Fade In

Brendan Wood


Company (or Freelance):
Infinite 0 Studios (Freelance)

Did you attend school for an audio-related degree?  If so, what school and degree?
School:  Indiana University Bloomington
Degree:  B.A. Spanish
Degree:  B.A. Telecommunications (Emphasis in Media Production)
Degree:  M.S.  Telecommunications (Audio and Game Design for Interactive Media)

What inspired you to work with sound?
I have a picture of me playing drums when I was like 3 and never looked back.  At 15 I got a cheap version of Cubase and a 1 channel Korg USB mixer and began experimenting in my basement on all sorts of songs.  It was really liberating looking back on it because I had no idea what I was doing and was going purely off what it sounded like whereas now I can get caught up over thinking things.

How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
Well I knew I would be a rock star at age 13.  I realized in college this wouldn’t happen (maybe some day!) and began searching for a way to fuse what I knew about sound with the real world.  It was at this point, when I was 19, that I met my professor Norbert Herber, who is a sound musician and technical artist who taught courses in sound design and interactive media.  This made me realize that you can make a career out of making/capturing sounds rather than needing to be in a band.  He did his PhD with Brian Eno and is pushing boundaries of generative music and I wanted to gather as much wisdom from him that I could, and eventually attempt something in that field as well…

Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
Most of it was self-taught, tinkering around tirelessly alone in front of various DAW’s, recording my band and friends bands, etc.  However, these classes with Norbert were challenging in new ways which really helped me focus on sound design as a creative problem solving field.  He would give us AVPs (Audio-Visual Problems) that we had to turn back around in 1,2, or 3 weeks time, depending on the project.

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?
I would say sound design and implementation as those two have the most rewarding:work ratio. For me, sound design happens way faster and the non-linear process is more rewarding.  I can record something with my Zoom and have it in a DAW layered with other sounds, tweaking plug-ins for a bit, and then bounce it into an iOS game in less than half an hour.  This allows me to hear it happening and there is something about it being used in an interactive environment that makes it more worth it.  I think it is this very notion that has led me down my path of generative music composition, allowing people to compose music through their in-game actions really interests me.

What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
Pro Tools was on campus as well as Adobe Audition so I became very familiar with those, and my last year a lab had Sound Forge so it was neat to work with that.  I use Logic Pro 9 at home because of it’s extensive built in plug-ins and presets.  I learned sound scripting in LUA for a project as well as in C# for Warp Shooter, which was released on August 29th.

What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
Undergrad years I took a lot of television courses so we would do live audio in a studio or VO work, which was fun. For sound classes, we had to make a podcast about the local music scene which had us doing field interviews with bands and music store owners.  I learned more about the music community around me while helping them promote their stuff, which was awesome.

Graduate school saw me learning how to interact with Arduino through a sound program called Pure Data (pd).  It is a very interesting piece of software and I recommend it heartily to people looking to understand sound synthesis from its basic roots.  I ended up building a “Sonic Dance Interface” with it, which has proximity sensors hooked up to various effects and contact mics that when touched made FM and AM synthesis happen.  Here’s a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=652KgEPpwsE

Were your teachers audio professionals?  Anybody the audience would know?
Paul Mayhern taught an audio production class.  He’s engineered for the Fray and John Mellencamp.  Also, he was the lead signer of Zero Boys, a punk band (check out Amphetamine Addiction).  It was awesome because he was so down to Earth but also pushed us to learn a lot.  Again, I have to mention Norbert Herber for his continued guidance and creative input. I thoroughly recommend to any #gameaudio folk to read his dissertation and check out what he’s up to at his site: http://www.x-tet.com/


Did you do any side projects during school?  If so, what were they like?
I had a heavy metal band called Bent on Control (http://bentoncontrol.bandcamp.com/) which was really fun. I spent a lot of time jamming with various students because the jazz school here at IU is top notch and a lot of talent resides here.  However, the main things that I worked on in graduate school were video games.  My first game was Zeke in Orbit, which I released my first year of grad school and it helped me learn the ins and outs of making a game for iPad and iPhone.  It was an incredible 6 months of developing and learning.  I essentially was trying to train myself to be the head of my own independent studio!   It was a big step because I had never made a video game, and I had never done EVERYTHING on a video game either.  It was a really ambitious thing to do while going to school but I felt like it coincided nicely with what I was studying.  Ultimately it is something I plan to do after I pursue an in-house sound gig.

