Owner / Operator
What inspired you to work with sound?
My love of music quickly became a love for all things relating to sound. I bought my first Peavey microphone and Tascam 4-track recorder in 1991 and I’ve been in love with recording and manipulating audio ever since.
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
16 years old. I work in sound, the Education field in Instructional Technology and as a Multimedia Instructor, but I’ve been lucky enough to combine all of these passions together.
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
I’ve always wanted to do a combination of study and work on my own. Over time, I’ve realized that new areas of your art can open up when you start to collaborate with others in your discipline. My first degree was in Multimedia Studies at the University of New Brunswick and I did a diploma in University Teaching before I started the sound program at Vancouver Film School (VFS). Since I graduated from VFS, I’ve been finishing up my Masters in Education, so for me learning is a continuous journey.
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’ve been in love with field recording and production audio for film lately. Since I’ve been back in Vancouver, I’ve had a chance to work on some great films with directors really interested in getting the best production audio possible. My passion for training and teaching others about sound will never go away. I’m as excited about working with others to develop their passion for sound, as I am my own. I recently gave a live audio webinar to the Educational Technology Users Group here in Vancouver. The presentation was called “Sound in Education,” about the application of sound to enhance online learning.
What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
The heart of the school is based around Pro Tools. I had experience with Pro Tools before I enrolled at VFS, but my instructors helped me take it to a whole new level. The hardware interfaces connected to Pro Tools that I worked with included the MBox, 003, Control 24s, and a duel ICON D-Control ES in my senior term. Also, I’ve worked with Reason, KOMPLETE, programming tools like Max/MSP, and game audio tools like WWise and FMOD.
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
The projects varied from term-to-term, but were primarily based around post production for TV and film. We spent a lot of time as editors working on building all aspects of post sound, like Backgrounds, Foley, Sfx, Spfx, Music and Dialogue. The teachers are coming right from industry, so they are bringing you projects to work on that directly apply to the type of work you would be doing as a job out in the field. We were also encouraged to take advantage of all the recording equipment available to start creating our own sound library. VFS has an extensive sound effects library, but it’s a great feeling going out and building your own library for projects. I had a chance to work on some great game audio projects, and as you progress in the program, you start doing more project mixing on the Control 24s in the 5.1 mix labs and with the duel ICON D-Control ES.
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
All the instructors are audio professionals with extensive backgrounds in film and TV. I had some amazing teachers at VFS: Shane Rees, Steve Smith, Gary Bourgeois, Chris McIntosh, Brad Hillman, Anke Bakker, Curtis Wright, Tim McGuinness and Jonathan Fish. VFS has a lot of the top industry professionals come in to run workshops and provide training. I had a chance to spend a week training in production sound with Ray Beckett and the Ear Candy crew out of LA. Sound designer, Craig Berkey, came in and out of the school for presentations and workshops. Craig was on my Industry panel for my final project and he gave me feedback on how to improve my sound design and mix.
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
I did as many side projects as I possibly could. I took on a few extra audio projects for a web series, animations, and I worked on a game design project called Ginko. Ginko ended up being nominated at the “2011 Canadian Videogame Awards” for Best Student Game.
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
My final sound design project was published on the VFS YouTube channel and Ginko received a lot of attention at the Canadian Videogame Awards.
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
There was eleven of us including myself. We were all very close. You live and breathe sound together for a full year in close quarters, so you have your up and downs, but there is a friendship, appreciation and respect that grows from going through a challenging program together. Each one of us had our strengths and weaknesses in the program, so you would connect with classmates that could help you in your weak areas. One of the great things about the VFS program is that there are classes behind you and ahead of you that are easily accessible. Most of the time you could grab someone in a senior class and discuss how they approached assignments, but someone just coming into the program could easily have skills that could help you develop, so when I refer to classmates, I’m thinking of all the great relationships I made with classmates during my time at VFS.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
I’ve built some great working relationships with my classmates. Regardless of where we are in the world, we try to connect on projects and keep helping each other out. Recently, a classmate from a senior term helped get me a job as a Foley editor on my first feature length film. At the time, we were on opposite ends of the country, but we stayed connected through Skype and Dropbox to make the project work. A short film I’m working on now has classmates that are in the UK, Mexico and here in Vancouver. We can all connect through Facebook, Skype and Dropbox to share edit sessions.
Any old classmates you want to mention? The more the merrier with the audio community!
Always a big hello to my class SD44 which was my main crew, but also to Scott Schrum who has been helping me out with some great set sound and post production work here in Vancouver.
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
Absolutely! I have been self-taught and working on projects for years, but there is nothing like setting up a situation where your only work is your chosen craft. There is something about waking up every day and knowing that you’re working with 11 other sound designers, who want nothing more than to develop their skills and become better at what they do. There is often a debate about whether taking a sound program, or just starting to freelance is better than the other, but I think it all boils down to the individual. You only get out of a program what you put into it, If you work hard in a program, set some personal goals to achieve, network and build relationships, I think the sky’s the limit. I worked in sound for 19 years before I decided to take the VFS sound program. For me it was an incredible experience that helped fill in a lot of the gaps that I needed in my work.
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
I split my work up across several different sites, but my central site is my Word Press: http://bornthinkers.wordpress.com/ I try to blog on it as much as I can, but I find using Twitter and Facebook is a quicker and easier way for sharing.
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
I use as much social media as I can to promote myself. I use:
Any last words for future audio people looking to carve their education and career paths?
In most cases when you enter in a sound program, you have to go in with an entrepreneurial mindset. Most of the people I know in the industry are working freelance and wearing as many different hats as possible. Do your best to stay sharp on a wide range of tools and techniques and always keep developing your skills. The great thing about working in sound is you have a lot of different areas that you can focus on. I try not to keep things locked down to just one aspect of sound. I’ve always been interested in production and post-sound, but I’m just as interested in providing training services for individuals and companies interested in incorporating sound into their business and brand. Persistence and a positive attitude go a long way working in sound. Things aren’t going to happen overnight, but if you keep at it and stay positive you can bet some great things will be heading your way. Lastly, it’s incredibly important to network with as many people as possible. Most of the work I’ve been getting has been through referrals by classmates and people I’ve met along the way. I always make it a habit to introduce myself to as many people as I can in the industry.
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.