just doesn’t work for me.
- Meaty punch library sounds. One punch to rule them all.
3) What three foods or beverages lead to great sound design work?
- Coffee. All the coffee, all the time.
- Breakfast. Starting the day braindead is bad.
- Alcohol at home, after business hours. To relax, and to stop judging yourself so harshly for a whole minute.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE IN TWOS
1) What two sound design tools do you use on a consistent basis?
Sony Vegas. It ain’t no Pro Tools, but it can handle any video format, which is something Pro Tools hasn’t aspired to do yet.
Absynth is still my favorite synth tool for making everything from UI, to magical, to ambient, to creature sounds. I won’t give it up. BFFs forever.
2) You have a choice of two hardware devices – what would they be?
The Zoom handheld recorder. I’ve done foley and field recording with that thing. The quality is incomprehensibly clean and excellent. Can’t live without it.
M-Audio Keyrig 49. I’ve never been someone who needs a lot of knobs when doing synth work. But I’ve never understood how designers can stand to use 25 key midi controllers. There aren’t nearly enough keys to smash at once!
3) Record two of your favorite sounds that you can make using only your mouth/voice and describe them.
Mouth Sound 1 – My favorite weird sound to make is inhaling sharply, leaving my vocal cords just open enough to let the air coming in make me sound like a car screeching in a parking lot. Or a screaming dead thing. The cats hate it.
Mouth Sound 2 – I can sing, so whenever I’m in a very reverby space like a long hallway or anyplace with a high ceiling, I have to belt one out in the highest most painful tones like an asshole. Also, in my dreams I’m Lisa Gerrard.
SECRET WISHES IN ONES
1) If you could collaborate with any person on a single creative project, with whom would it be and what would be your project?
Tim Prebble. When I saw 30 Days of Night in the theater, I lost my mind over the sounds the vampires made. I wrote Tim a fan letter, which he graciously replied to. I consider him to be a master of field recording, I use his seal library all the time. Gosh, I think working on a film with him would be a tremendous learning experience. A library of original sounds would organically result from working with Tim, I think. His tastes are just right.
2) What outstanding quality would that project have?
Original sounds, pleasant mixing, perfectly tuned sounds to picture. His audio is gives me great joy to listen to. Everything in its place, in just the right amount.
3) If you had one opportunity to present it, how would you choose to do so?
“Hey Tim, there’s this movie that needs a sound crew. The plot is all about things that don’t already exist in the world, and the only way to make sounds for them is we have to travel to a lot of exotic places and record things no one’s ever recorded before. Whadya think?
About the 3×5 Interview
The “3×5” is a non-traditional interview series that encourages creative and personal responses from its participants. While the core structure remains intact, I occasionally update the sets of questions to keep interviewees and readers engaged. Although the resultant replies of the participating audiophiles may be informative or instructive, my hope is that the interview will encourage conversation and a sense of camaraderie within the sound design community.