The second major project I was involved in is an Xbox game called Warp Shooter.  I found out there was an informal group of students meeting who called themselves Hoosier Games, an open club for any student who wants to learn how to make video games.  My pitch was picked and a group of 9 students signed on to be part of my team.  After 8 months of development, we finally published it to the Xbox Live Indie Marketplace. We were using XNA to develop the game and we did manual C# sound scripting,  This led to some interesting solutions to some problems and some down sides as well.

How many of your side projects were published?  Any of them turn profitable?
Zeke in Orbit was published on iPad and iPhone, and overall I made about $400 total from those before setting it free for a while which caused the downloads to soar.  To date I think I have around 9,000 downloads of it which for my first game is a success for me.  Warp Shooter seems like it could make us some money as well, but ultimately it was more of a learning school experience for me rather than monetization.  Since we are publishing Warp Shooter to Xbox under the Hoosier Games name, the first $2000 that we make goes towards funding 4 tix to the GDC for members of the club!  It’s a really cool idea to support them in this way so hopefully it makes that much and we can get some students to GDC and get into the games industry!


How large was your graduating class?  Were you all close?
Undergrad was really large, not sure how many.  My graduate class was only around 15 though, but not everyone was focusing on what I was.  Only a handful of individuals were into gaming and we tended to stick together.

How often do you work with your old classmates today?
Not often.  I met a guy who does amazing art who is working with me on my current secret project.

Any old classmates you want to mention?  The more the merrier with the audio community!
Tom Miller is a gifted musician/sound designer.  Amazing ear.


Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
Definitely, I hope the fact that I’ve not only designed but also did all the audio for two published games can turn some heads in the game industry and hopefully they will see how passionate I am to hire me!  Right now, all of my schooling has definitely helped me in my freelance work, especially with clients publishing iOS games.  A lot of indie studios are trying to make their first App and I am able to speak the language of not only the audio for their project, but often give them advice on publishing, marketing, etc.

Do you have a website for your portfolio?  How often do you blog on it?
www.floydianspiral.com  I have tried keeping a blog up but I think I finally have to cave in to the fact that I’m not very good at constantly updating a blog.  I do update the site often with new music, projects, and ideas, however.

Do you use social networking?  How often, and what communities?
I have found Twitter (@floydianspiral) to be a great resource for the audio community.  #gameaudio for the win!  I’ve told myself to get involved with Soundcloud and some other forums but it hasn’t happened yet, hopefully in the future!

Fade Out

Any last words for future audio guys looking to carve their education and career paths?
If you care a lot about money, don’t get into audio.  Haha.  I joke but it is a serious thing I want to comment about because as a current freelancer, I have lost a lot of projects because my rates “seem a little pricy” and I know for a fact that what I charge as a student right out of grad school is WAY cheaper than current professionals.  It seems that everyone knows someone who is willing to do audio for them for free and it is hurting the industry in general, as people expect cheaper and cheaper rates for the same kind of quality. In fact there was a great sound article telling people just to STOP IT (working for free).  So with that being said, you can still make money by doing what you love, you just have to work that much harder and be able to fill a lot of roles.  Know how to do a lot of everything in sound, although feel free to specialize in what you like most because a lot of careers for audio seem to be leaning towards specialization.  If you want to do freelance work, get yourself out there on Twitter and forums and keep trying to get work and when you finally do work for a studio or on a project give it all you have the first time because if you impress someone, they will keep coming back to you and recommend you to others!

Bonus Question

Without breaking any NDA’s: What kind of projects, either professional or personal, are you currently working on?
An awesome generative sound+art+game project that will be entered into the IGF!  I’ll be officially announcing it very soon.

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.