Company (or Freelance):
Freelance for now.. will work for food
Did you attend school for an audio-related degree? If so, what school and degree? Any other degrees?
School: Oklahoma State University
Degree: B.S. Psychology
School: Columbia College Chicago
Degree: B.A. Television: Post-production – Editing
School: Columbia College Chicago
Degree: B.A. Interactive Arts & Media: Video Game – Sound
What inspired you to work with sound?
I have two prior degrees. One in Psychology and the other in Television: Post-production Editing. While both of these previous degrees have had influence in getting me where I am today, I fell in love with sound design through editing video. While adding sound effects to various video projects, I realized the integral part sound plays in audience perception. For instance, when there is a door in a scene, the sound designer has a chance to tell the audience the weight, material, age, and significance of that door through the use of sound effects.
How old were you when you found out sound is what you wanted to do for a living?
28. I was doing freelance video work around Chicago. I knew that I liked sound, and had a passion for video games since I was a kid. For some reason I never took the idea of a career in games seriously until this point. I decided to pursue what I truly enjoyed and went back to school to get into game audio. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
Was a school degree the first thing on your mind, or do everything self-taught?
I don’t think school is the best route for everyone but a degree was very important to me. College offered me a learning curriculum and provided the necessary tools to create good foundation to start learning my craft.
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 love all aspects of sound design, specifically, making sound effects. They are so important in creating something artistic while also serving the function of relating important information to the audience. I also really enjoy the implementation of sounds, field recording, and dialogue. Hearing your work come to life and being able to direct the way in which the audience experiences the content is one of the most important things in game audio.
What sound tools did you learn in your school curriculum?
Early on in the program, we were introduced to Adobe Audition and Sound Forge. However, the curriculum allowed us to use any tools or methods needed in order to get the work done. On any single project, students would use Pro Tools, Reaper, Cubase, etc. In more advanced sound classes we got our hands on the Unreal Engine, CryEngine, Wwise, and Pure Data to name a few.
What kind of projects did you have in your classes?
We had a lot of different projects. In low level courses we were tasked with creating sound replacement for video of game trailers and movies. Then we started modding games and replacing the sounds with our own. Eventually we got into learning the Unreal Engine and we not only had to learn how to plug in sounds, but we had to learn how to create the map and environment as well. This was a very good way to teach ourselves what sound fits where and how the sounds are being triggered within the game. Our senior capstone project, Water Aloft the Ridge, used Unity 3D in conjunction with Wwise.
Were your teachers audio professionals? Anybody the audience would know?
I believe it was a good mixture of both. Tom Dowd is probably the most well known in the game industry. He helped to create Shadowrun and was lead designer for MechAssault!
Did you do any side projects during school? If so, what were they like?
I collaborated with a small team of audio students on an interactive story book called Chocolate Attack by Apologue Entertainment. We then went on to complete other side projects for the company. These projects were mentioned in a previous Sonic Background by Roel Sanchez.
I’m not too sure if this would be considered a “side project,” but during my senior year, I fulfilled an internship at Robomodo. I was hired on to do some video work which entailed capturing gameplay and shooting some behind the scenes footage. I did get to add the player sounds using Wwise and the UDK into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD which was a lot of fun.
Towards the end of the internship, I had the opportunity to create sounds for a game prototype that Robomodo was seeking to be funded. This eventually led to contract work on the unannounced title after graduation. After that I completed an internship at Sony. I did sound design and implementation for the recently released Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time.
How many of your side projects were published? Any of them turn profitable?
I hope all the projects I’ve worked on turned out to be profitable!
How large was your graduating class? Were you all close?
I graduated with around 35 game design students. There was only a handful of game audio students and we were very close. We had many of the same classes year after year and worked together on audio projects up until graduation.
How often do you work with your old classmates today?
Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to work with any of my old classmates since graduation. I recently moved out to the west coast which places me even farther away from my Chicago roots and my game audio friends. Maybe someday!
Any old classmates you want to mention? The more the merrier with the audio community!
Do you feel more prepared for the sound industry than if you had not graduated from your program?
I definitely believe I am more prepared for the sound industry than if I had not graduated from my program. If anything, the program convinced me to work on sound projects outside of my comfort zone as well as providing me the opportunity to learn strong fundamentals regarding the science of sound.
Do you have a website for your portfolio? How often do you blog on it?
I don’t have a blog setup as of now, but I hope to soon. You can find my website and portfolio featuring some of my work at www.SeanClouser.com
Do you use social networking? How often, and what communities?
I think Twitter is pretty cool and the game audio community is unbelievably awesome. In fact, I found out about my internships at Robomodo and Sony through Twitter and have met some amazing people as well.
Any last words for future audio people looking to carve their education and career paths?
While my school assignments taught me a lot about sound, the best experiences were found working on outside projects and internships. It is never too soon to start gaining real world experience. Also, I can’t say enough how important it is to join in the discussions found on the social networks. It is a great environment to open direct dialog between you and those whose work you admire or find inspiring.
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.